A trucker’s dashed hopes
Ever since the day he drank too much at a wedding reception and got ticketed for driving under the influence, Tim Glaum has waited anxiously for September 2007 to arrive.
According to the law at the time of his conviction, in 2000, that was when the DUI would be removed from his driving record and he’d be able to get a steady job driving trucks again.
For seven long years he’d been in a kind of limbo, working what he calls “dead-end jobs” and barely surviving because the DUI made him uninsurable.
“I was excited,” he said during a recent interview. “I was going to be able to go to any trucking company with my clean DMV printout and get a job that would last.”
In September, when Glaum was hired for a new job, he happily told his employer his record was clean—as he thought it was. But, when the trucking company checked, the DUI was still there.
When Glaum went to the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Oroville, where he lives, to find out what was going on, he was told that, yes, the offense was still on his record.
Apparently, while he was waiting for his seven years to be up, the state Legislature had passed a law—SB 597, by Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch)—changing the Insurance Code to increase the time DUIs stay on records to 10 years, effective Jan. 1, 2007. The change was retroactive.
For the insurance industry, the new reporting requirement meant that fewer drivers would qualify for good-driving discounts. It was the latest in a series of extensions that had increased the reporting time from one year to three years to five and then seven before making it 10 years.
For a shocked and devastated Tim Glaum, it meant three more years of insecurity, dead-end jobs and living hand to mouth. Worse, he began to worry: What if, sometime in the next three years, it’s increased again?
Glaum, who’s 47, is a single father who lives with his 14-year-old daughter. He’s a big man with weathered features and fading tattoos on his arms. If you wanted somebody who looked like a truck driver in your movie, he’d be the guy.
He started driving trucks in 1988, he says. He figures he’s jockeyed various rigs more than 3 million miles altogether, and he’s proud that while on the job he’s never gotten “a single citation, not even a log-book citation.”
Driving trucks is the only thing he can do to make a decent income, he says. He has conversive dyslexia, a condition that limits his reading and writing ability but not his intelligence or ability to drive.
When he got the DUI in September 2000, he stopped drinking immediately. “My commercial license is more important to me than drinking,” he explained. “It’s my livelihood.”
He paid a $3,500 fine, surrendered his license for a month and accepted the fact that the DUI would stay on his record for seven years. He’d done something wrong and had to pay for it.
He also knew that he wouldn’t be able to get a permanent job during that time. It wasn’t that companies weren’t willing to hire him; it was that insurers weren’t willing to cover him as long as the DUI was on his record.
During the seven years, Glaum got driving jobs occasionally. But insurance companies require trucking outfits to submit their drivers’ DMV printouts quarterly or semi-annually, and when they did so, he inevitably got laid off.
“I did my time,” he said. “They don’t re-sentence murderers or burglars or car thieves when they’re in prison. … What do they want from me?”
Technically, however, the extension is not a change in the criminal law, but rather in the state Insurance Code and therefore is a “procedural issue, not a substantive matter,” said Joe Vandevoort, a Chico attorney who specializes in DUI defenses. Because of that, it’s not subject to the constitutional protection against ex-post-facto legislation.
Still, it’s an example of “intellectual dishonesty and legal sophistry,” he said, and Tim Glaum was getting a raw deal.
For his part, Glaum is determined to let the world know that the state of California is doing all it can to keep a good man from working and supporting his family. His next stop: the governor’s office, where he intends to plunk himself down and wait until he gets a hearing.