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Atherton DUI driver sentenced to five years in state prison

Original post made on Sep 20, 2012

A guilty plea and an apology weren't enough to keep a 63-year-old Atherton woman out of prison. A judge sentenced Margaret Brill to five years for a drunken rampage through downtown Menlo Park that left two people injured, according to the district attorney's office.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 20, 2012, 9:26 AM

Comments (33)

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Posted by Some Guy
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:40 am

I feel for this woman, but alcohol is not a disease, it's a choice and an excuse, hopefully some time behind bars will straighten her out.


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Posted by good
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

About time the DA started cracking down on repeat DUI offenders. Very lucky that this woman didn't kill anyone.


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Posted by Husband
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 10:39 am

It seems that the husband is directly enabling her behavior. The quote is a dead giveaway.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 11:22 am

Long way from Atherton to Prison. Too bad it came to this, but this woman and her husband were obviously beyond help. Thankfully she didn't kill anyone.
@Some Guy. Contrary to your belief, alcoholism is a disease, a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse. This has been as clearly established scientifically as global climate change. Hard to believe this has escaped you.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

Whether alcoholism is a disease or not in the traditional sense, it is a dangerous dysfunction that people do not have control of, which is the whole point. for purposes of protecting society, it does not matter.

I am happy to see some minor justice done here. It often seems like the exception rather than the rule and only when something is really heinous or gets a lot of publicity.


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Posted by Bacile
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

good thing i was not in MP that day


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Posted by Megan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 20, 2012 at 11:44 am

Prison won't sort this woman out. It could destroy her though, and perhaps that's what people want. She needs proper, residential care for as long as it takes. Sounds like she can probably afford it.


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Posted by Hmm
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

"Whether alcoholism is a disease or not in the traditional sense, it is a dangerous dysfunction that people do not have control of, which is the whole point. for purposes of protecting society, it does not matter."

Thank you.
Some ignorant people are so mired with their own _opinions_ that they completely disregard the reality of what alcoholism is, as determined by generations of medical findings world wide. They probably think homosexuality is a choice and that the polar ice caps are increasing as well.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I'm not at all sure why our laws are set up so that people can even manage to get more than one DUI. That should be a one and done offense. I have had family members that have received many, many DUI's. I've never understood why they are allowed back on the roads. There is no reason, no excuse, no just cause.

And yes, alcoholism is a disease. While I don't believe this woman should ever drive again, there are better options than locking her in prison (prison is REALLY expensive). From the evidence in the article, it does seem she could really use the help.

Husband: Just because her husband recognizes his wife has this disease does not mean he is enabling her. We know nothing of their relationship. Those are self rightous and ignorant words. I can only imagine what words people might use to describe your family.


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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Alcoholism may be a disease but one that requires a lot of help from oneself to flourish, unlike schizophrenia or a brain tumor. Like pedophilia which is a compulsion to act even when you know that's wrong, you need to avail yourself of alcohol and then make the conscious action of drinking it. This woman had plenty of time and it looks like money too to go into treatment by herself. She had the choice - she chose to victimize other people who had the result of her choice and they themselves had no choice but being hurt by her. Five years in jail, probably less with good behavior sounds about right to me.


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Posted by JackieTreehorn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm

She should've just gotten plastered at home.


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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm

One more thing: Brill is very lucky that her "encounter"with the center median and the helpful people who took her car keys made her stop. Had she continued her out of control actions she may have had to be shot by the police. 5 years in jail is a cinch by comparison.
Why are people complaining about her punishment?
She can still do rehab after she serves her time if she wants too.


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Posted by WWF
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Regardless of whether alcoholism is a disease or a lifestyle choice (I favor the former possibility), what this case shows is the desirability of having a breathalyzer linked to the starter of every car. If this woman had had to have her breath tested, she never would have been able to start her car.


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Posted by No More Enabling Thank God
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I have been following this case and am glad that there is a conclusion that will keep the public out of harms way for at least 5 years. I truly believe that she has never been allowed to hit bottom and maybe this will be he wake up call for her to get into recovery and stay into recovery. Going to rehabs apparently never did it for her before. If she has the desire to stop drinking and the desire to stay stopped there is lots of help through AA. She has a disease which consists of a mental obsession and a physical craving. It is, fortunately, a disease which an individual can put into remission but it requires a desire and an admission that one is powerless over alcohol. I am praying that Margaret will get the help she needs to stay sober other than just a barrier method of staying dry (jail) which gives her the inability to get her drug. If she can turn her life around (she will still have many active years at 68) she can help other alcoholics who are suffering by sharing her story of recovery. Good luck Margaret. Sorry that you were obviously enabled for too many years. I am glad that you won't have to injure yourself or anyone else on the road for at least 5 years. Look at this as a second chance at having a life.


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Posted by jail after first conviction
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

She has had multiple DUI convictions. Why wasn't she locked up after the first one? Every time she drinks and drives, she is a potential murderer. If she wants treatment, do it before drinking and driving and possibly killing innocent people.

This latest incident has her driving the wrong way down a busy street in the middle of the day and crashing into pedestrians. So avoidable if she was locked up much earlier in her DUI "career".


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Posted by No More Enabling Thank God
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Unfortunately, her husband is an attorney and in some cases that is to the detriment of the public which it looks like it was in this case. Unfortunately, drunks do not typically get locked up for extended periods until something really serious happens which it clearly did in this case. I think the family's financial resources and perhaps a bit of denial on her husband's part as well about the nature of her disease did not serve Margaret or the public.


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Posted by Nan
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Thank god this woman got five years. Money cant buy you freedom. Do the time for your crime! Im sure glad the judge threw the book at her. Your husband being a lawyer cant buy you out of this crime Margaret. Dry up you useless drunk.


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Posted by No More Enabling Thank God
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Nan: Margaret has a chance to turn this around and be of help to another drunk. She has a disease called alcoholism and has the potential to be of service to others. Calling her a useless drunk is not the thing that will help her. She is probably beating herself us enough as it is already. I understand your anger about the situation. I was appalled when I heard about the number of times she had been bailed out and wound up behind the wheel yet another time. It made no sense to me that money could talk in that way but I am just grateful that her time behind bars will keep the public safe and may afford Margaret the opportunity to become a "hopeful and helpful drunk" (alcoholics always remain alcoholic as the disease is alcoholism not alcoholwasm). Good luck Margaret in taking this chance to have a life free of alcohol and the ravages of your disease.


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Posted by Nan
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

This woman has had 'many chances' to dry up. Check her record of how many DWI's...she has not gone for help before, it will certainly be a much do rude of awakening for her to be out of her cozy Atherton home behind cold prison bars..Dry up Margeret, your a disgrace to your family. Once a drunk, always a drunk


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Posted by Darlene
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Mind you, 5 years, probably less, behind bars is bound to be an enormous help in aiding her cure...


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Posted by Rosalia
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Thanks to Judge Parsons for locking up this recidivist drunken driver. She should have been locked up YEARS AGO!!! : (


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Perhaps she's been pursuing treatment (again) after her arrest. I am sure she can still get help in prison. There are many ex-cons who stay on the straight & narrow after they get out - if they do to meetings & work their program. She's got it a lot better than alcoholics of lesser means. However, her age is against her in getting better & doing well in prison. Who knows what her current state of health is after years of alcohol abuse?

As for prison destroying her- she's had multiple chances to not destroy herself. Society's concern, at this point, is preventing her from destroying OTHERS.

This might be her final wake up call - only time will tell.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Prison may not sort this woman out, but as long as she is in prison, she can't drive, meaning she won't be able to maim and kill others for the duration of her incarceration. In many other countries she would lose her driving privilege for life. I would not want to be on the road or on the sidewalk anywhere on the Peninsula when she gets to drive again.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Thank you Judge Parsons.


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Posted by Choice
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Now that everyone has read this article....
Don't become another one like her.


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Posted by 100% bicycle commuter
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Alcoholism is a disease. Sad all around. I hope the guy's leg recovered fully.

Some technical solutions could have helped here and would be generally useful. After a person receives his first DUI, he should be required either to purchase and have installed (again, at his own expense) in his car an alcohol breath monitor connected to the ignition or to sell the car. This would be true even if his license is suspended. Such a device would prevent a person who means well when sober from driving when drunk.


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Posted by Louis
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm

A 5-year sentence does not mean 5 years in prison or jail.

When you hop in your car or get on your bike or take a stroll or sit at a sidewalk café 1 year from now, look out.


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Posted by lynn
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by The Truth
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Nan,
You sound as ignorant as politicians in Washington!!! "Once a drunk always a drunk."
Please explain to me the men I know who have 30 and 20 years sober and are in recovery everyday.

Anyone who is familiar with alcoholism knows liquor is a symptom of the disease. Disease really lies in a alcoholics thinking and the selfish nature of alcoholism. I have been sober 2.5 years and involved in recovery everyday and today I'm a son, brother, and healthy asset to society because I decided to change my life and stop digging. Pain is the touchstone of all growth and hopefully this woman will get serious about recovery now.


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Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Nan isn't ignorant; she understandably lacks sympathy for the criminal in this case, as is her right as a citizen. Your recovery doesn't mean that the opinions of others that are less sympathetic are invalid. I've known drunks who we'd sober for years and relapsed - hopefully, that won't happen to you. Good luck.


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