“A Death of a Thousand Cuts”

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on March 21st, 2005

Some time ago I talked about "the future of DUI", trying to identify trends of the past and project into the future on such issues as probable laws, blood alcohol evidence, constititional rights, the growing federal presence — and the movement toward a "New Prohibition". Although I predicted that MADD's agenda of resurrecting that failed experiment would eventually fail, I was thinking of a frontal attack — that is, an amendment to the Constitution as happened before. I recently received the following insightful comments concerning that post from a good friend and one of the top half-dozen DUI attorneys in the country today, Troy McKinney of Houston:

If there is one thing that our country's politicians have learned it is that is far easier to make small incremental changes through economically motivated laws than through unfunded mandates or constitutional amendments. Over time, these small changes significantly change the landscape.

Thus, I see there being a New Prohibition, but only a statutory one that originates at the federal level. I think it is likely that the feds will impose new, increasingly onerous requirements as conditions for federal dollars — to the extent that we will have a federally imposed statutory prohibition on alcohol.

I think the future of this federal prohibition will include, within the next 20 years, all new cars being manditorily equipped with ignition interlock devices — and ones much more sophisticated and onerous than those used today — perhaps even to the extent that a positive blow will itself be a crime that is remotely reported to law enforcement at the time of the positive blow along with a continuous GPS signal for location purposes.

I can envision passive alcohol sensors in vehicles that continually sample the ambient air. Once an ignition interlock company merges with an OnStar, the stage will be set. With 16-18 million new cars a year cranked out in this country, it offers these companies a HUGE market opportunity.

I doubt that I am the first to envision the long term possibilities and it would not surprise me if some of these companies already had plans like this on the drawing board. These companies are already very active on the legislative and regulatory front and it will only increase, dramatically so in my view.

A true zero tolerance drinking and driving society will markedly affect the sale of any alcoholic beverage as well as the sale of packaged alcohol for anything but personal consumption in one's own home. This will in turn lead to an effective, although not absolute, Prohibition.

Orwell had it mostly right, he was just a bit early in his predictions.

As with so many glacial shifts in history, we are seeing no revolution, no sudden dismemberment of the Constitution, but rather something like the old Chinese torture, "the death of a thousand cuts".