More Punishment Before Conviction in DUI Cases

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on January 23rd, 2006

I have written repeatedly in the past about the prevailing presumption of guilt that prevails in drunk driving cases (see “Whatever Happended to the Presumption of Innocence?”). One example of this is the automatic driver’s license suspension (see “Due Process and Automatic License Suspensions”), where among other things the arresting officer acts as judge, jury and executioner in arresting the suspect, seizing his license and issuing a formal notice of suspension. (Note: this occurs even if a blood rather than breath test is given, so there will be no test result from the lab for days; it is presumed that the driver is guilty — over .08% — and it is also presumed that there will eventually be evidence to show it.)

The following news story simply reflects the latest in a long list of examples of “The DUI Exception to the Constitution“:


California Institutes New Penalties for Drunk Drivers

Sacramento, Calif. — Drivers committing a repeat drunk-driving offense in California have their vehicles seized under existing state law, but it doesn’t happen until after they are convicted. Under a new law to take effect Sunday, drivers in California can lose their cars upon arrest — before they are convicted — if they have committed a drunk driving offense in the previous decade…. The new rules are intended to teach drunk drivers a strict lesson after an offense occurs and to deter impaired motorists from getting behind the wheel.


I wonder what it teaches those who are innocent — who have not been given a chance to defend themselves? Or do the police now never make mistakes? And when did we start punishing folks first, then later mumbling “Sorry” if they’re found not guilty?

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