Archive for January, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies and More Statistics

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

I’ve commented in the past how government, law enforcement and MADD have twisted statistics to justify their demands for ever more draconian drunk driving laws and constitutional violations ("Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Statistics"). Today’s example:

Report Shows Rhode Island Inflates DUI Statistics

Rhode Island ACLU report shows the state is exaggerating the drunk driving problem to pass more punitive legislation.

Rhode Island, January 10. The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU released a report Monday showing how state officials have inflated drunk driving (DUI) statistics in order to speed passage of legislation increasing penalties and revenue from DUI arrests.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Rhode Island has the highest rate of fatalities caused by drunk driving in the nation. At 45 percent, the rate is far above the statewide average of 30 percent. This has caused the state’s Attorney General to claim, "Rhode Island has the deplorable distinction of being ranked first in the nation in the percentage of highway fatalities related to alcohol."

The ACLU counters that this statistic is "misleading" because Rhode Island’s overall low fatality rate causes the alcohol fatality percentage to appear high. The report claims the true fatality rate is well below the national average. The group goes on to point out that the state’s penalties are already above average and that the existing problem lies more in police forces making the issue more of a priority using existing laws.

"Our goal in issuing this report is not to suggest that state officials should become complacent about the problem of drunk driving," said Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown. "But our research does call into question many of the arguments being used to demand prompt and harsh legislative responses to the issue, as there are serious doubts about both their efficacy and need."

Of course, you can’t really believe the ACLU, right? A bunch of aging revolutionaries trying to shove an antiquated document down our throats.


MADD Continues on Path to Prohibition

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

I've pointed out in past posts that Mothers Against Drunk Driving has gradually been shifting its focus from DUI to prohibition. The first formal acknowledgement took place in 1999 when MADD's National Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the organization's mission statement to include underage drinking. Not underage drinking and driving — just drinking. As Candy Lightner, the founder and first President of MADD, observed after leaving the organization:

It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned. I didn't start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.

News stories continue to emerge reflecting this underlying agenda — the latest from North Carolina, entitled "DWI checkpoints snare drunks on N.C. roads; MADD says laws don't go far enough". Among MADD's recommendations for new laws: "Requiring identification tags for beer kegs showing the buyer's name and the location where the keg will be used."

One step at a time….


DUI Cases Thrown Out in Virginia: Update

Monday, January 9th, 2006

A few weeks ago I posted about a courageous Virginia judge who was throwing out DUI cases because he found the state’s presumptions of guilt to be unconstitutional. It was a violation of the Constitution’s presumption of innocence, he ruled, to presume that (1) the defendant is guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol if the breath machine’s reading was over .08%, and (2) the blood-alcohol level was the same at the time of driving as when tested an hour or two later. These patently false presumptions and insidious violations of the Constitution are found in all 50 states, as I pointed out in an earlier post entitled “Whatever Happened to the Presumption of Innocence?”.

A higher court in Virginia has now reviewed the ruling. In essence, the higher judge found the statute itself to be constitutional — but further held that guilt could not be conclusively presumed, only inferred. Such a presumption, the judge wrote in his opinion, would “diminish the requirement of the state to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”.

However, the judge went on, the statute itself is not unconstitutional if the presumption is viewed as a permissive one, rather than conclusive. In other words, the defendant should be permitted to produce evidence that he was not under the influence of alcohol when driving. The higher court judge found that the existing instructions to the jury were constitutionally impermissible and must be changed: the jury should be told that they were permitted to find the defendant not guilty if the totallity of evidence raised a reasonable doubt as to whether he was, in fact, under the influence at the time of driving.

All of which should seem obvious, and is the law in most states. But the very existence of this and other laws designed solely to facilitate convictions in DUI cases continues to be an insult to basic notions of fairness and to the Constitution itself.


Attempted Suicide Convicted of DUI

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Some days nothing goes right….

London, England  A motorist tried to commit suicide by driving over a cliff – only to be prosecuted for drink driving.

John Corner was suffering from depression when he headed to the rockface with lots of alcohol. He parked close to the edge, had a drink to summon up courage and drove straight for the precipice. But his car stopped just inches from disaster after hitting a fence. He was found by police close to the scene and was arrested – for drunk driving the short distance from where he had stopped to the edge of the cliff…

Mr. Corner, believed to be from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, won his appeal on the grounds he was not a danger to other road users while driving towards the cliff’s edge. 

Apparently, police in England have about the same degree of common sense and compassion as their brethren in America.

(Thanks to Richard Diamond.)


The Return of the Scarlet Letter

Friday, January 6th, 2006

This latest development from the folks who brought you the Scopes trial:

Tennessee Law Shames Drunken Drivers

Unique law, which goes into effect Sunday, has some critics

Nashville, TN (AP/CNN). A new Tennessee law is enlisting the power of shame to discourage drunken driving — even the governor, law enforcement officials and various experts are calling it an expensive and bad idea.

Starting Sunday, convicted drunken drivers are required to do 24 hours of roadside cleanup while wearing orange vests emblazoned with the phrase "I am a Drunk Driver."… The new law is aimed at first-time offenders, says one of its sponsors, state Rep. Charles Curtiss.

"You cause them to go out and pick up trash in front of their friends and neighbors, the embarrassment is going to be such that they're never going to want to go through that again," Curtiss said….

Apparently, rapists, child molesters and wife beaters don't qualify for Tennessee's new humiliation approach.

(Thanks to Troy Hauser.)