Archive for December, 2006

A Touch of Sanity

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

The following is excerpted from a refreshing breath of reason provocatively entitled "Legalize Drunk Driving". It was written six years ago by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in response to the federally-coerced adoption by the states of .08% laws:

…What precisely is being criminalized? Not bad driving. Not destruction of property. Not the taking of human life or reckless endangerment. The crime is having the wrong substance in your blood. Yet it is possible, in fact, to have this substance in your blood, even while driving, and not commit anything like what has been traditionally called a crime.

What have we done by permitting government to criminalize the content of our blood instead of actions themselves? We have given it power to make the application of the law arbitrary, capricious, and contingent on the judgment of cops and cop technicians. Indeed, without the government’s "Breathalyzer," there is no way to tell for sure if we are breaking the law.

Sure, we can do informal calculations in our head, based on our weight and the amount of alcohol we have had over some period of time. But at best these will be estimates. We have to wait for the government to administer a test to tell us whether or not we are criminals. That’s not the way law is supposed to work. Indeed, this is a form of tyranny.

Now, the immediate response goes this way: drunk driving has to be illegal because the probability of causing an accident rises dramatically when you drink. The answer is just as simple: government in a free society should not deal in probabilities. The law should deal in actions and actions alone, and only insofar as they damage person or property. Probabilities are something for insurance companies to assess on a competitive and voluntary basis.

This is why the campaign against "racial profiling" has intuitive plausibility to many people: surely a person shouldn’t be hounded solely because some demographic groups have higher crime rates than others. Government should be preventing and punishing crimes themselves, not probabilities and propensities. Neither, then, should we have driver profiling, which assumes that just because a person has quaffed a few he is automatically a danger.

In fact, driver profiling is worse than racial profiling, because the latter only implies that the police are more watchful, not that they criminalize race itself. Despite the propaganda, what’s being criminalized in the case of drunk driving is not the probability that a person driving will get into an accident but the fact of the blood-alcohol content itself. A drunk driver is humiliated and destroyed even when he hasn’t done any harm…

We need to put a stop to this whole trend now. Drunk driving should be legalized. And please don’t write me to say: "I am offended by your insensitivity because my mother was killed by a drunk driver." Any person responsible for killing someone else is guilty of manslaughter or murder and should be punished accordingly. But it is perverse to punish a murderer not because of his crime but because of some biological consideration, e.g. he has red hair.

Bank robbers may tend to wear masks, but the crime they commit has nothing to do with the mask. In the same way, drunk drivers cause accidents but so do sober drivers, and many drunk drivers cause no accidents at all. The law should focus on violations of person and property, not scientific oddities like blood content.

There’s a final point against Clinton’s drunk-driving bill. It is a violation of states rights. Not only is there no warrant in the Constitution for the federal government to legislate blood-alcohol content, the 10th Amendment should prevent it from doing so. The question of drunk driving should first be returned to the states…

Incidentally, I don’t believe Llewellyn is arguing against the traditional drunk driving laws (that is, driving under the influence) but only against the new laws of driving with .08% blood-alcohol. I think everyone will recognize that a truly intoxicated driver is a danger.

PinterestRedditDiggShare

Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood…

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

The War on Drunk Driving continues:

Fresno Cracks Down on DUI

Fresno, Calif. Dec. 21 — Police in Fresno are throwing up roadblocks, conducting stakeouts and using night-vision goggles, satellite tracking devices and video cameras in an extraordinary crackdown aimed not at terrorists or drug lords, but at drunken drivers…

Fresno's attack on drunken driving has been called the nation's best by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has pronounced it "among the most aggressive in the nation." Among other things, Fresno police are putting undercover officers near bars to watch for drinkers stumbling to their cars. They are setting up multiple drunken-driving checkpoints, sometimes even on weeknights. And they are surreptitiously planting Global Positioning System devices on the cars of convicted drunken drivers to monitor whether they are going to bars or liquor stores in violation of their probation or parole.

Officers are using night-vision goggles and cameras to keep track of about 150 people who have been convicted of serious DUI offenses. The terms of their parole or probation often allow officers to search their homes at any time for evidence they have been drinking, and they can be re-arrested should police find alcohol there, no matter who bought it. "It comes down to what's more important: living in that residence or having alcohol in the home," Van Wyhe said. "We have to keep them away from that temptation. If they're having a bad night, they could take to it again."

Sounds a lot like Germany in the '30s.

PinterestRedditDiggShare

Alcoholics and Catch-22

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

It may not surprise you to find out that alcoholics arrested for DUI will generally have higher blood-alcohol readings. It may surprise you, however, to learn that alcoholics will generally have higher blood-alcohol readings because they are alcoholics….. That’s right. It’s because the physiology of alcoholics is different in some important respects.

One of those is that their bodies produce more acetaldehyde — far more. Acetaldehyde? That’s a compound produced in the liver in small amounts as a by-product in the metabolism of alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol in the lungs has been found to metabolize there as well as in the liver — and to produce acetaldehyde there.

The amount of acetaldehyde produced in the lungs (to then be breathed into the breathalyzer) varies from person to person. "Origin of Breath Acetaldehyde During Ethanol Oxidation: Effect of Long-Term Cigarette Smoking", 100 Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine 908. But in a study focusing on alcoholics, researchers discovered that the amount of acetaldehyde in the breath and blood of alcoholics was 5 to 55 times higher than that in nonalcoholics. "Elevated Blood Acetaldehyde in Alcoholics and Accelerated Ethanol Elimination", 13 (Supp 1) Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 119.

End result: since breathalyzers can’t tell the difference between alcohol and acetaldehyde (see earlier post, "Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol"), alcoholics will usually have falsely higher blood-alcohol readings.

PinterestRedditDiggShare

Vigilante Roadblocks?

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

I've mentioned in the past about roadblocks partially staffed by MADD volunteers, and even a few run by MADD independent of the police. The evolution of DUI roadblocks continues:


Relatives of victims help at DUI checkpoints

Hilo, HI. Dec. 19 – Students and relatives of DUI victims will be helping Big Island police this week and next at DUI checkpoints.

Police said one checkpoint will be set up in Pahoa with students from Pahoa High School and students from the newly-established University Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (UMADD)…


Sounds like a calm, impartial and professional law enforcement operation.

PinterestRedditDiggShare

How to Be a “Top Cop”

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

What happens when you reward officers for making the most DUI arrests?

 

Seal Isle Officer Charged with Faking Evidence in DWI Arrest

Sea Isle City, NJ.  Dec. 16 -  A city police sergeant allegedly tampered with evidence to frame a suspect during an alcohol bust in August. Sgt. Vincenzo Macrino, 33, of Sea Isle City, was arrested Friday at the police station and charged with official misconduct and tampering with evidence, the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office said Friday…

Macrino was honored in September by Mothers Against Drunk Driving as one of its “top cops” for making drunken-driving arrests in Sea Isle City. The group honored more than 322 honorees from nearly 300 local police departments. MADD said its 2006 honorees represented just 2 percent officers in their departments, but were responsible for 20 percent of drunken-driving arrests.

MADD has a policy of having its local chapters around the country honor individual officers for making high numbers of DUI arrests — honors that are helpful to those officers' careers.  So how many Sergeant Macrinos do you think are out there?  And how many citizens are falsely arrested and convicted?  (Remember:  all it takes is the officer's testimony that the defendant appeared intoxicated, failed the field sobriety tests, and refused to take a breath test; no one is going to believe the defendant.)

For an example of this practice triggering a federal law suit, see my earlier post DUI SuperCops.

(Thanks to Hockey Bobc.)

PinterestRedditDiggShare