Archive for January, 2008

Justice and Semantics

Friday, January 18th, 2008

The latest weapon in MADD’s politically correct War on Drunk Driving:

New Law Strengthens DUI Penalties

San Jose, CA.  ABC News  –  Each year, an estimated 17,000 people are killed in drunk driving crashes.

In October the governor signed a bill that got by-partisan support to strengthen the law against first time DUI offenders.

The bill requires everyone getting a driver’s license to sign a statement indicating they know that driving under the influence is dangerous and could result in death. The statement goes on to read that if they choose to drive impaired and kill a person, they understand they can be charged with murder.

The bill had backing from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AAA and the CHP…


Well…It’s all a word game.  You see, a death resulting from drunk driving is punishable as manslaughter (vehicular or involuntary manslaughter).   But a death that is intentional, or involves the mental state of malice, is punishable as murder.  So what is "malice"?  Well, the courts have said it is a wanton and  reckless indifference to human life.  Hmmm…ok, so what is that?

Well, in a drunk driving case, the California courts have said it is driving a vehicle while under the influence (or with .08% blood-alcohol) — if you know that doing so is dangerous to human life.  Hmmm…doesn’t everyone know that?  I mean, duh?

Well, maybe.  If the person was drunk enough and truly knew that he was dangerous.  But what if he didn’t think he was that drunk or dangerous? 

Yes, but what if that person signed a piece of paper saying that all DUI or driving with .08% is dangerous?  Then everyone can be charged with murder — and the manslaughter statutes, which intended for DUI homicides, can be ignored and the .08% driver can be put away for life…just as if he intended to murder someone.

Manslaughter becomes murder…for signing a piece of paper.


Today, DUI Roadblocks…Tommorrow?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

My last post concerned the current efforts by the Governor of Washington to get legislation authorizing drunk driving roadblocks.  This would trump their own Supreme Court's holding that these roadblocks  violate the state constitution's prohibition against stopping citizens for no apparent reason.  But it would appear that, once again, there is a growing backlash against this never-ending "War on Drunk Driving" — and on our Constitution.  An example:

Stopping You for No Reason

Ridenbaugh Press, Jan. 8  –  When Washington Governor Chris Gregoire was explaining on Monday her rationale behind her new security checkpoint program, she pointed out that we already have security stops and checks at courthouses and airports. In many of those places, we do; and the proposed expansion of governmental stops and checks of citizens who are minding their own business and violating no law is one of the exact reasons we disapprove of them so much. Where will the quest for “safety” and “security” lead us next? How much more thoroughly will the Fourth Amendment be eviscerated in the name of keeping people safe?..

The freedom to travel from place to place without being stopped by government authorities – absent some specific reason why you should be – is core and central to freedom in America. Every one of these generalized stops and checkpoints of people undermines that, a point courts generally have upheld over the years, including courts in Washington when this kind of idea was proposed in the last decade.

And for DUI exclusively? You can see this coming: Agencies will want to piggyback other agendas on top of this one, just as the Patriot Act, supposedly solely an anti-terrorist measure, has been used much more for other purposes. Have no doubt, if this approach takes affect, it will happen. Where it will end, where its practical limits will be, remain unclear.

What this most specifically would accomplish would get Americans ever more accustomed to another stop and search routine of them by their government. And that is how the fourth amendment, and the sense of what it is to live in a free country, gets gradually whittled away.

As I've pointed out in the past, these so-called "sobriety checkpoints" are well-known to be ineffective in apprehending drunk drivers.  Instead, they are increasingly being used as revenue generators and illegal subterfuges to stop innocent citizens for unrelated matters.  Indeed, as the writer above has asked, where will it end?  If you permit DUI roadblocks in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, this sets a precedent for other roadblocks – and, as at airports, serves to get citizens used to such governmental intrusions.


Are DUI Roadblocks Effective?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I've railed in the past about the unconstitutionality of DUI roadblacks, aka "sobriety checkpoints", as well as their ineffectiveness.  Increasingly, they are being used as revenue generators and illegal subterfuges to stop innocent citizens for unrelated matters.  

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that the interests of the government in ensuring safety on the highways outweighs the clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, 11 states today ban DUI roadblocks by relying upon their own state constitutions to protect their citizens.  However, the governor of one of those states, Christine Gregoire, is now calling on the legislature to abandon that protection.

Gregoire Calls for Sobriety Checkpoints

Olympia, WA.  Jan. 8  –  Gov. Christine Gregoire wants the state Legislature to authorize police to set up sobriety spot checks, a practice unseen in Washington since the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1988…

The national and Pacific Northwest MADD organizations are targeting sobriety checkpoints and stricter laws for ignition interlocks as legislative priorities this year.

"Sobriety checkpoints work. The Centers for Disease Control says that in states where they have sobriety checkpoints, impaired driving crashes are usually 20 percent less than in states where they don't," said Judy Eakin, executive director of MADD's Northwest region.

As I've indicated in previous posts (e.g., "Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Statistics"), MADD is very fond of playing games with numbers.  Let's take a closer look at the statistics connecting roadblocks to reductions of accidents….

According to MADD's own website, 40 states have checkpoints and 10 do not. Well, it would be interesting to compare the states with the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities with the list of states not using checkpoints: If MADD is correct, the states with the highest fatality rates will be the no-roadblock states. Fortunately, another section of MADD’s website provides such statistics for each of the states. The 5 states with the highest alcohol-related fatality rates:

North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina

According to MADD, all 5 states should be non-checkpoint states. In fact, however, 4 of these states use checkpoints; only Rhode Island does not. Well, what about the 5 states with the lowest fatality percentages? They are:

New York

If MADD is correct about the effectiveness of checkpoints, these should all be checkpoint states. But as with the previous list, only 4 of the states permit the use of sobriety checkpoints; Iowa does not. As with the previous list, the percentage is what one would expect from pure random incidence: 20% of the states (10 of 50) do not have checkpoints and 20% of the states on each list (1 of 5) do not use checkpoints. There appears to be no correlation between fatality rates and the use of checkpoints.

Let’s take a look at another set of statistics: the effect of the proliferation of checkpoints on the national rate of alcohol-related fatalities. If checkpoints are effective, we would expect to find that alcohol-related fatalities will have declined since their widespread acceptance in recent years .

Again, the statistics do not support this. To use MADD's own numbers: Since 1982, the number of fatalities nationwide from alcohol-related crashes has declined every year until about 1993, when it dropped to 17,908. Perhaps coincidentally, this was the year after the United States Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints were not unconstitutional. In the 10 years since then, sobriety checkpoints have gained widespead acceptance — but the number of fatalities have levelled off, vacilating between 17,908 and 17,013. Far from supporting MADD’s position, one could even argue that this proves sobriety checkpoints have actually halted the steady decline in alcohol-related deaths. This would probably be incorrect — but indicative of how statistics can be used to serve a desired objective.



Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Is the tide finally turning?  For years I’ve expected to see a backlash from the citizens of this country as politicians and judges continue to bow to MADD’s hysterical crusade against drinking (and, secondarily, drunk driving) and whittle away at the Bill of Rights and basic concepts of justice and fairness.  Recently, however, there seems to be an increasing number of isolated voices of reason arising from the wilderness.  In yesterday’s media….

A Better Way to Go After Drunk Drivers

KOMO-TV News, Seattle.  Jan. 7  –   So now the governor wants to get tough on drunk driving…

The governor’s idea is to set up sobriety checkpoints so that police can arbitrarily stop anyone out driving on a particular stretch of road at a particular time.

In other words, it’s about showmanship over substance.

I don’t like sobriety checkpoints.  Not because I have any interest in protecting drunk drivers, but because I’m not too keen on giving up another piece of our constitutional rights.

Call me simplistic, but I’m kind of partial to those 4th amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

So while I’m all for Governor Gregoire getting tough on drunk driving, I’d prefer something more direct, like actually going after drunk drivers while leaving the rest of us sober folks alone.

Obviously an unpatriotic, wife-beating, alcohol-abusing radical.

Instant Suspension of DUI Suspect Licenses

Crosses Line

Phoenix Tribune.  Jan. 7  –  Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, has decided to continue a reckless vendetta against drunken driving and he seems willing to sacrifice our civil liberties and every bit of common sense in his rush to save just one more life.

A set of new DUI laws recognized as among the toughest in the country, including the mandated use of ignition interlock devices for a year on a person’s first misdemeanor conviction, has been in effect for less than three months. We have no idea if more jail time, higher fines and a physical barrier to driving after drinking will be wildly successful, an abject failure or fall somewhere in between…

State law already requires police to physically take away the driver’s license of DUI suspects. But they receive a temporary permit in return, giving the motorists an opportunity to challenge a license suspension at a state administrative hearing. As driving is considered a privilege, not a right, the standard in such cases is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” DUI suspects can lose their driver’s license for 90 days even if they eventually defeat the criminal charges.

But at least a truly innocent person has a chance to appeal to an authority not beholden to the police before they lose access to a daily part of most people’s lives that often is critical to keeping a job and caring for a family.

Waring’s bill would deny even this minimal version of the due process of law. A DUI suspect anywhere in the state instantly would be powerless to drive, even if the police don’t yet have any physical evidence of intoxication (such as breath or blood test results)…

SB1008 completely disregards the American notion of “innocent until proven guilty” and would push Arizona much closer toward a police state in which judges and other independent arbiters of justice are irrelevant relics.

Obviously another rabble-rousing, child-molesting, communist pervert.


What Does a DUI Cost?

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Did you ever wonder how much it could cost you today if you’re arrested for drunk driving?  Not necessarily guilty of drunk driving, just suspected of it?  Maybe $500?  Or $1000?…

Drunk Driving Could Cost $20,000

CNBC News.  Dec. 14  –  Twenty thousand dollars sounds like a lot to pay for a drink at a holiday party, but if that last cocktail puts you over the legal limit, that “one for the road” could easily cost you that or more.

One drink too many puts you at risk for not only an arrest, but also for fees, fines and costs that can run you thousands of dollars. While a DUI or DWI may be a misdemeanor charge in a number of jurisdictions, it’s a matter that most judges and district attorneys take very seriously. The financial toll of a conviction will play out for years to come, and in many states that can add up to $20,000 before everything is over. This includes bail, fines, legal fees, increased auto insurance premiums, loss of work income, court-ordered alcohol education programs and more.

Of course, if you get fired from your job as a result of the arrest, that dollar figure would skyrocket…

The Texas Department of Transportation says a June 2006 survey in that state showed the total costs of a DWI arrest and conviction — for a first time offender with no accident involved — would range from $9,000 to $24,000. 

In many states today, you’re better off committing a felony burglary, for example, than a misdemeanor DUI.  The difference between .07% and .08% alcohol in your blood could be the difference between a brief detention and a nightmare in the legal system with a $20,000 price tag. 

‘Ever wonder why?