DUI, MADD and the “New Prohibition”

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 20th, 2004

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a well-organized (over 600 chapters), well-funded (IRS Form 990 shows revenue for 2002 of $48,051,441) and dangerous group of well-intentioned zealots — the very same folks who gave us Prohibition decades ago.For many years now, MADD’s agenda has been clear: apply political pressure to get ever-harsher drunk driving laws, law enforcement and punishment.

But what is the final goal? When will we have reached a state when MADD is satisfied that the drunk driving laws are sufficient?

The answer is simple: zero tolerance. No drinking and driving. And, eventually, no drinking. Exaggeration? Paranoia? Let’s look at a little DUI history…..

The original drunk driving laws were simple and fair: Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Then, years ago, law enforcement came up with crude devices to measure alcohol on the breath of drunk driving suspects. But what did, say, a .13% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) mean?They turned to the American Medical Association which, in 1938, created a "Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents"; at the same time, the National Safety Council set up a "Committee on Tests for Intoxication".

After some study, these two groups came up with their findings: a driver with .15% BAC or higher could be presumed to be "under the influence"; those under .15% could not. That’s right, .15%. And that recommendation lasted for 22 years. But certain groups of "concerned mothers" were not happy with the low DUI arrest and conviction rates.

Under increasing political pressure, the committees "revisited" the question in 1960 and agreed to lower the presumed level of intoxication to .10%. Had the human body changed in 22 years? Had the AMA been negligent in their earlier studies? Or were politics and law trumping scientific truth?

Well, the arrest and conviction rates shot up, but there were still too many people escaping the DUI net. Then MADD was formed by Candy Lightner (later to quit the organization and become a spokesperson for the liquor industry). Soon after, legislation began appearing in many states that created a second crime: driving with a BAC of .10% or higher.

This new crime did not require the driver to be affected by alcohol: even if sober, he would be guilty if his blood-alcohol was .10%. In effect, it completely ignored the questions of intoxication, driving impairment and individual tolerance to alcohol. And, despite questions of double jeopardy, the individual could be charged and even convicted of both the traditional DUI and the new .10% crimes! This gave police and prosecutors a powerful new weapon, and drunk driving arrests/convictions jumped once again.

This was not good enough. Under increasing pressure from an ever more powerful MADD, in 1990 four states lowered the blood-alcohol level in DUI cases to .08%; others soon followed and, ten years later, federal politicians (with one eye on MADD) passed an appropriations bill in effect coercing all states into adopting the new .08% BAC standard. Since then, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has pressured state legislatures to drop the blood-alcohol level to .05%. In the meantime, they had been successful in getting nearly universal adoption of a .01% BAC standard (termed "ero tolerance") for drivers under 21.

So where are we headed with MADD in apparent control? A federal .05% DUI standard is on the horizon and, in fact, has already been adopted to some extent in a few states. "Zero tolerance" for adult drivers is clearly on MADD’s agenda.

And then?

In 1999, MADD’s National Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the organization’s mission statement to include the prevention of underage drinking. Not underage drinking and driving — just drinking. Let me say that again: MADD has now formally shifted its focus away from "drunk driving" and towards the broader "problem" of drinking.

Can a new era of prohibition be far behind?

  • ruReadyMyFriend

    Police Driving Intoxicated People Home and Preventing DUI
    Palm Beach and South Palm Beach Police have developed a novel idea to prevent DUI arrests: they provide a ride for residents and guests before they get into the car. As attorney George Creal of DUI Webblog recently reported, the Palm Beach and South Palm Beach police promote the novel idea of helping people first.

    This novel idea apparently works. Last year, Palm Beach police made 39 DUI arrests. This year, they have made 25 DUI arrests. South Palm Beach Police reported only seven DUI arrests this year and four in 2005. Compare this with 23,864 alcohol-related crashes reported throughout the state in 2005 and 1,239 fatalities and you will see that these police departments have found a way to minimize DUI’s, and the resulting tragic consequences.

    Apparently, Police will drive residents directly to their homes. Palm Beach police will assist guests who live outside the community by helping them make other arrangements, such as contacting family members or local taxi companies.

    However, the Palm Beach police quickly pointed out that they will arrest anyone found driving under the influence, and give them a ride to jail.

    Perhaps Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) would find this novel approach to reducing drunk driving encouraging, and petition more law enforcement agencies to adopt this prevention strategy.

    Post by Nicholasville Kentucky, Personal Injury, Criminal Defense, and DUI Attorney, Stephen J. Isaacs.

  • vincent pasqualichio

    I have been recently a victim of dui and figured it would never happen to me. But always woeeied about it scared to take a girlfriend out for dinner and drink some wine socially. It seems like food and bevarage lobby. Does not seem to counter madd. Since they are lossing much money for persons, adults whom may go out for dinner say onnce a week have forced many resterants. To close completely. Or cut down here hours. It has effected jobs and the economy in genreal. I was stooped and when my attorney questioned police iffice use that term loosley more like inforcing a police state. I do not believe in drunk driving but I have been tired and was worse than having say a coupl of glasses of wine at dinner with my girlfriend. I am divorced and women enjoy to be wined and dined. And it has effected all of Niagara Couty in New York state. For it is not productive for when cutoimers leave very early. For fear of getting dui. That is my problem. Madd gets all polticians on there side why does not food and beverage bring out the falsoods of madd and there exagerated dui laws. For when police were questioned was I speeding or driving eratic they said no. It was just routine late nigth check. And used ecuse could not read my licence plates for reason of stop. So if media does not educate madds goals. Even elderly persons whom may go out for dinner or a wdding ect. Do not understand they could be victims of madd laws. It seems they are always orrect and di not use common sence. You say dwi laws fading by false evidence and fading constution. It seems in last 20 years or so not only on this matter and other matters constution they have no respect for. For there goal is to raise money for mucipalties and insurance companys. It seemsall I have made a survey of say soon if you just look at alcolic beverage you will be in trouble. People are scared to have more than 1 drink. Some will not even have one drink for fear of dui. Until madds laws are challenged by there false evidents and police at one time were not so intent on giving person ticket for driving while alcohol on there breath but not speeding or breaking any laws. But now it seems they do not care about destoying a good citizens privacy even if driving carefully,for after 11 p.m. it seems thats all they want is that dui conviction. Till people learn it could happen to you. But most persons do drink say at wedding and holdays and socail events. Figure they are safe till it happens to them. I have only one answer to this that persons should not be convicted by a machine but by judgement of fair and unbiased police officer. To end this iver the years any person will build a immuinty to any drug. So if a person has never had a drink 2 or 3 drinks he or she will be intoxicated for they never drank. But a fortie year old peron or older have built immunity to alohol as a drug. Just like example coffee or any sunstance. Until people are willing and a lobby to counter madd for socail drinkers whom are responsible. Madd will always win. For they have finacial resources with insurace companies just looking for higher profits. A disgusted usa citizen and there are many but are silent majority are commited to stooping madd from geeting there lives ruined for taking a wife out for dinner our a wedding we are doomed to loose more constutional rigths. Its a pity are nation has turned to becoming a begining of a police state. It starts with one thing soon other laws are added. I have no solution for problem. For most persons can not afford a high cost for attorney. And most persons even with a good attorney always loose. So they pick up quick money but no justice. I was not going to make this long. But unless persons are educated and willing to get bac up to a reasinable rate of .10 not zero .08 as Clintoin signed and black mailed all states if you do not support this .08 no fedreal higway funds. I do not see how we can be given fair treatment. A concerned citizen.

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