In past posts, I’ve commented upon the increasing profits made by government and industry from the escalating "war on DUI" (see, for example, "DUI Roadblocks for Fun and Profit" and "DUI Ignition Interlocks: Dangerous but Profitable"). These profits call into question the underlying reasons for the allocation of police resources and the fairness of penalties imposed for this offense. Consider a news story appearing yesterday:
Albuquerque Makes a Million from DUI
Drunk-driving is generating a million a year in profit for the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Drunk driving does not pay in Albuquerque, New Mexico — unless you’re the city treasurer. Last year, Albuquerque generated a million dollars in profit from its drunk driving enforcement program, doubling the take from 2003.
New Mexico DWI penalties are stiff. A driver caught for the first time with a .08 blood alcohol level must pay a $500 fine. But that’s just the beginning. The crime also carries a six-month license revocation where the offender can only legally drive a vehicle that has an ignition interlock installed. This device is designed to allow only a sober individual to operate the car.
That’s where the fees kick in. The interlock runs $960 per year and there’s a $45 "interlock fee." That, plus a $100 license fee, a $65 crime lab fee, a $75 community fee, a $200 alcohol screening fee, a $20 corrections fee. All this adds up to $1615 in extra fees combined with the fine for a total of $2115, a number which does not include the cost of increased insurance, treatment, lost wages, towing and storage, court costs and attorney fees.
The city hits the jackpot with anyone foolish enough to become a repeat offender, where the direct fines rise as high as $5000 and the city confiscates and sells the offender’s automobile. Apparently, repeat offenders are not rare. In 2003, Albuquerque seized an average of 125 vehicles every month. It auctioned between 40 and 50 cars monthly, returning only 40 a month to innocent owners.
(Thanks to Richard Diamond.)