Daily Archives: October 13, 2005

The Road to Prohibition

In past posts I’ve commented on MADD’s apparent shift from drunk driving prevention to resurrecting the failed experiment of Prohibition.  This has been seen in their successful political pressure resulting in lowering of blood-alcohol levels from .10% to .08%, then in some situations to .05%, and finally to .01% for drivers under 21.  This was more recently followed by MADD’s formal rewording of their ”mission statement” – from a focus on drunk driving to underage drinking. 

The next logical step in the march toward Prohibition, of course, is to outlaw driving by adults with any alcohol at all in their system — regardless of any impairment or danger to the public…..

Single Glass of Wine Immerses Driver in Legal Battle

Washington Post, October 12    Debra Bolton had a glass of red wine with dinner. That’s what she told the police officer who pulled her over. That’s what the Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test indicated — .03, comfortably below the legal limit.

She had been pulled over in Georgetown about 12:30 a.m. for driving without headlights. She apologized and explained that the parking attendant must have turned off her vehicle’s automatic-light feature.

Bolton thought she might get a ticket. Instead, she was handcuffed, searched, arrested, put in a jail cell until 4:30 a.m. and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Bolton, 45, an energy lawyer and single mother of two who lives in Alexandria, had just run into a little-known piece of D.C. law: In the District, a driver can be arrested with as little as .01 blood-alcohol content.

As D.C. police officer Dennis Fair, who arrested Bolton on May 15, put it in an interview recently: “If you get behind the wheel of a car with any measurable amount of alcohol, you will be dealt with in D.C. We have zero tolerance. . . . Anything above .01, we can arrest.”

Neither the police department nor the attorney general’s office keeps detailed records of how many people with low blood alcohol levels are arrested. But last year, according to police records, 321 people were arrested for driving under the influence with blood alcohol levels below the legal limit of .08. In 2003, 409 people were arrested….

On the department’s Web site, D.C. police explain it this way: “Technically, according to the D.C. Code, the District of Columbia has a zero tolerance for driving under the influence. If a person 21 years of age or older has a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent [to] .04 percent and extremely bad driving, this person can be placed under arrest for Driving Under the Influence of an alcoholic beverage.”

At low levels of alcohol, an arrest comes down to an officer’s discretion, said D.C. police Inspector Patrick Burke, former head of the traffic division….

How can a person be “under the influence” with only .03% blood-alcohol?  When did forgetting to turn on your headlights constitute “extremely bad driving”?  And since when does the existence of a crime depend upon an “officer’s discretion”?

And what is MADD’s next step?