Monthly Archives: November 2005

The Scarlet Letter – Version 2

Direct from the battlefront of MADD's "War on Drunk Driving", a variant on the Scarlet Letter solution:

(From LTVNEWS – site discontinued); Sault St. Marie, Ontario.  LTVNEWS in conjunction with MADD and Sault Ste. Marie City Police and OPP are joining forces to get Impaired Drivers off the roads.

Each day, LTVNEWS will post the names of those charged by City Police. This joint  effort will begin from 8:00 a.m. November 21st to midnight on the 7th of January.

We here at LTVNEWS hope we don't have to list many names, but we will to make our community a safer place to live.

Note:  This public humiliation is not applied to those arrested for rape, child molesting, robbery, drug dealing, theft, etc. – only to suspected drunk drivers.  Apparently, identifying accused child molesters and drug dealers does not make the community "a safer place to live".

Note:  The humiliation applies to anyone arrested for DUI; actual guilt is not a prerequisite. 

MADD and the New Prohibition

For years I have railed about MADD’s evangelical crusade ("DUI, MADD and the New Prohibition") and the damage it continues to inflict on our disappearing constitutional rights ("The DUI Exception to the Constitution").  Perhaps perspective and rationality are finally beginning to trump political correctness – as evidenced by the following insightful  observations from policy analyst and columnist Radley Balko:

When Drunk Driving Deterrence Becomes Neo-Prohibition  This fall Mothers Against Drunk Driving marks its 25th anniversay….

Unfortunately, MADD has come to outlive and outgrow its original mission. By the mid-1990s, deaths from drunk driving began to level off, after 15 years of progress. The sensible conclusion to draw from this was that the occasional drunk driver had all but been eradicated. MADD’s successes had boiled the problem down to a small group of hard-core alcoholics.

It was at about this time that MADD began to move in a different direction, one not so much aimed at reducing drunk driving fatalities but at stripping DWI defendants of basic criminal rights. MADD also seemed to expand its mission to one of discouraging the consumption of alcohol in general – what critics call "neo-prohibition."

MADD’s biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But when two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17, this move doesn’t make much sense. It’s like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded "the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol."….

MADD has also worked to undermine the criminal protections of accused drunk drivers, protections routinely granted to accused murderers, rapists and other felony crimes. MADD, for example, has pushed to impose tougher penalties on motorists who refuse to take roadside breath tests than on those who take them and fail, effectively turning the Fifth Amendment on its ear. The organization also favors "administrative license revocation," which means the revocation of the driver’s licenses and, in some cases, the confiscation of the vehicles, of those accused of drunken driving before they’re ever given a trial….

MADD is also pushing its agenda onto family laws, including a zero tolerance policy for divorced parents. Under the bills MADD is trying to push through state legislatures, a parent caught consuming one beer or glass of wine before driving could face penalties that, according to MADD, "should include, but are not limited to" : "incarceration," "change of primary custody," or "termination of parental rights." This means that if you take your kid to the game, have a beer in the third inning, then drive home, you could very well lose your rights as a father.

Even MADD’s founder, Candy Lightner, has lamented that the organization has grown neo-prohibitionist in nature.

"[MADD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned …," Lightner is quoted as saying in an Aug. 6 story in the Washington Times. "I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving," she said.

Unfortunately, the tax-exempt organization has become so enmeshed with government it has nearly become a formal government agency. MADD gets millions of dollars in federal and state funding, and has a quasi-official relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In some jurisdictions, DWI defendants are sentenced to attend and pay for alcoholic-recovery groups sponsored by MADD. In many cities, MADD officials are even allowed to man sobriety checkpoints alongside police.

On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, perhaps its time Congress revisit the spigot of federal funding flowing to MADD, and consider revoking the organization’s tax-exempt status. Clearly, MADD isn’t the same organization it was 25 years ago. It has morphed into an anti-alcohol lobbying organization. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s certainly within MADD’s and its supporters’ First Amendment rights.

But taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize them.


The Scarlet…Vest?

The latest from the front lines of the War on Drunk Driving:

Knoxville (WLV-TV), November 22 - Come January first, Tennessee will have its own "scarlet letter." A big orange vest aimed at discouraging people from driving drunk. They call these Shame Laws — making the punishment so embarrassing, you won't even think about committing the crime….

They already face jail time and fines, but apparently that hasn't been enough to stop some 1,200 people from driving drunk in Knox County last year. So next year, first timers also will have to spend three 8-hour days picking up litter while wearing vests [with "I Am a Drunk Driver" in large letters] telling the rest of us exactly what they've done.

In the time of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Puritan Salem, drunks were publicly displayed in stocks and women suspected of adultery were forced to wear a scarlet "A". The good old days….

The Scarlet Letter (cont’d)

Yesterday’s post about the proposed “Scarlet Letter” law in Florida was intended as satirical humor.  But…..Ohio already requires yellow plates with red letters for those convicted of DUI. 

Minnesota and Michigan require such plates as well, although Minnesota’s supreme court held that stopping cars with such plates without probable cause (as in the proposed Florida law) was unconstitutional.

Humorous, but no joke.

The Scarlet Letter Revisited

Here we go again…..

Commentary: Perfect place for rap sheet:Back of a car

Palm Beach Post, Nov. 20.  What a great idea! Let's criminalize state license plates.

I'm referring to the creative bill filed this month by State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, that would require convicted drunken drivers to change their license plates to pink ones with the first three characters being DUI….The bill would also allow police officers to "stop any vehicle that bears a DUI plate without probable cause to check the driver."

Unfortunately, Fasano's bill doesn't go further, failing to come up with the requirement for pink blinking lights around the plate for night driving and with color schemes for other crimes that might require the use of a car.

What color license plate should a convicted burglar be forced to use?

Not green. Green should be saved for the bank robbers, who nearly always require a getaway vehicle.

You can also argue that men accused of soliciting prostitutes from their vehicles should also get their own license plate, as a convenience to both future girlfriends and undercover decoy officers. Maybe these drivers wouldn't get their own color, but their license plates could be wrapped in latex and begin with the letters JOHN.

Although that may lead to other drivers to think that the driver is just emphasizing his love for a particular Bible verse….

The choice of pink for drunken drivers is bound to lead to confusion among other drivers who would associate the color with breast cancer awareness and ultimately lead to them to wonder if the driver's drinking problem may be health-related….

The American Civil Liberties Union, understandably, is opposed to this motorized version of Hester Prynne's scarlet letter A. The civil liberties group thinks it will only cause undue ridicule and harassment to drivers who have already been punished for their actions.

All that may be needed is a compromise: To allow the DUI drivers to customize their specialty plate by permitting them to pair it up with another existing specialty plate, and to pick their own vanity number-letter combination to go along with the DUI letters on the plate.

So you might have a drunken driver with a plate that's only half pink, with the other half being Save the Manatees or University of Florida, and the plate reading DUI R U or EZ 2B DUI or maybe even DUI UV U.

There appear to be a few sane folks left.