About 20 years ago, I coined the phrase "The DUI Exception to the Constitution" to describe a disturbing but growing treatment of DUI as a "politically incorrect" offense. Created and fostered by the demonization of the crime by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the pressures on legislators and judges — most of whom face MADD's wrath at re-elections– resulted in the steady erosion of constitutional rights, accurate evidence and fair trials.
In today's news:
DUI Charge Without Being Seen Driving
Albuquerque, NM. June 26 – The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that cops can arrest someone for drunk driving, even if they never saw that person driving. The court's ruling centers around a case from December of 2007.
A mall employee tipped off Santa Fe police about Marcos Martinez, saying he was drunk and tried to unlock several vans before finding his and speeding off.
By the time police tracked down Martinez, using his license plate number, he was already home. Officers say Martinez was falling-down drunk when he came to the front door. The officer felt the hood of Martinez's van, and it was still warm.
The officer never saw him driving but arrested him anyway.
Martinez fought the DWI charge and the case was dismissed, but the state's highest court decided his aggravated DWI charge should stand.
“It shouldn't just be a free pass because you were able to beat the police home," Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White said,
Gary Cade with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office explained this change in policy now means, “The police will handle DWI’s like they handle felony crimes.”
He went on to say that cops won't need to spend time getting a warrant…
Officials hope this decision will encourage even more people to report suspected drunk drivers.
In other words, all misdemeanor offenses must meet legal procedures such as observation of the offense and the need for warrants — except drunk driving, which will be treated as a felony.
Yet another in the unending examples of what I labelled "The DUI Exception to the Constitution" 20 years ago.