Are MADD Awards to Officers for DUI Arrests Warranted?

Posted by Jon Ibanez on August 10th, 2015

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the hyper-aggressive group that advocates for tougher laws on drunk driving, regularly awards local officers for the high number of DUI arrests they make in a given year. In fact just last month, several such awards were given in several California counties.

To be eligible for the MADD award, officers must arrest a minimum of 25 drunk drivers within a one year period.

“Officers Corey Baker and Kevin VanFleet were among several police officers from Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties who received the MADD Award,” said the Simi Valley Acorn. “Baker detected impairment in 82 drivers in 2014, and VanFleet made 36 arrests.”

According to The Californian, Monterey California Highway Patrol Officer Peter Avila was given the award for making 66 DUI arrests in 2014. This was more than any other CHP officer in the Monterey area in 2014.

To many, this seems like a good thing; awarding those who take drunk drivers off of the road. But the flaw in this is that just because a person was arrested does not necessarily mean that they are driving drunk.

So are these awards warranted?
 

An arrest means nothing without a conviction. Remember, we are all innocent until proven guilty. This necessarily means that a person was not driving drunk if and until they are proven to be driving drunk with a conviction.

As a DUI defense attorney, I can tell you first hand that many DUI arrests do not end up as DUI convictions.

Officers pretty regularly arrest people for DUI when there is not enough evidence for a conviction, sometimes when there is not even enough evidence for an arrest. Why might they do this? I hate to say it, but it’s because they can.

Take for example a recent case I had. My client was pulled over for speeding. What led the officer to believe that my client was possible DUI, I’ll never know. But my client was asked to perform field sobriety tests anyways. My client, of course, “failed” the field sobriety tests even though his blood alcohol content was determined to be 0.04 percent and well below the legal limit.

Although my client was arrested for a California DUI, he was not drunk. Fortunately, the prosecutor agreed and declined to file charges, but not before my client spent the night in jail and spent the money to hire me to represent him.

My client was not driving under the influence, yet his arresting officer received one arrest credit towards MADD’s award.

Do these awards incentivize officers to make illegal DUI arrests? I doubt it. Personally, I think officers would make such arrests whether the awards were given or not.

But, if you ask me, we’re rewarding the wrong action by the officer because many (and I mean many) DUI arrests are illegal arrests and many do not result in convictions. Not all people who are arrested for drunk driving are actually driving drunk.

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