A legitimate police stop for a suspected drunk-driving incident does not have to rely on trick questions, sensing devices, or gimmicks to justify a chemical test of the driver. The driver’s lack of control of his or her vehicle, an inability to reasonably react to questions and requests, and physical reactions will all be dead giveaways of an impaired condition.
Unfortunately, the government, insurance companies, and self-serving organizations have institutionalized a negative stereotype of anyone who drinks and drives, no matter how responsibly. By labeling virtually all drivers who drink and drive as “drunk drivers,” they have created a situation where responsible and constructive citizens are at risk of suffering huge fines, high insurance charges, loss of driving licenses, confiscation of personal property, and even incarceration, all for the singular act of violating an arbitrary and unreasonable BAC standard.
The underlying rationale for the current DUI hysteria is based on propaganda. The enforcement tactics are dubious, invasive, and abusive. The real solution to this problem — a legitimate campaign gone wrong — is to honestly determine the real magnitude of the “drunk driver” menace. Then, we must establish legitimate standards to define “drunk driving,” eliminate the enforcement excesses that have been allowed to fester, and return the legitimate due process rights that all citizens should be entitled to, regardless of the “crime” they are charged with committing. This won’t happen without taking the first step.
Each and every one of us must demand change. Rest assured that doing nothing is the guaranteed route to more abusive use of government authority to harass honest, hard-working citizens who are a threat to no one, including themselves.
Here are four issues that must be addressed to correct the abuses fostered by revenge and prohibition-driven DUI policies:
1. Repeal the .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content laws and set more legitimate and rational BAC standards.
Current law says that any person with a BAC of .08, or higher is automatically a drunk driver, no exceptions and no defenses to the contrary. This is an absolute standard that is also absolutely arbitrary. The vast majority of people who drink are not effectively impaired with a BAC of .08 and they are perfectly capable of driving in a safe and responsible fashion. If we are to have an absolute BAC standard that automatically classifies a person as a drunk driver, that standard should be at least high enough to encompass drivers that are actually impaired. A BAC standard of .12 percent would be a more fair and legitimate legal threshold. This does not mean that a person who is obviously impaired, but who has a BAC below .12, cannot be arrested and charged with DUI. It simply means that their BAC level does not automatically make them a “drunk driver.”
Using absurdly low BAC standards, like .08 make it easy for the police to arrest alleged “drunk drivers” and easier yet to convict them in court. “Easy” doesn’t mean fair or reasonable.
2. Reform the system of fines and penalties for technical violations of BAC standards to reflect the actual harm done by the defendant.
If an impaired driver (or any driver, impaired or not) causes property damage and personal harm they should be punished accordingly, preferably providing full compensation for the losses suffered by others. However, a person who is stopped because of a minor traffic or equipment violation and is subsequently charged with violating the BAC standard should not have to endure huge fines, loss of license, unfair insurance charges, and jail time because they had three drinks instead of two. A person distracted by a cell phone conversation or kids in the back seat can cause just as much damage and mayhem as an impaired driver. There should be more balance in how they are treated by the police and the courts.
3. Prohibit the use of Breathalyzer results as a determinate of impairment or blood alcohol content.
Breathalyzers do not accurately reflect blood alcohol content. The margin of error can be as much as 50 percent! Furthermore, even if accurately measured, blood alcohol content is not an accurate determinate of impairment. Even a breathalyzer that very accurately measures breath alcohol content tells the operator very little about real blood alcohol content and less yet about impairment. What other industry, agency, business, or school would accept a measurement device that can err up to 50 percent? Yet, we are destroying peoples lives based on the readings of these instruments.
4. Eliminate the use of roadblocks (sobriety checkpoints) for DUI enforcement.
The purpose of DUI roadblocks is to instill a sense of fear and intimidation. DUI roadblocks catch very few drunk drivers. The same officers, if deployed to find actual impaired drivers, would generate far more arrests for DUI than they can operating roadblocks. Roadblocks, for any reason other than absolute emergencies, are contrary to the values of a free society. Free people should be able to go about their business without being confronted with armed, uniformed government agents who demand that we stop and “show our papers.”
Only when average, everyday Americans start speaking out on these issues will change occur. Right now legislators are only hearing from those who are misguided by a campaign of revenge or who use drunk driving as an excuse to promote a prohibitionist agenda. Results to date are enforcement abuses, perverted courts, draconian penalties for victimless crimes, and 1.5 million people annually who have had their lives turned upside down, often for violating an arbitrary and irrational law. Isn’t it time we all speak out in opposition to this miscarriage of justice?