Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's the Drinking, Stupid!

The Failing DWI Industry
It’s the Drinking, Stupid!


GEORGETOWN, Texas (Associated Press) A Texas man has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for his 10th conviction of driving while intoxicated since 1979.

Prosecutors say 53-year-old Anthony Lynn Falco of Taylor waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded not guilty to the felony charge over the June 22 traffic stop.

A statement Tuesday from the Williamson County prosecutor says tests showed Falco's blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.

Prosecutor John Bradley says Falco had nine prior DWI convictions and served prison terms from five to 10 years. He also had convictions for theft, family violence assault and forgery.

Don’t get me wrong; driving under the influence is wrong. It is dangerous, it is irresponsible, and it is a deadly threat to the public at large. People that drive under the influence, even at the ridiculously low blood-alcohol levels DWI’s (or DUI, depending on the state) fall under, are playing a game of Russian roulette with their own life and the lives of others.
That being said, it continually astounds me that the same ineffective, non-deterrent laws are pushed as being any kind of a solution. Let’s face it, there has never been a law written that actually prevents crime, from the Ten Commandments to the Federal Code. But the true purpose of law, to deter crime, and keep it at a minimum and ever decreasing level, is failing when it comes to the crime of driving under the influence. That’s because like so many other pieces of our bureaucratic republic, it has become capitalized, incorporated and lobbied as an entire money generating industry of its own.
Anyone that has been arrested for DWI can attest that it’s all about draining the pockets of the offender, not rehabilitation and prevention. Now normally that monetary punishment would have a deterring effect on the offender. But in the case of DWI the focus of the punishment is put in the wrong place.
The drunken driver (a broad term) is punished for driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages. The license is taken away, the attorney fees, fines, rehab, therapy and community service are kicked in and in many cases a job is lost. Most times the convicted, out of necessity, will continue to drive without insurance. Most times the drinking will continue and the cycle begins anew with even greater consequences.
The problem with a drunken driver isn’t the fact that they were driving; it is that they were drinking. You never see any laws promoted, debated or passed to deny the privilege of drinking alcohol. That’s because the alcohol industry lobbyists have more money than god (or MADD in this case). And you will never see the Federal Government take away a portion of one of the only legal taxes they have, the direct taxation of alcohol. Combine those two powerhouses and all you have left is yanking a driver’s license and a draining of funds. Sure your driver’s license, job, insurance and savings are gone, but feel free to go buy a drink to drown your sorrows. It’s a drug dealing scam, and it’s legal because the drug dealers make sure it’s kept legal.
Believe me, I’m not calling for repeal of the repeal of prohibition. There are plenty of people out there that use alcohol responsibly and within the confines of the law. But on a case-to-case basis, isn’t the best punishment to deny the drinking privilege for an extended period of time, and shouldn’t that be the first punishment? Think about it, you’ve got an addictive drug that impairs judgment, causing otherwise decent citizens to make decisions that are detrimental to the public interest. Taking away a person’s savings, source of income and the means to reasonably get to a job will only lead to more drinking. It’s a continual cycle that benefits only the bureaucrats, the alcohol industry, and the lobbyist groups for and against alcohol consumption. The problem of DWI is not deterred, and the problem of irresponsible drinking is perpetuated because that is what funds the DWI industry.
I would like to see a specialized states driver’s license (no, not a Federal ID Card) that gives a green light or a red light for alcohol purchases. On-premise establishments (bars) and off-premise establishments (liquor stores) would be forced to ID every customer regardless of age. It would be extremely difficult to drive somewhere, drink enough to be over the limit, and then drive away. The burden would be on the provider/dealer.
The most common argument I get is that taking away an offenders drinking privilege would still leave room for the restricted citizen to offend, that you can’t keep an addict from drinking. That may be true for a certain percentage of people, but if you make it nearly impossible to drink in public without privilege, then you will force those that continue to drink without privilege to drink off premise and behind closed doors. Yes, there would still be those that drink and drive, no law prevents crime. But I’m confident that the amount of drinking and driving accidents, arrests and occurrences would drop dramatically.
The same is true of other crimes that may or may not involve drinking. If a person is convicted of domestic violence or child abuse (or any felony), they should automatically have their drinking privileges taken away for an extended period of time, regardless of whether drinking was involved in the crime or not. Those that would provide alcohol to a restricted person would face strict punishments too, whether a licensed establishment, or a friend or spouse.
The point is that it’s the drinking stupid! I’m calling for the government, the alcohol industry, the DWI lobbyist groups and voting citizens to take the correct action to deter drinking and thus deter crimes committed as a consequence of the effects of drinking.

No comments: