Missouri SB 975: Alcohol Monitoring of DWI offenders coming?

DWI laws are tough. The first offense is traumatic enough, involving a big fine and court costs, alcohol counseling, loss of drivers license, and more, but there is no mandatory jail time.

On the second offense, the sky falls: mandatory jail time and loss of drivers license–often for five full years. Third offense is a felony. Don’t even think about it.

The law has a little-used option that avoids the mandatory jail time on 2nd and 3rd offenses if the offender completes a truckload of community service. Not a bad idea, but offenders in other types of cases are typically ordered to complete 20 or 40 hours of community service. In these DWI cases the community service option is 30 or 60 DAYS.

This such an overwhelming obligation that the defendant:

  1. cannot do it without losing his job, or
  2. cannot do it due to some disability, or
  3. won’t do it because he’s a bum.

So while the law would permit a defendant to trade thirty or sixty days of community service for some jail time, DWI defendants almost never ask for or are given community service. Better to serve five or ten days in jail during their vacation than to lose their jobs.

I always thought it would be better to lower the requirements to realistic levels; and if not, then remove this useless, unused option.

Now comes Senate Bill 975, sponsored by Sen. Luann Ridgeway, which would require continuous alcohol monitoring (you need to think: booze-sniffing ankle bracelet) for persons convicted of their 4th or 5th alcohol-related offense in exchange for a shorter jail or prison sentence.

Second and 3d time offenders, could likewise have their jail time removed altogether under the bill. But those 2d & 3d timers (who are far more numerous than the hard-core 4th & 5th timers.) cannot take advantage of this option unless they complete ridiculous amounts of community service (i.e. 30 or 60 days)

Senate Bill 975 simply dumps alcohol monitoring on top of the original (and unworkable) community service option. It would better hit the target if it made the monitoring option usable by 2d & 3d time offenders.

If alcohol monitoring is to have any chance of working, why not do this instead:

In exchange for cutting down or eliminating the mandatory sentences, the court would require no more than forty hours community service; and add the alcohol monitoring on top of that.

It remains to be seen if alcohol monitoring can be effective at anything beyond swelling the pocketbooks of those who manufacture and furnish the equipment, but we will never find out unless the plan is structured as a viable option.

Trucknuts still legal in Missouri – That’s a relief!

When I read some of the proposed Missouri legislation each year two things give me reason for hope:

  1. The really goofy stuff usually doesn’t pass; and
  2. The really, really, goofy stuff (as noted in other posts) appears elsewhere, not in Missouri.

In Virginia and Maryland they are looking to outlaw the boorish fad of dispaying rubber bull testicles (popularly known as “trucknuts”) beneath the ball hitch on pickup trucks. Even motorcycles are sporting a set these days.

The Virginia bill is sponsored by the lawmaker who gained notority for his failed attempt to ban baggy pants in 2005.

These well-meaning goobers think that the common good is inevitably advanced by making all coarse or annoying conduct a crime.

Perhaps it would be best if no one displayed trucknuts, drank alcohol, wore baggy pants, or broke wind in public, but some things are best regulated by social convention rather than the criminal courts.

Thank you, Missouri, for leaving me alone. It’s good to be reminded why I like it here.

Missouri to outlaw roadside memorial crosses?

SB 881, sponsored by Sen. Timothy Green will outlaw those little roadside crosses memorializing the death of a loved one, replacing them with a sign to be paid for by family members of the deceased (upon request).

The bill provides for the Missouri Department of Transportation to create a “drunk driving memorial signs program.”

The bill leaves many details of the program to the department, but the bill’s summary states:

“The signs developed by the department shall resemble a Missouri license plate and shall feature the words “Drunk Driving Victim!”, the initials of the deceased victim, the month and year in which the victim of the drunk driving accident was killed, and the phrase “Who’s Next?”

Apparently, only victims of drunk drivers may be memorialized. Any other cross or memorial will be illegal under the new program.

This seems a well-intentioned way to deal with those messy little roadside crosses, but I wonder if this program will do much to satisfy the impulse that causes these little memorials to be set-up in the first place.

Each of those memorials is a unique expression of one family’s grief. And it’s not just the loved ones who lose under this scheme, but I fear that the positive impact on the rest of us will be diminished. The new program seems so sterile and formulaic that I cannot imagine being moved enough to check my own speed when I pass one.

Those little memorials must be a pain to mow around in the summer. And they’re not really legal, either. So this bill goes a long way to tidy up the situation.

On the other hand, perhaps it is better for government to just keep looking the other way.

Missouri Cyber-stalking bill could have unintended consequences.

State Senator Scott Rupp has introduced SB 818, in response to the suicide of a St Charles County teen who had been dumped by an online boyfriend, who later turned out to be the ficticious brainchild of a former friend’s mother.

Rupp’s bill expands the crimes of stalking and harassment–which can be committed by telephone or in writing–to include all electronic communications.

It also kicks the crime up from a misdemeanor to a felony if committed by an adult upon a child.

As reasonable as those changes may be, one aspect of the new stalking law could be subject to abuse.

The current stalking law makes it a crime to:

  • to do any act
  • directed at a specific person
  • that serves no legitimate purpose
  • if that conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and
  • if that conduct actually causes such distress to that person.

Senator Rupp’s bill would remove the part that requires the conduct be directed to a particular person. Furthermore, it would not matter who ultimately suffered the emotional distress.

Written that way, this crime starts getting very fuzzy at the edges.

A fellow wishing to avoid stalking charges would need to carefully weigh whether his internet communications (or Federal building protests or whatever) might cause someone, somewhere, to be disturbed.

If what the offender is saying happens to be highly unpopular, it is only the integrity of the local prosecutor which stands between him and a criminal charge.

So you may want to rethink those nasty emails you were going to send to Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and Pakastani President Musharraf.