Can vehicle ignition interlocks solve the DWI problem?

DWIMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), on November 1, 2011, announced that it is urging the passage of the ROADS SAFE ACT (HR 2324/S 510) which would provide sixty million dollars in federal funding to finance the advanced alcohol detection research program known as DADDS. This technology is most commonly known as an “Ignition Interlock Device” or “IID.” These devices prevent the operation of a motor vehicle until the driver passes a blood alcohol test.

Anyone who is familiar with current IID technology will know that these gadgets are somewhat expensive, finicky, maintenance intensive and rather demeaning for drivers who are required to blow, hum and suck them repeatedly to start and continue to drive their cars. It is the sort of requirement that no one would ever tolerate unless they had no other choice. You can get a feel for how they work in this short video: Ignition Interlock Demo

So far, in Missouri, only repeat alcohol offenders are required to install the IID before they can get their licenses reinstated (after a long mandatory period when they are not allowed to drive at all). The IID must then be maintained for six months following the reinstatement date, and the driver is required to report to a certified IID vendor every month for maintenance to ensure the device is working properly.

MADD has a short term and a long term agenda. In the short term they want every legislature to force first-time DWI offenders to install the IID. In the long term (after the MADD ladies finish with the first-time offenders) they are coming after you and me, whether we drink and drive or not.

The purpose of the proposed federal sixty million dollar research program is to perfect a way to test the blood alcohol level of all drivers (not just drinkers), ideally without any need for their consent or cooperation. Understandably, researchers are looking for an involuntary test method to force compliance from the many drivers who do not esteem such nanny state initiatives.

Technologies being investigated include mounting cameras in cars to record and analyze a driver’s eye movements. Sensors may also be able to detect alcohol from air samples taken from the passenger compartment; or detect alcohol through a driver’s skin touching the steering wheel. They also discuss the possibility of requiring the driver to wear an arm or leg bracelet similar to those worn by criminal defendant’s under house arrest. Good luck with that idea. I can’t wait.

If the MADD ladies want an idea that really could save lives (without harassing the rest of us), here’s one:

Everybody now knows that if you get a DWI, you lose your license for anywhere between 30 days and ten years (or more). Supposedly, these license revocations are not to punish a DWI, but rather to safeguard the public. Punishment is a separate issue addressed by the criminal courts, not the license bureau.

Too often we read stories of drunk drivers who have an accident and hurt someone and it turns out that they were also driving while revoked. In those case, the license revocation or suspension did nothing to safeguard the public. It is hardly surprising to learn that many DWI offenders refuse to obey license revocations and drive anyway, especially when it means keeping a job and feeding their families.

If the ignition interlock device really is effective in stopping people from driving drunk, then the legislature already possesses the key to the problem. They would not even need to force people to use the IID. They could simply give the option of replacing the license revocation or suspension with the IID installation. Most defendants would take that deal if it meant they could keep driving. And then, even if they did drink, they would unable to harm anyone.

It’s not good enough to add the IID months or years after the offense occurs. It needs to be immediate to take away the temptation to drink and drive. Some may object because the state is not getting its “pound of flesh” from the offender, but any reasonable public policy will put public safety ahead of vengeance. It’s not often that the public good is best served by giving the bad guy a break, but this may be one of those times.


Come back with a warrant

New Missouri DWI law would be harshest ever.

Jefferson City Criminal LawyerThe rage of DWI-related pressure groups is being vented through a proposed Missouri law sponsored by Joplin area state Rep. Brian Stevenson. Stevenson really takes off the gloves with this legislation–HB 1695–and removes any pretense that the “punishment should fit the crime.” HB 1695 creates new crimes such as: first offense driving over a .15% blood alcohol level or refusing to take a breath test.

MIssouri DWI lawInstead of offering treatment options that are given to drug offenders, the new law piles on more restrictions to keep offenders from driving at all.

Even if the offender never drinks and drives again, the license revocations are so lengthy, many drivers must choose between obeying the law and losing their jobs. Eventually they end up in jail or prison–not because they hurt or even endangered others–but because they disobeyed their government to make a living.

It’s not all bad. Some provisions of the law make it more likely that convictions are reported fairly and reliably throughout the state. One is that it forces all municipal judges to take remedial training in Missouri’s DWI laws.

One very sad provision of the new law eliminates what many consider a reasonable and merciful provision of our current law. It’s the one that permits a person who gets a first and ONLY DWI conviction to have their record expunged by the court if they go ten full years without any new alcohol-related contact or conviction.

This is a provision that ought to be extended to many misdemeanor crimes: make one small mistake and if you behave for ten years, we’ll forgive and forget. Instead, we are going the other way.

Perhaps our legislature will see this bill as overreaching and fundamentally unfair. We all know friends or family members who have had an alcohol offense. We know most of them are not repeat offenders and are good neighbors–not the sort that make good political cannon fodder.

If politicians want to grandstand, there are easier targets. For example, sex offenders. The public seems not to mind what we do to them, even after they have paid for their crimes. Certainly there are many more stupid demands they might make of sex offenders, things even more ridiculous than having to hide inside their homes on Halloween.

See New law makes sex offenders hunker down for Halloween


Come back with a warrant


Missouri rivers still safe for jello shots, mardi gras beads and (maybe) coolers

For those who were concerned that the legislature would be putting a crimp on Missouri river partying, it seems that the bullet may have been (mostly) dodged. The original Senate Bill 2 would have outlawed all plastic or styofoam coolers, beer bongs, alcohol in containers larger than a gallon, jello shots, and the distribution of mardi gras beads on a river. See my earlier post for more.

The bill was amended & passed and awaits the governor’s signature as part of House bill 62. In passing the bill, the legislature removed the prohibition on mardi gras beads and jello shots, but still makes it a crime to have beer bongs and alcohol in containers larger than 4 gallons.

Interestingly, the part of the bill that would effect most river recreation is the wording of the prohibition on coolers.

The original bill pretty much banned coolers with this language: “No person shall possess foam or Styrofoam, polypropylene, expanded polypropylene or polystyrene coolers on or within fifty feet of any river . . .”

As passed, House bill 62 says “No person shall possess expanded polypropylene coolers on or within fifty feet of any river . . .” (note: would not include Mississippi, Missouri or Osage rivers)

I am not a chemist, but I do not think most picnic coolers are made from “expanded polypropylene” (plain polypropylene, yes, expanded, no).

Perhaps the bill was meant to outlaw coolers made from “expanded polystyrene,” which we generically call styrofoam, as in coffee cups, coolers and packing peanuts.

Of course it does not matter what the bill was meant to outlaw. It only matters what it says.

If it outlaws “expanded polypropylene” then one could not be arrested for possession of a styrofoam cooler made from polystyrene. (This assumes that the deputy arresting you knows more about plastics than the legislator who wrote the amended bill).

Since this bill is supposedly for the benefit of everyone, maybe it is best if our legislature goofed this time. After all, it’s not just drunks that take a cooler with them on the river. Everyone does.

Like I said, I am not a chemist, but I know the governor has a few of them working for him. Maybe he could ask one of them about this before he signs HB62.



Come back with a warrant

Free the MoPed! A call to the legislature

Here’s a proposal for the legislature. Everybody knows someone who has had their driver’s license suspended or revoked for poor driving habits (too many points) or for a DWI. Some people lose their license for reasons that have nothing to do with actual safety (like driving with an expired license or having past due child support). It gets pretty harsh when someone gets a second DWI: Five years without a license.

This is a hardship on families and employers as well as the offender. Keep in mind that these guys are already being punished. Such a second offense always means jail time.

The state agrees that such revocations are not punishment for crime, but are merely “administrative.”

If the legislature is chiefly concerned with safety–and they ought to be–then why don’t they legalize the driving of “mopeds” or motorized bicycles without a license.

As it now stands, these gas-saving gadgets require no insurance, no helmets, no registration.

These are defined as:

Any two-wheeled or three-wheeled device having an automatic transmission and a motor with a cylinder capacity of not more than fifty (50) cubic centimeters, which produces less than three (3) gross brake horsepower, and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than thirty (30) miles per hour on level ground.

For obvious reasons you can’t drive them on the interstate highways. Just as obviously, the reason for the general laxity is that any danger involved is about the same as riding a bicycle. In fact, the rules of the road are the basically same for both.

The difference is that you have to have a driver’s license to ride one; and if your license is suspended or revoked, well, you don’t have a license, so  you can’t ride.

Now since these things can’t go any faster than a bicycle; and since they aren’t likely to hurt anyone other the rider himself, a law allowing unlicensed moped use for adults–and without child passengers–would seem a merciful, harmless concession to someone trying to get to a job every day. How about it?


 

 

 

One quick question for my readers: