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December 10, 2007

A shameful break from all the FSG talk

10drunkxlarge1 Thanks to a number of kind readers, amidst all the federal sentencing excitement I still found time to read this interesting article from the New York Times headlined "A Starring Role for Drivers Who Drink."  As regular readers know, I tend to be a cautious supporter of shaming sanctions and I tend to worry that sentences for DWI are often too lenient given all the lives lost and persons harmed by drunk drivers.  Consequently, I am intrigued by the article's discussion of a new type of shaming sanction:

A conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol is something many people try to conceal, even from their families.  But now the bleary-eyed, disheveled and generally miserable visages of convicted drunken drivers here, captured in their mug shots, are available to the entire world via a Web site.

The hall of shame is even worse for drunken drivers convicted of a felony.  A select few will find their faces plastered on billboards around Phoenix with the banner headline: Drive drunk, see your mug shot here. 

The Web site and billboards, which began last month, are the brainchildren of Andrew P. Thomas, the county attorney here who has served as the prosecutorial counterpart to the county’s hard-edged sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who has been known to force inmates into pink underwear. The purposes of the billboards and the Web site, Mr. Thomas has said, are to inform the public about drunken-driving laws, and to serve as a deterrent. “People tend to like it, and it gets a message across to the offender,” said Mike Scerbo, a spokesman for Mr. Thomas, who declined to be interviewed. “We haven’t heard any complaints.”

There are five billboards near freeways in the Phoenix area, with Mr. Thomas’s name in bold letters, and more will be up soon, Mr. Scerbo said.  While other states have used shame tactics like forcing convicted drunken drivers to use special license plates or pick up roadside litter wearing a placard announcing their crimes, defense lawyers and the spokeswoman for the national chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said they had never heard of billboards or the Internet being used as scarlet letters. The billboards will only feature convicted felons, whose crimes, which almost always involve someone’s death, are explained in detail on the Web site, StopDUIAZ.com.

December 10, 2007 at 05:05 PM | Permalink

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