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September 17, 2007

Tougher (but still not tough enough?) on DUI

As regular readers know (and as posts below highlight), I am always troubled by the tendency of legislatures and judges to be (excessively?) tough on nonviolent crimes while being (excessively?) lenient on the high-risk crime of drunk driving.  Consequently, I was intrigued to see this notable news report from the Arizona Republic:

This week Arizona will enact one of the toughest DUI laws in the nation.  Hardest hit are first-time violators and a new class of "super extreme" DUI offenders whose blood-alcohol concentration registers 0.20 percent or above, which is more than double the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Beginning Wednesday, new penalties include mandatory ignition-interlock devices for first-time offenders, increased fines and a minimum of 45 days in jail for super extreme DUI convictions....

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records show Arizona had the sixth-highest number of alcohol-related fatalities in the nation. There were 585 alcohol-related fatalities statewide in 2006, up 15 percent from 2005.   Overall, drunken driving has significantly decreased in the past 20 years, but the state has hit a plateau, said Ericka Espino, executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Arizona....

The harsh new stance on drunken drivers has its share of detractors.  Critics say interlock devices are expensive to maintain and provide a short-term answer to a long-term problem....

DUI defense attorney Mark Weingart said clients have been clamoring for information on whether the new law will affect pre-existing cases.  It doesn't, but Weingart warned that he expects courts to see a spike in the number of DUI cases that are challenged. Most of Weingart's clients have been arrested on suspicion of having a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit or are in the new "super extreme" category with a blood-alcohol content of 0.20 percent or above.

Under the new law, the sentence for a first-time conviction of super extreme DUI nets at least 45 days in jail and a judge is prohibited from suspending any part of the jail time. Previously, a judge could suspend most of the sentence upon completion of a court-sponsored drug or alcohol program.

"Now I think defense lawyers are going to have to learn to exploit all of the potential for error there is in blood or breath testing," Weingart said. "We're talking about a situation here where if somebody has a blood test of .1999, you have 10 days in jail. If it's one-thousandth of a point higher, it's 45 days.  "I think people are going to have to fight these DUIs harder than ever before."

Some related posts:

September 17, 2007 at 04:36 PM | Permalink


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At this rate, we will wake up one day to find half of the population in incarcerated. Talk about the freest country in the World!

Posted by: EJ | Sep 17, 2007 4:42:38 PM

I was aiming for 65%

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 17, 2007 4:57:32 PM

45 days (what's that, 22 actual days?) for a 1st offender DUI? That is stupendously idiotic. You'd get less actual time for an assault causing injury... a crime that actually has a mens rea. It's good news for lawyers who know how to try DUI's and the rich people who can afford them. It's really bad news for poor working slobs that will lose their jobs for sure when they go to jail for a month.

And WHY is a higher BAC level more serious? A person with a lower BAC would, presumably, have more control of his or her mental faculties and be in a better position to consciously choose to drive. Why isn't that more serious?

A person with a .20 might think they're driving a space ship -- if there is even any "thinking" going on at that point.

Also, "high risk"? Really? I thought we punished people for their actual crimes in this country, not their "risk"? If someone is killed or injured it's intox manslaughter or intox assault with comparable punishments. If they have a BAC above a magic number, which is determined primarily by the crackpot "science" of breath analysis in most jurisdictions, then they get to lose their jobs, licenses, and freedom for a month or more? All under a strict liability rubric?

Why not put them in the stocks on the courthouse lawn for open containers too?

Posted by: dweedle | Sep 17, 2007 5:03:13 PM

The New Mexico law appears to be consistent with the recommendations of the US Commission on Alcohol Abuse which are based on research. The Arizona 45 day mandatory jail sentence is contrary to the commission recommendations so I doubt that Arizona will have the same positive results as New Mexico.

A person with a BAC of 0.20 would probably be arrested for public intoxication because they would be impaired to a degree that requires supervised until they become sober. There are a lot of DUI cases and a BAC of 0.20 is not that uncommon so most Arizona jails will have a very long waiting lists of people waiting to get into jail to serve their 45 day sentence. Some of them may drink and drive while they waiting to serve their sentence so I wonder how much public safety will be improved. If the wait time becomes too long many of them will not appear and that will mean a arrest warrant will be issued and someone will have to find them and bring them to a judge who may put them in jail for contempt. I doubt that Arizona Sheriffs will be very happy about this new penalty.

Posted by: JSN | Sep 17, 2007 6:22:27 PM

Just a guess, but the government paying for free taxi rides for any intoxicated person would probably be a lot cheaper and save a lot of lives. The ignition-interlock devices could be adapted to the back seat of taxis to confirm intoxication so some couldn't pretend to be drunk for a free ride.

But that could condone getting drunk. Can't have that. Better more people get killed or put in jail.

Posted by: George | Sep 18, 2007 5:39:36 PM


Current law Eternally Removes the “Right to keep and bear arms” based on a drinking and driving record of 3 DUI convictions when the Crime is victimless & Void of any injured party. (Cannot be restored)

The states impose the felony laws for DUI 3rd, 4th, or even 5th offenses (Depending on state) however, it is the Federal Law of Title 18 922 that eternally cements and debars the individuals right to possess a firearm regardless if the firearm is for hunting, self-defense or for personal protection. (The federal government has enslaved the people for non-violent offenses)

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." - Thomas Jefferson

Regardless the number of DUI convictions, driving under the influence of alcohol has absolutely NO relationship with the second amendment protected “Right” of the people to keep and bear arms if there is no injured party.

The states “Including Michigan” contend that a person’s driving record of 3 DUI convictions poses a serious risk to society and should establish a “Felony” on there record that by federal nexus of Title 18 922 inherently & eternally removes the citizens “Right” to keep and bear arms for as long as that person shall live upon the face of this earth.

Shouldn’t the states and the federal government first eternally remove the drivers “Privilege” (A Non Protected Right) of operating a motor vehicle before eternally removing a “Protected Right” of the people to posses a firearm?
(Which removal would tend to actually save lives?)

Currently the states reinstate the citizens “Privilege” of operating a motor vehicle yet federal Title 18 922 (Felony Laws) eternally & forever block the citizens “RIGHT” from ever possessing a firearm for THE EXACT SAME DRINKING & DRIVING OFFENSE of DUI 3rd CONVICTIONS: DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?

Drunk drivers “KILL” thousands of motorists each year: Debarring the drunk drivers second amendment” Right” to keep and bear arms has not saved even one motorist or life, ever!

In Fact, Debarring the persons “Privilege” to ever operate a motor vehicle WOULD SAVE countless lives and WOULD NOT infringe upon the Constitutionally Protected God given inalienable “Right” of the people to bear arms!


The state “Privilege” of operating a motor vehicle is a mere “Privilege,” “and is NOT A RIGHT”: For DUI 3rd convictions the” Privilege” of driving has a time frame provision by the state for “Absolute & Full Reinstatement” to operate a motor vehicle on public roads.

The “Right” to Keep and Bear Arms, “IS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT” and “is NOT just simply a mere Privilege”:
For DUI 3rd convictions this “RIGHT” to keep and bear arms is eternally and forever debarred void of time frame provision for reinstatement based on the federal law of Title 18 922. (THE STATES NEED TO ALLOW TIME FRAME REINSTATEMENT FOR DUI 3RD OFFENSES BY REMOVING THE FELONY)

Regardless of one’s personal & moral stand on drinking and driving, there should be a positive reinstatement provision for constitutional “Rights” of the people to keep and bear arms THE SAME as there is a TIME FRAME provision for reinstatement of a mere “Privilege for the EXACT SAME drinking & driving offense of DUI 3rd convictions especially when there is no injured party.



Posted by: Michael Saari | Jan 22, 2010 9:33:02 AM

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