adventures in craft beer and real food

Friday, July 13, 2007

Life's for livin'

Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find
-Mungo Jerry from "In the Summertime"
The Wisconsin State Journal today devoted their staff editorial to the need to getting serial DUI offenders off the road. To recap... Shockingly, Thomas J. Dworak has been convicted a dozen times for drunken driving. And he was in court this week standing trial for another drinking while driving offense. William A. Skare has been convicted on fourteen counts of drinking and driving. Clearly, these two Wisconsin men should not be allowed behind the wheel. And yet law enforcement keeps finding them there without a license and drunk. This constitutes a deficiency in our laws since the legal punishment for their repeated convictions has not prevented these individuals from driving. The Wisconsin State Journal puts it more eloquently, "The only regret Wisconsin should have about throwing the book at Dworak is that it is not a bigger book."

Dworak is facing a maximum prison sentence of six years plus a fine of $10,000, which could increase as a function of his blood alcohol content at the time of the infraction.

Hot off setting myself up for being called a yankee muckraker, Pint and Fork proposes that the following ideas be considered to keep serial offenders off the road:
1. Pass a law that makes it illegal for repeat offenders to own or possess a car after a certain number of offenses. I mean if we can make laws that "infringe" upon a convicted felon's "second amendment right" to bear arms, we can make a law that restricts access to motor vehicles. Cars in the hands of the intoxicated are deadly weapons and killed nearly 17,000 people in 2005 alone (insert obligatory comment about the number of US soldiers killed in the Iraq War, or on September 11, 2001). If we can keep the worst offenders away from motor vehicles, maybe we can reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities.

2. Impose criminal penalties for allowing a known repeat offender to operate a vehicle in your possession. In my mind, this is similar to laws that we have in place concerning the provision of alcohol to minors. Law enforcement doesn't just penalize the offending minors; they can also penalize those who provided the alcohol in the first place. And so it is with cars and repeat DUI offenders.

3. The Wisconsin State Journal cites South Dakota law that allows repeat offenders to drive if they submit to Breathalyzer tests twice daily with the sheriff. I'm not sure that the article makes it clear, but the South Dakota law is a so-called "24/7 sobriety" zero-tolerance law. That is, a person can get a special permit to operate a motor vehicle so long as they get tested, pay the expenses of the testing, and consume absolutely no ethanol. The detection of any amount of alcohol necessarily revokes that individual's right to operate a motor vehicle.

However unlikely, it may be possible to fool a Breathalyzer. Google helped me find all sorts of tricks for beating a Breathalyzer including breathing heavily before analysis, eating shit, and sucking on activated charcoal. My scientific training and an episode of Mythbusters has me doubting the effectiveness of any way to cheat the test. To obviate any technique for fooling a Breathalyzer analysis, blood samples should be randomly collected from program participants.

I'm not sure that measure three would stop Dworak from driving, seeing as how he wasn't deterred by having his license revoked by a preponderance of repeat offenses. So while this 24/7 sobriety program offers a legal road map to obtaining a driving permit, it is insufficient to keep the worst offenders from driving because they will do so with or without a permit. Still, I regard this as a significant step forward.

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