March 07, 2005

Shot of Sanity

Anyone who follows Wog can follow the lunacy of the American drunk driving industry.

Understand, drunk driving is wrong. Don't do it. People who are repeatedly caught with astronomical Blood Alcohol Levels should not be allowed on the road.

But have the laws gone too far? Driven by neo-temperance jihadi organizations like MADD, whose unstated goal would seem to reintroduce prohibition, the states have outdone themselves vying for the title "hardest on drunk drivers".

Unfortunately, you don't need to be drunk to be caught up in the dragnet.

And I'm not just talking about the absurd .08 BAC level, either.

Today's Strib has a story with good news and bad news. On the one hand, the Minnesota Supreme Court is going to hear a case about some egregious excesses of Minnesota's drunk driving laws.

On the other hand - it got to the Minnesota Supreme Court in the first place.

The case:

Responding to public outcry about drunken-driving carnage, legislators have for decades toughened state laws to get drunks off the roads.

But the state Supreme Court will hear arguments today about whether the laws have gone too far by taking away licenses of drivers suspected of being drunk before judges ever hear the cases. In fact, even if a driver is later acquitted of driving while impaired, the license revocation may stay on the driver's record and be treated as a conviction.

The case could affect more than 30,000 people each year in Minnesota who lose their licenses because officers suspect they were driving drunk.

The case involves a former Apple Valley woman, Patricia Fedziuk, whose license was revoked for more than two months. She was never convicted of drunken driving and was taking a mood stabilizer when she was stopped in Lakeville in October 2003.

Adios, license. This, of course, is a result of the "implied consent" law; Says the article, "Nicknamed "revoke now, ask questions later," the law is based on the idea that driving is a privilege, not a right. A license is granted with the tacit understanding that any driver stopped on suspicion of impaired driving agrees to take any test requested and to forfeit his or her license if the test is refused, attorneys said."

However, the defendant Fedziuk took the breathalyzer and blood tests, testing positive for the mood stabilizing drug - which is legal.

So the scorecard so far: Innocent woman. No drunk driving, period, but a revocation on her record, which drives up insurance rates to absurd rates - insurance companies count it the same as a DUI conviction.

Of course, to the bureaucrats whose job security is reinforced by such laws, innocence is no defense:

The case disturbs those who have sought stricter drunken-driving laws to safeguard the roadways.

"What about the innocent families driving down the freeways trying to get to Thanksgiving dinner at the grandma's house?" asked Tim Leslie, assistant commissioner of the Public Safety Department.

What, Mr. Leslie? The Tryptophan might make father sluggish behind the wheel, get him pulled over, and bring yet more fines into the public coffers?

Seriously - of what danger are the innocent to the mythical, convenient and rhetorically cloying family in the example?

Fortunately, there is some sanity in the legal system;

Dakota County Chief Judge Richard Spicer found that the case exemplified how drunken-driving laws permitting license revocations violate due process rights. "The Legislature has obviously overstepped its bounds, and it is incumbent upon the judiciary to step in and declare this prehearing revocation procedure unconstitutional," ..."The courts have been warning the Legislature for the past decade that continued erosion of the process due drivers in the implied consent arena will render the statute unconstitutional," Spicer wrote.
By the way - when the right jumps up and down on the ACLU, I usually am among the quietest. Sure, they champion corrosive causes in absurd cases, and ignore fundamental non-lefty civil liberties (they were quiet about the gun-control issue from the beginning until today), but who else is going to take up the cause of the wrongly-accused (indeed, wrongly-convicted) drunk driver?
Making someone who was acquitted of drunken driving take further action to clear his or her record is not fair, said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Minnesota. "The burden should be on the [state]," he said.
I'll be following this one.

Posted by Mitch at March 7, 2005 06:03 AM | TrackBack

A stopped clock is right twice a day. Good points.

Posted by: Eva Young at March 7, 2005 10:47 PM

And a clock that loses a second a day is right every 11,000 years. Good comment, Eva.

Posted by: Josh at March 8, 2005 06:21 AM

and more legislative fun stuff:

They want to have your birthday start at 8:00 AM so you can't do the power hour or two from Midnight till close.


Posted by: Flash at March 8, 2005 01:59 PM
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