Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Free to Drink and Drive

Every time I listened to the radio for the last two weeks I heard at least one warning about the danger and associated punishment for drinking and driving. The message I heard over and over again was that if a person chooses to drink and drive, the full coercive power of government will be used to punish the offender in ways that will make the offenders’ life miserable for many years. One News story even mentioned a new law in Tennessee that requires first time offenders’ convicted of drunk driving to do 24 hours of roadside cleanup wearing an orange vest emblazoned with the phrase, “I am a Drunk Driver”.

I can think of many crimes where reasonable people can disagree over the social harm of an offense or the appropriate punishment for a person convicted of a particular crime, but I can’t think of any other civil offense other than DUI where someone can be severely punished for a crime that hasn’t harmed anyone. Even hate crimes based on political correctness have offenders and victims. I may be in a very small minority this time, but DUI laws don’t seem appropriate in a country founded on freedom.


Hammertime said...

Sure you can, David.

I have a concealed carry license. If I pack heat back in New York, New York (AKA God's Country), I get a felony conviction, and no one was harmed.

I'm sure there are other examples. Are they all unnecessary?

Do you believe that someone who drives drunk an kills another person because they are impaired should have less of a penalty than another murderer? If so, why?

I think the answer to the reason for DUI laws lies there.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

I should have done a little more thinking. You are right, a felony conviction for carrying a concealed weapon is a very similar type of restrictive law where there is no victim. Do you think a free society should have a law that criminalizes the carrying of a concealed weapon?

I don’t believe someone who is drunk and is involved in an accident where someone dies should be convicted of murder anymore than I believe a 16-year-old male pulsing with testosterone who is driving for the first time or 98-year-old woman on pain killers who can’t see over the steering wheel who is involved in an accident where someone dies should be convicted of murder. All should be convicted of an appropriate crime based on the circumstances. Murder is a deliberate act to end the life of another person. It is not an appropriate designation for accidents.

Hammertime said...

I think I should be allowed to pack heat whenever I wish! The reality is that I seldom do - my one job is in an airport, the other in a church, and neither allow firearms.

(Well, my church may not mind, but I'm not bringing it there anyway).

This is my angle - you honestly think that someone who chooses to get drunk - in today's society where we are acutely aware of the dangers of driving drunk - then chooses to drive, and kills someone, is no more culpable for that murder than if I make a left into a motorcycle that I did not see?

You seem to have a line of murder/not murder that starts and ends with intent to murder. I am a black-and-white kind of guy, and disagree. Those who choose to make themselves more likely to kill someone by wilfully imbimbing alcohol and putting themselves in a 3000 lb murder weapon are more culpable than those who do not. I allegorize drunk driving to playing russian roulette - with an unwilling stranger on the business end of the revolver, and your finger on the trigger.

I assume you disagree. Why are the two not analogous to you?

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

Thanks for responding! I knew that my point needed further explanation, but I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Your comment really helps.

I don’t think we are aware of the implications of drunk driving. I think we have been led to believe that any blood alcohol level above .08 makes someone criminally unsafe to drive. I don’t buy it. I know for a fact there are people who have a license to drive who are unsafe at any blood alcohol level. I also don’t believe small amounts of alcohol make everyone a worse driver. There are some high intensity personality types who may be better drivers after a drink or two; maybe not on a test track at high speeds, but at normal speeds in normal traffic. The alcohol may have the affect of slowing them down and making them safer drivers. I would like to see more studies with real people in real situations. .08 is just too arbitrary for me.

I don’t think you would be convicted of murder, nor is it morally equivalent to murder if you accidentally make a left turn into a motorcycle you did not see. It would be a careless accident that should result in a stiff penalty, but not the same as if you decide to kill someone and then killed them.

I think you should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon whenever and wherever too.