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A Ray Of Light


This recent Op-Ed piece from a New Jersey newpaper is yet another indication that maybe they’re finally beginning to get it: 


Putting drunken drivers in jail is not a solution. The reasoning behind strict punishment for “driving while intoxicated” is to prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately, despite the new Michael’s Law in January 2004, New Jersey saw a 2 percent increase in arrests for driving under the influence that year.

Michael’s Law mandates a 180-day prison term for anyone convicted of a third or subsequent driving-while-intoxicated offense. Up to half that sentence could be spent in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation hospital.

Yet, recently, Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Vineland, proposed a bill that would require these generally nonviolent offenders to spend a mandatory 180 days in jail without the option of spending up to 90 days in rehabilitation. The bill would further burden our already overpopulated jails during a budget crisis.

Making the law tougher will not work. We could, however, make such laws more effective. Alcoholism is a disease and incarceration is not a cure. And, apparently, incarceration is not a deterrent either.

Instead, the state could make money by sentencing these offenders to house arrest and make them foot that bill. Furthermore, the outdated, ineffective, 10-year license suspension is in desperate need of reform. We have about 200,000 people with suspended licenses. New Jersey could safely put these people back into the workforce and make money on their taxes by issuing time-restricted work permits and using ignition locking devices to prevent them from drunken driving.

But in the interest of vengeance, we would rather lock up a desperate group of sick individuals when jail time has not significantly lowered alcohol-related fatalies.

My previous post suggested that maybe the media was finally beginning to get it. And then again, maybe they'll never get it…

Blowing Off DUI Test May Lead to Jail

Tallahassee, FL The Miami Herald It's the not-so-secret way to avoid a DUI record: Refuse to submit to a breath test. You'll lose your license for a year but won't face criminal charges.

The state Legislature looks poised to change that with a bill that would make it a crime — punishable by one year in jail — for drunken-driving suspects to refuse a breath, blood or urine test.

''The word is around: If you're drinking, refuse to blow,'' state Rep. Irv Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, said Tuesday at the House Justice Council, a group of lawmakers that deals with criminal justice issues. "The problem is too many people are refusing to blow, and more and more DUI offenders are on the streets.''

The bill, which has been met with unanimous approval from four House committees, is sponsored by Rep. Ari Porth, a Coral Springs Democrat and Broward prosecutor.

Under existing law, drivers who refuse to submit to a DUI test on their first offense can lose their license for a year, but they aren't charged criminally in the absence of breath test results….

As usual, the MADD-dominated media has absolutely no idea what they're talking about when it comes to DUI issues…The "not-so-secret way to avoid a DUI record"? Refuse the breath test and you "won't face criminal charges?" "Under existing law, drivers who refuse to submit to a DUI test…aren't charged criminally"?

This is the kind of ignorance and hysteria that prevails in addressing DUI issues. If the reporter — or the politicians — bothered to read Florida's DUI laws, they would discover that there exists a single crime of "Driving Under the Influence". This crime can be proved in either of two different ways: evidence of impairment or evidence of a blood- or breath-alcohol level of .08%. Either way, the penalty is the same.

In other words, as in all other states, the suspect who refuses chemical testing will simply be prosecuted based upon the officer's opinion and the evidence of driving symptoms, personal appearance, statements, field sobriety tests, witnesses, etc.

Compounding ignorance with arrogance, Forida's legislators intend to make refusing to incriminate yourself in a DUI case a crime — punishable by a year in jail. How far we have come….

Most Americans today still harbor the belief that they have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to incriminate themselves. Sadly, our Supreme Court has ruled that in a DUI case you do not (see my earlier post "Believing You Have Constitutional Rights in a DUI Case Can be Dangerous"). Not only do they not have the right, but this proposed law — unanimously approved by four House committees — sends them to jail for one year for believing they have the right.

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