When we think of DUI prevention, we think of ignition interlock devices, suspended licenses, and hospital and morgue programs. But the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office in Chesterfield, Virginia, has added a new DUI preventative measure to their repertoire; stigmatization.
The Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office has been posting the mugshots of people who have been arrested for drunk driving on their website.
“[We] began posting DUI arrest photos in January in an effort to bring awareness to impaired driving in our community,” said Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office Captain Donald Huff. “The response from the citizens has been overwhelmingly positive. We hope that the practice of posting the photos will serve as an additional deterrent to driving while intoxicated.”
The photos which have appeared on the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office Facebook page have garnered some well-deserved criticism from Facebook users which I wholeheartedly agree with.
“I understand these pics are public record, but consider the effect this can have on someone later acquitted,” said one comment by a user named Robbie. “Even if they get their record legally expunged, you’ve memorialized their arrest forever. Maybe mugshots should only be public record after conviction.”
Robbie is absolutely correct.
An arrest means nothing without a conviction. I’ve represented numerous clients who had been arrested on suspicion of DUI, it was later shown that they were sober, and the cases were dismissed or the person was acquitted.
Law enforcement, who let’s remember is supposed to be objective, should not be stigmatizing people before they know whether the arrestee has done anything wrong. You don’t see me publically accusing the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office of arresting innocent people without actually knowing what their false rate is.