Posted Tue Oct 23rd by Jonathan Douglas
I have a personal issue with anyone who drives drunk. My father was nearly killed by a drunk driver when I was in High School and I know many people who have lost their loved ones because someone thought it was OK to drive while intoxicated.
The facts are that every year 40% of the ~40,000 vehicle fatalities involve alcohol. That’s ~17,000 people dead every year from drunk drivers. And when you consider that ~1.5 million people are arrested for DUI/DWI each year, it makes me think that whatever punishment we’re slapping these people with isn’t working.
For example, let’s say a person named Brandon Marshall is arrested for DUI in the state of Colorado. If this is his first arrest for DUI, he will face a fine of $300-$1000, between 5 days and one year in jail, between 48 to 96 hours of community service, 3-9 months of alcohol education and a one year license suspension.
Now, that might seem like a heavy enough penalty, but what this traditionally gets reduced to is a $500 fine, 10 days in jail (often waived for probation) and the one year license suspension. Add whatever community service and alcohol classes you want to that, and you still don’t get a decent sentence. If we said that our pretend DUI violator, Brandon Marshall, was financially well off and could afford a decent lawyer, he might be looking at even less than that by the time things got sorted out.
It just seems like our current punishment isn’t enough to make people stop taking a drive after drinking. So what would work?
Several states have added punishments that include vehicle forfeiture. If you drive while under the influence, you lose the car. This makes a very real impact on the drunk driver – both financially and psychologically. It also supports the police/sheriff departments (as they auction the forfeited vehicles to off-set DUI task force expenses). I’m especially fond of the few states that have the rule that says ANY car you’re driving while drunk is forfeited. If that doesn’t make you stop and think before letting your drunk uncle borrow the car I don’t know what would!
And… no, Colorado doesn’t have a vehicle forfeiture law. Maybe they should – I hear Marshall’s ride is pretty hot.
In the case of the REAL Brandon Marshall, I can’t help but think about the things he said back in May after his arrest over domestic issue with his girlfriend (full post).
“I’ve definitely grown up. It’s sad to say, but sometimes you have to bump your head or go through some things to actually learn. So I’m glad that it happened now rather than down the road in my career. And I can guarantee that I’ll be on top of everything from here on out.”
–Brandon Marshall 5/17/07
Well, sir, choosing to drive while drunk doesn’t really prove to me that you’ve grown up. It doesn’t show me that you’re ‘on top of it’ now. In fact it shows me that you not only have a lot of maturing to do, but that your blatant disregard for your fellow citizens is staggering.
We live in a time when people are hyper-aware of terrorist threats and constantly worried about the next school shooting. Think of the public outcry if a drunk person was running through a crowded mall waving a loaded gun. What if the same drunk person with a gun was stumbling around a playground full of kids? Won’t you be screaming mad?
Doesn’t it seem strange that when the same person is armed with a 2 ton vehicle capable of speeds over 100 mph, we don’t treat them with the same distain and contempt?
For my part, recklessly endangering the lives of other people is the same whether you’re swinging a bat, waving a gun or driving drunk.
So, don’t expect to see me in a #15 jersey anytime soon.
Complete state by state breakdown of Vehicle Impoundment and Forfeiture Laws for Convicted Drunk Drivers: HERE