I start this article by congratulating you for having the courage to read past the scary title. Many people sadly don’t possess such intellectual courage.1 Although you probably think I’m crazy and irresponsible for even suggesting we repeal all DUI laws, at least you are willing to invest the time necessary to learn why I suggest such a monstrously scary idea as simply abolishing all DUI laws. Additionally, I suggest we replace such DUI laws with absolutely nothing.
Before I proceed with convincing you we can and should abolish all DUI laws, I invite you to ponder the concept of a paradigm shift. Because I expect to persuade you to my position, I am hoping you will then consider what other issues and concepts you ought to revisit for the purpose of evaluating other well established views you have that may also be worthy of additional reflection. Whenever I abandon one of my established beliefs in exchange for a new and different belief, I celebrate my new and improved belief about the world, and give no worry to my old incorrect and now abandoned view. I urge you to also strive to hold only correct views rather than simply seeking to justify current ones.
I know what you are thinking. As a practicing criminal defense attorney for well over twenty years, I have personally represented many people who ingested too much alcohol and then irresponsibly drove their cars resulting in tragic deaths or horrible injuries to innocent motorists on our roads. It is an awful situation that is easily prevented with a taxi or a designated driver. I would be happy to never again have to represent someone in one of these tragic cases. I give lots of speeches where I strongly discourage people from consuming any alcohol at all and then driving their cars.
We don’t need DUI laws to deal with any of this tragic, irresponsible, and serious criminal conduct. Indeed, although these people could be charged with DUI, many prosecutors don’t bother charging these people with DUI. People who drive drunk and kill other people are charged with either murder or manslaughter. I don’t propose repealing these criminal laws. When drunk drivers cause accidents resulting in serious injuries to other people, they get charged with aggravated felony assault. I don’t propose repealing these laws either. In short, we don’t need DUI laws to either deter or punish people who cause harm to others as a result of their irresponsible drunk driving.
I suspect I have your agreement thus far. However, I know you still have concerns about the drunk driver who fortunately doesn’t kill or injure anyone else. To resolve this legitimate concern, all fifty states have enacted some version of laws against reckless driving. Generally speaking, the crime of reckless driving is when a person drives a vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of other people or their property. As such, there is little doubt that if a drunk driver operates his or her vehicle in a way that reasonably poses a real danger to another person on the road, that person has committed the crime of reckless driving.
Indeed, a driver need not be drunk at all to run afoul of the criminal reckless driving law. A driver who is too tired, physically incapable or otherwise an unsafe operator for almost any reason runs the risk of violating the reckless driving law. I don’t suggest we repeal laws against reckless driving. It’s reasonable to expect that other drivers operate their vehicles in a way that doesn’t pose a substantial risk of harm to other drivers on the road or their property. Fortunately, we have these reasonable laws in place to deter and punish such criminal conduct.
To better understand why we ought to abolish all DUI laws, a better understanding of DUI law is necessary. Upon closer examination, you will easily see why DUI laws are simply much too broad, totally unnecessary, and a huge fundraiser for the state. Generally speaking, there are three main sections of DUI laws:
1. Impaired to the Slightest Degree
Generally speaking, this section of DUI law makes it a crime for a driver to be impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol or any other drug. Keeping in mind that drivers possess differing skill levels of driving ability, it is easy to see why this section is grossly overbroad, completely unnecessary and even frequently entirely unjust.
Imagine the safest, most prudent defensive driver in your entire state consumes a very small amount of alcohol. Now imagine that safest driver in your entire state is actually impaired to the slightest degree such that this person now becomes the second safest, most prudent defensive driver in your entire state. Pursuant to this section of DUI law, the second safest, most prudent defensive driver in your entire state is now actually guilty of DUI. In many states, this person is going to jail, subject to huge mandatory fines and will suffer a possibly career ending loss of driver’s license.
If indeed this person were impaired to the point that their driving actually posed a risk of harm to another driver, the criminal laws against reckless driving would apply. However, this person is factually guilty of DUI without any showing or evidence that the driving posed any danger at all. To the contrary, this example illustrates how the second best driver in the entire state is actually guilty of DUI. We can easily eliminate this unnecessary section of DUI law without any concern at all, and we must eliminate it to avoid punishing people who are driving just fine.
2. Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08% or Higher
Generally speaking, this section of DUI law makes it a crime to simply drive a vehicle while having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher either at the time of driving or within a specified period of time after driving such as two hours. There is absolutely no requirement that the driver be impaired at all. Even a driver who drives perfectly, and is not impaired at all is actually guilty of DUI simply by virtue of having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher.
Just like different people have differing levels of driving ability, it should come as no surprise that people are affected differently at various levels of alcohol consumption. It should be obvious that we are not all the same. That most experts claim everyone is impaired to the slightest degree by a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% is also of no consequence as illustrated by the previous section.
In the final analysis, if a driver is able to operate a vehicle in a way that does not pose a reasonable risk of harm to other drivers, it is of no consequence that such person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. If a driver does pose a reasonable risk to other drivers, the reckless driving statute applies and we have no need for this DUI section at all. As I previously said in the last section, we can easily eliminate this unnecessary section of DUI law without any concern at all, and we must eliminate it to avoid punishing people who are driving just fine.
3. DUI Illegal Drugs
Different states treat this issue differently. Many states treat this variety of DUI like one of the two sections described above. For this reason, the analysis is the same as stated above. As such this section should be abolished for the same reasons as illustrated above.
Many states, including Arizona where much of my practice is located, treat this issue even more foolishly than either of the two sections above. Said another way, this is the most ridiculous and unjust section in a morass of unnecessary and unjust DUI law. This section equates to a witch-hunt based mostly on irrational fears and misinformation about marijuana.
Generally speaking, in several of these states, simply having a trace or barely detectable amount of an illegal drug, or even a metabolite of such illegal drug, in your system while driving amounts to a DUI. In many cases, a trace amount of the illegal drug’s metabolite can remain in the body for several weeks after consumption.2
As with the 0.08% blood alcohol content section, even the minimal showing of slight impairment is entirely unnecessary for this DUI crime. A mere trace amount of the illegal substance, even with absolutely perfect driving and no impairment at all, is sufficient for a criminal conviction. Why anyone would conclude that simply having a trace amount of a substance in one’s body while driving perfectly fine ought to be a crime escapes me. As with the previous two DUI sections, we can easily eliminate this unnecessary section of DUI law without any concern at all, and we must eliminate it to avoid punishing people who are driving just fine.
I drive on the roads just like you do. Speaking as a resident of the community, I share your concerns and have the same interests in deterring and punishing drunk drivers who actually cause harm or even pose a reasonable risk of harm to others.
Speaking as a person who has represented probably over a thousand people accused of DUI, I can tell you DUI laws often punish good people who did not pose any real threat to others on the road. The DUI laws are entirely overbroad and completely unnecessary. Still worse, they sometimes operate to ruin lives or careers or cause unnecessary hardship for people who should not have been hassled at all by the state.
To be fair, many people charged with DUI indeed posed a threat to other drivers. However, those people could have also been charged with and convicted of reckless driving just as easily. If the state can’t prove to a jury that a driver was driving in a way that posed a risk of harm to anyone or their property, I don’t know why we would consider what the driver did to be a crime.
As an example of the lack of rational thought accompanying the politically charged DUI laws, consider that factually weak or insufficient DUI cases are routinely pled “down” to the “less serious” crime of reckless driving. In the system, we often refer to this as the “wet reckless.” Said another way, the “more serious” DUI crime of being impaired to the slightest degree is pled “down” to the “less serious” crime of driving in a way that actually poses a risk of harm to other drivers. This is pure unadulterated foolishness.
Because we have been wooed into wrongfully equating DUI laws with drunk driving related car accidents causing deaths and serious injuries, we have allowed reckless politicians to expand the criminal law into a net so broad that it catches countless innocent people unjustly disrupting their lives. Still worse, we have allowed politicians to attach mandatory jail sentences, huge mandatory fines, unnecessary license suspensions and countless other items requiring expensive fees to these ridiculous convictions. Today’s DUI laws have turned into an ever-expanding government feeding frenzy to supplement the overinflated and wasted budgets of various political subdivisions. It’s a giant rip off!
I suspect the founding fathers would be disgusted we have allowed this to occur. This is why we need to repeal all DUI laws and replace them with nothing at all.
If I have indeed succeeded at convincing you we ought to abolish all DUI laws and replace them with nothing, I invite you to consider why you ever believed we needed such laws in the first place. I wonder if you actually considered the issue for yourself or if you simply accepted what others concluded about DUI laws without considering the issue for yourself.
I invite you to consider, or possibly re-consider, some other issues as well. Are you still supporting the horribly failed, violence promoting, totally insane war on drugs? Do you believe more government action or new government programs are the answers to today’s problems? Do you actually support peace? I know you claim you are in favor of freedom, but are you really?
I urge you to help change the world by starting with an honest evaluation of your own fundamental views.
1 Many people have simply refused to read my previous article entitled, “Legalize Methamphetamine!” If you can’t get past the scary title, I suspect you aren’t open-minded enough to fairly consider my argument in any event. This article can be found here: http://attorneysforfreedom.com/marc-j-victor-articles-3/
Don’t be scared.
2 In Arizona, the court has recently ruled that the inactive metabolite of marijuana, which does not impair and can remain in the body for up to a month or longer, no longer supports a DUI. However, other inactive metabolites from other illegal drugs are still in question.