Agent Steel wrote:Greetings to all the good folks here at politicsforum.org. Today I would like to open a discussion about how we as a society we should approach and handle the treatment and understanding of one of the most common and prevalent problems among us - the issue of driving under the influence of alcohol.
I recently got into a rather heated exchange on social media with a fellow on this issue, and it did not resolve itself too well. That is why today I feel compelled to give my thoughts on this matter in a reasonable, civilized matter. My intention is to begin this discussion here on this platform and then later refine my thoughts and post them publicly under my real name.
A poster on FB made the claim that anyone who drinks and drives deserves no sympathy whatsoever, and should receive the harshest legal punishment possible. Many folks, friends of this poster, I suspect most of them, agreed with this sentiment. I want to state unequivocally that I vehemently disagree with this sentiment. I completely realize that my opposition to this sentiment is unpopular and will likely generate hordes of dissenters against me. I gave this some thought and decided that I am willing to take that risk, because this is something that I feel very strongly about, and I feel compelled to stick to my guns on this.
First, let's discuss some facts. There are a whopping 1 million+ drunken driving cases every year in the United States alone. Driving under the influence is the single most frequently committed offense in our society. In recognizing these staggering statistics, we must accept that alcohol is and will remain a very prevalent, socially integrated aspect of our culture. This is key to understand and accept if we are to pursue this issue in a rational manner.
Now, let me address some specific points:
Personal Responsibility - When I argued on FB that not all DUI cases should receive harsh punishment, a common retort given to me was that a person who commits this offense needs to "own up" and take personal responsibility for their crime. That is to say, they should accept their punishment because only they brought it upon themselves. But let's remember that the vast majority of these people have, in all honesty, committed no true crime. When I think and reflect about the concept of personal responsibility, it seems to me that it should follow that the responsibility ought to fall on ANY individual who causes a car accident. That would be a more accurate implementation of "personal responsibility". And yet, a sober man can recklessly create a crash causing death and be totally alleviated from any responsibility for his crime. So surely personal responsibility cannot be at the core of this issue. In fact, DUI laws do the exact opposite of achieving personal accountability. Rather than treat each driver as an individual with personal responsibility, we attribute the cause and the blame to the chemical rather than to the individual. And with that attribution we impose absolute sweeping penalties on anyone associated with that chemical regardless of their level of personality responsibility.
Now I know of course what people will say to counter this. They will say that alcohol is a mind-altering substance which impairs an individual and takes away their personal responsibility. So I gave this argument some thought and quickly came to realize this claim is completely and utterly inept when we consider the very notion of "responsible drinking". Now really think about this: If it's truly the case that a person who is under the influence of alcohol cannot make sound judgements, then it should follow that there cannot be any such thing as "responsible drinking" in the first place, and that any person who drinks can potentially and dangerously make the unsound decision of getting into a vehicle after consuming alcohol. And yet, we all encourage "responsible drinking" as a common practice against driving under the influence. That seems an impossible concept if the original claim is true, that alcohol indeed alters ones mind and leads to a person making bad decisions. Furthermore, if it really is the case that a person has the ability to drink and NOT drive, then it proves that this person CAN in fact make sound judgements, even whilst under the influence. It should therefore just as well follow that a person driving a vehicle under the influence can likewise train themselves to function well and drive with caution and responsibility. It is an inescapable logical conclusion of the argument.
A Victimless Crime - As a matter of justice, law, and morality, I have always believed that unless there is a direct victim who is harmed by an action, then no real crime has been committed. As an aside, for this very reason I believe that ALL personal drug use ought to be decriminalized. I strongly object to treating mere potential criminals as actual criminals. I think that to do so is to violate the very essence of freedom and liberty, and I consider it to be an abuse of justice. Your individual freedom and liberty should not be limited unless and until it crosses over unto someone else's freedom and liberty, either by harming that person directly or by restricting that person's ability to pursue their own happiness. Neither of these principles are violated by the sole, isolated act of driving while under the influence. But these moral principles ARE violated by the state that imposes criminal penalties onto such people.
Legal Intoxication - It's also important for us to recognize that what the state deems as a level of "legal intoxication" is not necessarily a level of actual intoxication. The tolerance threshold for alcohol can vary tremendously between individuals. For a person who habitually uses alcohol, "legal intoxication" does not apply. Many such people can easily consume up to and beyond the legal limit and yet function perfectly well due to their tolerance levels. When the police suspect a person has been drinking while driving, the first thing they do is have the person perform a field sobriety test. In many cases a legally intoxicated person can pass this test flawlessly, and yet still be charged with a DUI. Not only have they harmed no one, but they have proven based on the evidence that they are not even a danger to other drivers. It is therefore unfair and unjust to punish this person as if though he had done something immoral.
Hypocrisy in the Opposition As an action that is so highly common, it is likely the case that many if not most of the folks who push for stricter penalties against DUIs have themselves gotten away with doing it at some point in their lives. If not, they probably know someone close to them who has. They only become vocal about punishing other people once they personally have been affected by a drunk driver. What I would implore these people to do is first to recognize that it is a normal, human mistake that warrants compassion, and secondly, they ought not wish harsh punishments onto others that they wouldn't want implemented onto themselves.
There is so much more I want to say about this, but I've said so much already and I want to get some feedback on this. I will probably edit this to add more information later. Thank you to all for reading this post and I look forward to hearing your responses. While I am trying to be civil in this discourse, I am ready and prepared to fight hard to defend these beliefs. If you want to come at me, be prepared to bring your A game because I will NOT yield on this topic.
So if someone fire 100 bullets down a crowded street and manages to hit no one. No crime, No punishment. Law enforcement should do nothing till someone is actually hit by a gunman.
We have had the DUI laws situation you advocate, go back to before there were DUI laws, many more people were dying on the roads, many more people were seriously injured. Too many people were not responsible.
We should not regulate nuclear power plants, as those who act irresponsibly can be prosecuted AFTER the nuclear accident.
If the priple of trust people to act responsibility in all circumstances and prosecute those afterwards who fail to do so safely was rolled out across society in all sectors the overall cost of society would be enormous.
Go sit with someone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver and explain how prosecution after the fact is a comfort, and that you personally advocate allowing people to drive drunk as it;s an infringement of libert.
Not dying is import personal liberty too. Tie "right" to dive drunk will kill many people.