Driving Under the Influence - A Complex Moral and Legal Issue - Page 2 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15146167
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.
#15146235
Agent Steel wrote: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.

People on a "get tough" kick are usually arguing from emotion, not reason.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

It's the most enforced offense, not the most common offense.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

Harsh DUI laws basically violate the 8th Amendment, but don't look to SCOTUS to recognize it because it's a big business.

Agent Steel wrote: And yet, a sober man can recklessly create a crash causing death and be totally alleviated from any responsibility for his crime.

That's a bit of a stretch.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

It's not true at all. People can make sound judgements under the influence of alcohol, but it depends on how much. Alcohol binds, among other things, to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which tends to improve focus and concentration. For example, a lot of the great Irish writers were mildly intoxicated much of the time. When I worked at a video game company, the company provided alcohol at work--mostly intended for creative workers, not software engineers. This is because alcohol, at very modest levels, will improve focus and creativity. It's a very fine balance though. Any more, and this disappears quickly. It's why sometimes you have incredible conversations with people who sip whiskey while smoking cigars.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

It does, but it takes a considerable amount of alcohol to do that.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

I'm inclined to that opinion myself, but society has changed and tolerates the use of law to enforce all sorts of order, not just individual rights.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

It's an interesting argument, and I'm inclined to agree to an extent. However, I do think addiction is a disorder and should be treated, compulsorily if necessary. Much of the law around drugs is that addicts were the largest source of crimes against the person and the property of persons. Violence is also an issue with alcohol. I'm funny when I'm drunk, but I knew a guy who got violent when he got drunk. He hit his wife once while drunk, and the state decided to prosecute over the objection of his wife. He ended up taking his life. There are people who just get frankly quite nasty when they drink, whereas there are lots of people who just loosen up, enjoy a laugh and have a good time. It affects people differently.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

Much of the system is an abuse from the standpoint of how it was developed and from the standpoint of constitutional rights. Most of the traffic law enforcement is predicated on denial of due process of law.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

If you drink and drive, you are at a higher risk of an accident. Insurance companies would say that you are harming them by increasing risk to their financial interest in not paying out insurance claims; hence, they lobby governments for criminal penalties for otherwise victim-less crimes.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

That's quite true; however, American law seeks to apply the law equally to all people. This is why I would characterize myself as perhaps post-American or post-Jeffersonian in that I think extreme egalitarianism is harmful.

Agent Steel wrote:For a person who habitually uses alcohol, "legal intoxication" does not apply.

Legal intoxication does apply, and probably shouldn't in cases with lower BAC like .08. Actual intoxication does not apply. In most cases, a BAC of .15 will see serious motor impairment.

Agent Steel wrote:Many such people can easily consume up to and beyond the legal limit and yet function perfectly well due to their tolerance levels

This is surprisingly very true, but usually among the chemically dependent.

Agent Steel wrote:In many cases a legally intoxicated person can pass this test flawlessly, and yet still be charged with a DUI.

That's because the BAC limit is a per se rule. In my area, the freeway was considered one of the ten worst in the US. It was always backed up. Now that it's fixed, it's like the Indy 500 out there. Driving at 65 MPH is dangerous, because you could get rear ended by someone doing 80 MPH--the prevailing speed now. The Basic Speed Law is all about safety, but speeding tickets are given not for driving at an unsafe speed in most cases, but for violating the per se posted speed limit. A 3-series BMW can take a corner at 40 MPH that would cause a rollover in a pickup truck or a Jeep, for example. That's because the 3-series BMW has a low center of gravity and an excellent weight balance, along with anti-roll and traction control too. Traffic and engineering studies do not take this into account.

Agent Steel wrote:It is therefore unfair and unjust to punish this person as if though he had done something immoral.

Because major religions condemn excess drink, that's where the moral judgement comes in. DUI accidents are a fraction of what they used to be. The major cause of accidents now is distracted driving--usually people texting on their cell phones while driving. That's treated as an infraction with a substantial fine, even though it is deadlier than DUIs now.

Agent Steel wrote: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.

That's true, but the average person doesn't know about BAC, intoxication, etc. So they campaign for "zero tolerance" to a point where it becomes absurd. Lawyers and insurance companies take advantage of this for profit.

As you may know, I have a few police officer friends. I have also worked on legal compliance expert systems, and done a lot of other work for lawyers. The legal system is basically a business. Cops are paid to go out and enforce the law. Prosecutors are paid to prosecute it. Yet, the government also pays for defense attorneys for those who cannot afford them to in effect undermine what they are paying police and prosecutors to do. It's quite a weird system in that respect.

I've read a lot of law for a non-lawyer, and I pick up on some of those things quickly. For example, I have MetLaw as a benefit at work. I'm not a criminal for all intents and purposes, but my insurance will cover me for criminal defense of most crimes, including traffic laws--except for DUI. If you are charged with a misdemeanor and it's your first time, you can get a pre-trial diversion in all cases--except for DUI. That's your way of knowing that this is a business, and it's not so much about law or justice.

Rancid wrote:Anyway, what is odd is how you can get a DUI just for sitting in your car drunk with the engine off. Sounds like a money grab to me.

That's exactly what it is.

Rancid wrote:Aside from that, DUI laws are probably a good idea. :)

They are. However, the scientific basis for DUI laws before MADD was that at about .15 BAC, alcohol binds to glycine receptors which causes sensory motor impairment--e.g., you stumble, slur your speech, and maybe see double. Although as Agent Steel points out, an alcoholic may be very functional at .20. There have been some astonishing cases where people have been fairly functional and blown .45--an amount of alcohol that would kill most people. That's a very rare case though. The .08 rule was developed, because that's about when it starts to effect GABA receptors, which is primarily anxiolytic and sedative action. The risk there is that it can also have hypnotic action, where people may fall asleep at the wheel.

What happened legally is that they reduced the per se rule down to .08 even though the risk is much less at those levels, and still treated it as a misdemeanor. What they should have done was develop an infraction-based system with a 12-hour hold, and ratchet up punishment for repeat offenders when they have low BAC. When someone is driving with .15, I think that's a pretty solid arrest and conviction.

Rancid wrote:Hopefully this all disappears with driverless cars and better public transport.

Yeah. It will be interesting to see what happens to the auto insurance industry in that scenario.

B0ycey wrote:Prevention is better than cure. It shouldn't be classed as a crime when someone is killed. It should be classed as a crime to prevent them being killed to begin with.

This is a slippery slope. This is precisely why the US had millions of people incarcerated (thanks Joe Biden) for non-violent drug offenses. People who fall into chemical dependency are often minorities and the poor. So you end up coming down hard on people of different races and ethnicities, only to virtue signal in other scenarios that you're not a racist.

Rancid wrote:DUI is an industry in the US. I'm not saying that DUI laws are bogus, I think they should certainly exist, but there is definitely an element of cities/counties, police departments, cashing in on these laws.

Yes. It's a cash cow for the justice system.

Rancid wrote:Lawyers can make a first offense disappear for the right price.

Yes. That's called "Wet Reckless" in California. There is no published statute for it. It's basically for cops, lawyers, judges, doctors and other high earners. If you get a second offense, it can be resurrected as a prior within 10 years in California. However, since there is no such published law, it doesn't appear on your criminal record if you plea to a wet reckless. It could still be on your DMV record if you don't win your administrative case.

Rancid wrote:Again, I'm not against DUI laws and enforcement. Just saying, there is some bullshit mixed in there too.

Traffic law and parking enforcement are cash cows. That's why it's structured like it is.

Unthinking Majority wrote: There is no compassion to be had. ZERO.

So why not impose the death penalty by firing squad? If there is to be no compassion whatsoever, we should have a firing squad in the public square to really put fear into people for DUI.

Rancid wrote:Which to me, is odd. Data shows that Americans are much more permissive with texters than with drinkers. The leniency shown to texters is as unjustified as the demonization shown to drinkers. There needs to be some sort of balance here.

Right. It's a clear 8th Amendment violation, but as I said, it's a cash cow and the insurance companies want it that way. Courts and politicians do what they're paid to do, not what they're elected to do.

Rancid wrote:Side note, texting reduced driver reaction time further than being drunk.

Text driving causes more injury accidents than drunk driving. Drunk driving causes about 2x as many deaths as text driving. However, Drunk driving death is on the decline, while text driving death is on the raise. When are we going to start attaching the same stigma we give to people that drink and drive to texters?

That's exactly the case. When are we going to stop government from using criminal courts as a source of revenue?

Drlee wrote:Virtually all of our traffic laws are preemptive attempts to save lives.

Exactly, and a great cover to use the criminal justice system to raise revenue.

Drlee wrote: I know this works on the perfidious Iphone and I assume it also works on those stupid, amateurish, off-brand Android phones too.

Iphones are made with essentially slave labor in China. Samsung makes theirs in South Korea.

B0ycey wrote:And they do sound like a cash cow to me. But I would class them in the same league as speed cameras.

Yep. It's not about justice in most cases. It's about the benjamins...

XogGyux wrote:First, driving is a privilege, not a right.

Travelling is a right. Driving commercially is rightly regulated by police power. Driving your own car in a non-commercial context isn't rightly treated as a privilege. That's basically denial of due process of law.

XogGyux wrote:If you become old and demented, your privilege (license) can be taken away, if you become legally blind, likewise you lose your license, if you start having seizures, etc...

They usually don't take licenses away from old people until family gets involved or there is an accident. For a lot of people, drinking a modest amount of alcohol and driving is akin to making a 21 year old have the reflexes of an 80 year old. It increases risk, but usually not enough to be too worried about.

XogGyux wrote:Think of driving under the influence as driving without a license... you are breaking the law

Illegal aliens and the people who hire them are also breaking the law. Hillary Clinton breaks the law too, and she doesn't get punished for it.

XogGyux wrote:Just because something is common does not mean it is right. By this logic, if we start murdering a lot, then we should just not make it illegal since everyone is doing it :lol:

That's what they've done with petty theft and shoplifting in California. It's effectively legal now.

XogGyux wrote:And yes, by definition, if someone gets caught driving drunk, that person is an alcoholic.

No. You should be a little smarter for a medical doctor. Alcoholism implies physical dependency on alcohol. Some people become chemically dependent and will have seizures upon withdraw. That's classic alcoholism. Some people will drink too much when they drink. That's substance abuse, but not necessarily alcoholism. That is, it doesn't necessarily require medical intervention with benzodiazepines and other anti-seizure medications.

XogGyux wrote:The same way a street has a speed limit of 45mph.... How did they come up with that number?

Traffic and engineering studies.
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