151 Band

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Series on DUI Part 1: The Problem

Driving under the influence of alcohol has reached epidemic proportions across the nation and though some measures have served to deter some drunk drivers, statistics are frightening.  Consider the statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD):

This year, 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes - one every 50 minutes.
An average drunk driver has driven drunk 87 times before first arrest.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those is alcohol related.

It is certainly enough to get our attention - or at least it should.

There is some discussion, some movement with the Oklahoma legislature to push for a required interlock device for those arrested and convicted of DUI, and that is more than laudable.  From www.thestatecolumn.com:
A bill to reduce Oklahoma’s drunk driving fatalities has cleared the Senate and is on its way to the House of Representatives. Dixie and Keith Swezey, of Edmond, and other family members watched from the Senate Gallery as lawmakers voted unanimously for Senate Bill 529, the Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act. The bill is named for the Swezeys’ 20-year-old daughter, Erin, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. 
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, is principal author of SB 529, which is authored by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, in the House. Jolley and the Swezeys met with reporters shortly after Tuesday’s passage of the measure. 
“We’re trying to keep drunk drivers off the road. That is our purpose. Today was a significant step towards that direction. I’m very honored to serve in a body that agreed with that principle and moved that public policy forward,” Jolley said “I want to thank publicly all the members of the State Senate today who gave their voice of support for this bill.”
This is a great move, a definite attempt to curb the problem.  But there is still a bigger problem looming that just has not yet been addressed - the issue of municipal courts not being required to charge and prosecute DUIs in county court.  Were this the case, many of these habitual offenders would be too busy in jail to be out on the roads. You see, local municipalities are not "courts of record," therefore, prosecutors cannot charge individuals with felonies who have had multiple DUIs unless their previous DUIs have been adjudicated in "courts of record" - such as county courts.

It is a problem that will be discussed at length on this blog in a future report.

Reading stories such as the one in the Oklahoman today, where Midwest City students get a "gory look at  drunken driving consequences," the perception presented that kids believe drinking and driving is a very, very bad thing.  But then, they read stories (or rather see them on television) about elected officials who are at bars in the middle of the week until 2am and get their vehicles stolen - oh, and by the way, this legislator has a "history of DUI."  Or, kids remember stories about State  Senators like Rabon and his friends who were picked up on DUI and what happened to them?  Nothing of consequence. 

We send mixed messages, we hear tough talk from elected officials and prosecutors about DUI, but when it comes to policing their own, well, it boils down to just that...talk. 

Coming next:  Legislators, elected officials and cover-ups.  Are there two sets of guidelines for drunk driving convictions?

I leave you with this video...it is emblematic of the whole problem.  This lawyer speaks of "ethics," and says, "I don't care about my clients' innocence or guilt."