January 31, 2012
I recently spoke to a woman facing a 10 year prison sentence for multiple DUI arrests. She is a functioning alcoholic who drinks on the job everyday. She drinks steadily throughout her 8 hour shift. When the quitting bell rings she is not drunk, but she is well over the legal limit. We will call her Martha.
Martha is an easy target because she is a poor, white, single mother of five. Her "crime" is unpopular so there will be no civil liberties group rushing to her defense. She is white, so the police who wait for her to drive by and stop her without cause can never be accused of racism. She is poor, which means she can't afford a decent defense on her own. Her public defenders have told her there is no deal to be had. She can plead guilty and accept her ten year incarceration or she can go to trial, be found guilty, and accept her ten year incarceration. Ten years! There is no victim to be found. She didn't swerve into a passing car, she damaged no property, and she injured no one but herself, yet she will be caged for ten years.
I know many of you reading this are frothing; "what, are we supposed to wait until she kills someone?" The answer is yes. If simply having the potential to hurt someone is justification for arrest; all gun laws are justified, McDonald's employees should be arrested, and frankly, no one should be allowed out of their homes. Simply drinking a few (or thirty) beers and getting behind the wheel isn't really a crime because there is no victim.
I can already imagine the attacks some of you will lay on me. I will be called everything from a lunatic to an anarchist-as if "anarchist" were some kind of insult. I am not an anarchist (though I drift more in that direction everyday) because I believe there is a place for the rule of law; laws (should) exist to enforce private property rights and protect the liberty of the individual. In other words; if you break my arm or destroy my property you have committed a crime and should be held responsible, drunk or sober has no bearing on the situation.
There are several reasons drunk driving laws should be abolished: First, they don't work. People understand this when it comes to the war on drugs, but when it comes to drinking and driving we seem to lose all sense of logic and succumb to fear. If drunk driving laws really prevented people from drinking, how did Martha pile up five arrests? By the prevention logic she would have never committed the first "offense." Surely, she would have stopped after the second, third... People are going to drink and drive. It's an unfortunate fact of life, but if this in itself is to be considered a criminal act, solely based on preventing an outcome that may never happen, shouldn't drinking at all be made illegal? After all, if there is no access to alcohol, no one could drive after drinking. Oh yea, we tried that, it didn't work. Just as outlawing drugs hasn't worked. Instead what we have done is made criminals of people who have yet to commit a crime.
The most important reason to abolish drunk driving laws is that they are a moral crime against liberty. We are allowing individuals to be caged for something they may potentially do. This is absurd. If we start locking up people for something we think may happen in the future then no man, woman, or child is safe. Every time one becomes angry he may lose control and harm another. Should anger be a criminal offense punishable by jail? How about speeding? If a person is under considerable stress he may go postal, should stress be outlawed? This rant isn't an endorsement of drunk driving. Drinking and driving is irresponsible, immoral, and reprehensible. Being reprehensible and irresponsible is not a crime, hurting someone is. If there is no victim there is no crime, and until we realize that we are a long way from being able to call ourselves free people. I know that my opinion will be unpopular. I'm ok with that. Please feel free to leave your rebuttal in the comment section below.