Thursday, September 14, 2006


In the news today, Linda Atkinson, executive director of DWI Resources Center, has unveiled a map showing the location of motor vehicle crashes in which alcohol was a factor. Surprisingly, Louisiana and Central shows up as the most dangerous in this respect; and the South Valley is number five. It would seem that it is safer to drive through Isleta and Bridge than it is to drive through Central and Louisiana, at least after 6:00 p.m. on weekends.

The report prompts these random thoughts on the crime of DWI (DUI).

Nullification has set in. Right here in New Mexico, a Legislator asked the Chief of Police in a Southern town, to ask the arresting officer to not show for a DWI hearing. Right here in Albuquerque, officers fail to show and Judges fail to sanction (they dismiss DWI cases instead of making witnesses shape up).

On the punishment of deprivation of driver’s licence. Historically, the Judges did not punish by restricting the right to drive. The Legislature told the Judges to punish by taking the license and sending it to Santa Fe. In many cases the Judges refused to comply. The Legislature did not trust the Judges, and placed the responsibility of revocation with the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD).

Many Judges then failed to send in the report of conviction, so the MVD was unable to revoke the license. The Legislature then arranged it so the MVD would get involved when an arrest was made for DWI, rather than wait for a trial. Then the defense attorneys raised many technicalities in MVD hearings; and arresting officers often failed to appear at MVD hearings; and the MVD caved in and started letting the accused off because of technicalities and no shows.

Doesn’t this tell us something, after 60 years or so? We have nullification.

The interlock solution.

We catch the offender is one of a thousand offenses he commits. Then we try to take the driver’s license; or the car; or put on an interlock. Why not put on an interlock before the first offense (first offense, not first conviction)? Why not require any brand new motor vehicle to have an interlock (as defined in the statute passed at the instance of W. Ken Martinez, a Legislator from Grants)? Ultimately, all but the antiques would have them.

It is as simple as Congress telling the manufacturers to put in all new vehicles a safety device that prevents an alcohol-impaired driver from starting the vehicle, and prevents the continued driving of a vehicle by one who becomes alcohol-impaired. The key is the key, coupled with the alcohol detecting device developed at Sandia Labs. The scientists and inventors would come up with devices that are foolproof and non-intrusive and non-burdensome to unimpaired drivers. A touch of the key to start the vehicle; a touch (on demand) of the key to keep the vehicle running. Why don’t we do this, and save thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of serious injuries each year?

A final thought here. Jane Sixpack likes to get drunk; and she needs to drive while sober. Tell her she can get alcohol-impaired, and she can drive her vehicle; but she will not be allowed to do both at the same time. Under our present system, we could use the alcohol bracelet as a preventative and as punishment. The alcohol ankle bracelet detects and reports the blood-alcohol level. Existing, workable technology.

After the arrest, the Judge directs as a condition of release that the accused wear an alcohol ankle bracelet until trial (no more need for a “six-month” rule to speed trials). Defense lawyers who are encouraged by the arbitrary six month rule to manipulate the system and stall the trial, will be requesting speedy trials to close the case if their clients get no booze until trial. Then, in cases of conviction, the Judge can restrict the alcohol intake of the convict: no alcohol in the blood unless the convict is at home; or only during certain hours, and at home; or only to a certain alcohol level, etc.

Put yourself in the shoes of Jane Sixpack, who drives while alcohol-impaired. She is threatened with loss of driver’s license; or she is threatened with forced alcohol abstinence. Is there any doubt as to which punishment she would fear the more?

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