A free thinker in the Heartland...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tough on DUI's

There was an editorial in the Indianapolis Star about submitting to a breathalyzer test...

Our position: Willingness to submit to sobriety testing should be a prerequisite for driving.

A proposal to withhold plea agreements from drunken driving suspects who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test addresses the right problem. But it's the wrong remedy.

Melina Kennedy, Democratic candidate for Marion County prosecutor, has proposed the tougher policy. She notes that some motorists stopped on suspicion of drunken driving believe there is a tactical advantage in refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer and later pleading to a lesser charge. They reason that without test results, prosecutors are more willing to plea bargain.

Daniel Hodgkins, former head of the state advisory board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told Star reporter Richard Walton that he supports Kennedy's proposal. He cited the case of Nancy Irsay, widow of former Indianapolis Colts owner Robert Irsay who recently pleaded guilty to reckless driving in exchange for a prosecutor's agreement to drop a drunken driving charge against her.

Irsay refused blood-alcohol and field sobriety tests when she was arrested after traveling at nearly twice the speed limit through the intersection of 38th and Illinois streets in July 2003. Although a police report said she had an odor of alcohol on her breath, her eyes were bloodshot and her balance was unsteady, Irsay denied being drunk. She had a long list of witnesses prepared to testify she had little to drink at an event she attended earlier that night.

It's questionable how much Irsay benefited from refusing sobriety tests. Her refusal resulted in a mandatory one-year suspension of her driver's license, and the reckless driving charge cost her a $1,000 fine. A typical penalty for a first-time drunken driving offense is a 30-day license suspension and a $500 fine.

Motorists charged with drunken driving also can be convicted on the basis of a police officer's testimony or on video evidence from a patrol car's camera. Many trial judges view refusal to submit to sobriety tests as tantamount to an admission of guilt.

Furthermore, prosecutors shouldn't be deprived of the tool of plea-bargaining. In some cases -- and Irsay's may have been one -- there is contradictory evidence that often invites plea-bargaining regardless of Breathalyzer results.

Instead, a willingness to submit to sobriety testing should be a condition of holding a driver's license in Indiana.

In other words, refuse a Breathalyzer test and surrender your license indefinitely. And if you're driving drunk without a license, go directly to jail.

I have a unique view on this subject... I have had a DUI. I fully complied once pulled over... and the officer was nice to me. Looking back it was one of the worst mistakes I have ever made (I can't say the worst... you don't know how prone to big mistakes I am.)

Anyway, I still dunno if making the laws stricter will still mean equality down the road. Look, the poor can't afford good lawyers, so when they go to court... lets just say the representation isn't substantial. Now the Irsays of the world will pay top dollar to fight fight fight... so they will always get lighter sentences. That is the system... you get what you pay for. Representation wise, to speak.

There was a case where a lawyer in Wabash was found asleep at the wheel drunk, because he stopped for a train and just passed out there, who also argued his way down to a "reckless driving" charge. Why? Cause he invested his own time... and of course he has friends in the area.

So sure, strengthen the law... but please don't use the Irsays as the reason. The end results won't effect them.