While well intentioned, harsh DUI laws are born from bad DWI politics. Because of the nature of this subject matter, some readers may be offended. Seems such is in vogue these days although certainly not my intention. Rather, I simply offer a different perspective on DUI laws and arrests. Don’t worry. No one favors truly drunk drivers on the road. Keep reading.
The Usual DWI Scenario
First of all, I am a Charlotte Mecklenburg County DWI defense attorney. Rather than handling all types of criminal cases, our firm focuses on DUI arrests. Consequently, we represent a cross-section of persons charged with DWI. And from our experience, clients are overwhelmingly first time offenders with no accident and no prior criminal record. Furthermore, they are otherwise responsible citizens who would never takes chances with a DWI. Hence they drink responsibly and only drive if they feel safe to do so. Rather, if unsure in the least, they have options including Uber, a taxi, or calling a friend/spouse. Instead, they are stopped on the way home. Then the officer smells alcohol. Game on. While polite and cooperative thinking everything will be fine, they are subsequently arrested, booked, and prosecuted.
Bad DWI Politics: Legislators Want to Help
Of course they do. That’s how you stay in office. And groups like MADD regularly demand action. But when you pass laws based on emotion, bad things can happen. Certainly, voters want tough DUI laws to deter dangerous driving. But they also want fair and just laws. While we certainly feel for affected families, overly broad laws punish everyone the same. And not everyone deserves the maximum punishment. Rather, the unintended consequences cause overly harsh outcomes. We explain further.
Harsh DUI Laws: Baby with the Bathwater
Here is what DWI laws envision. After a night of heavy drinking, a truly drunk driver gets on the road. They are a danger to everyone. Families and children are at risk of serious injury or death. Consequently, no punishment seems too severe under these circumstances. But here is the problem. Rather, harsh DUI laws paint everyone charged with the same brush. While equal treatment is usually the goal, not all DUI defendants are the same. And there should be different levels of punishment. Just like programs for first offense drug possession, there should be similar options for DWI arrests.
Currently, even a first time DUI arrest with no accident results in a permanent criminal record. Furthermore, no expungement is available now. Ever. While that’s the law, that’s just too harsh. So what is the alternative? Well, we suggest two possible options. First of all, let’s bring back the expungement option. Maybe adjust the number of years required depending on the BAC level. In addition, for truly minor DWI cases, deferred prosecution works. Same substance abuse assessment and treatment as with DWI but dismissal of charges once completed. Consequently, an otherwise innocent mistake does not have a lifetime outcome. Seems fair and just based on my experience. Disagree? Write or call me, and we’ll debate it. But not over beers.