Goverment employees, whether state legislators or federal bureaucrats, are in a constant quest to demonstrate to the public that they are doing something constructive with their time. Unfortunately, tackling politically sensitive issues is not one of them. Employing creative solutions to solve our economic woes or proposing refocused drug enforcement policies allowing for the taxation of Marijuana are often too troublesome for elected or appointed officials with an eye toward self preservation to tackle.
Like clockwork, each legislative session in Indiana produces little in the way of bold initiatives, but rather the same intellectually deficient pursuits such as the yearly increase in criminal penalty for one crime or another. Should one dare challenge such trivial pursuit, the inevitable soft on crime label will get trotted out to suppress any meaningful dialogue on the issue.
I believe the same thought process, or lack thereof, pervades those within the National Transportation Safety Board, eager to garner attention for questionable policy initiatives that politicians are fearful to reject. One such routine practice trotted out in one form or another each year calls for the widespread implementation of ignition interlock devices on all first time drunk driving offenders no matter where they reside.
These employees of federal agencies are almost never those with courtroom experience capable of assessing the real world implication of their experiments forced upon those within the general public who may have made a one time mistake.
Politicians, fearful of being labeled “pro drunk driver,” cower at the prospect of challenging the wisdom or details of such blanket pronouncements. Too often it has been often left to the self interest of the hospitality industry and restaurant associations to lead the way in pointing out facts that get in the way of politically motivated bueracrats. Nameless government actors intent on self promotion at the expense of a free public through misguided initiatives that run counter to sound public policy.
Never mind that trafic fatalities attributed to drunk driving have decreased over the past year; one accident attributed to drunk driving is one too many. The question therefore is not whether such activity can pose hazards on our roadways, but rather what proposals can be put forth that are both effective and specifically tailored to meet the challenge of curtailing drunk driving in a responsible way.
Education and law enforcement prioritization of curtailing drunk driving is already at an all time high. Further, citizens armed with cell phone technology are now anonymously reporting suspicious driving activity more than ever before.
Ignition interlocks have been experimented with before. Speaking for DUI lawyers practicing in Indiana, in many counties the experiment was met with failure due to the unreliability of such devices, necessitating repair costs and loss of productivity among those trying to maintain employment.
On a procedural level, constitutional issues can be raised as to when a device can be ordered and if ordered while a case is pending, who shall be hit with the cost and/or potential repair and maintainance of such devices. Presently one suspected of drunk driving already has one’s license suspended before guilt has even been established. Do we truly wish to endorse the further impediment and cost of interlock devices on those not found guilty? Further, imposing such devices in such circumstances carry the potential of compelling those charged with dui to forsake possible legal challenge to an arrest due to the need to plead guilty in an effort to remove such a device from constraining their otherwise productive activities.
In the past, business interests have been permitted to pervade judicial orders requiring such devices in Indiana. This conflict of interest has previously earned a judicial rebuke for the action of a court to steer the business of interlocks to the required entity intended.
Let us not allow for our civil liberties to be further eroded by experimenting with costly and unreliable devices that have not inspired considerable confidence among the court systems that have formerly ceased the practice of required interlock instillation within the state of Indiana.
Despite individualized state laws on the issue, federal regulators formerly compelled a drunk driving standard of .08 on all states through fear of denial of federal highway funds to states that would not comply with this federal edict. A similar federal overreach in the area of mandatory ignition interlock devices may ultimately awaken the ire of a public that values a legal system that renders justice on an individualized basis.