If there is one victim of a drunk driving accident each year that is one too many. Our hearts go out to the victims of often senseless crimes whether they be intended or the result of a grave mistake unlikely to re occur. Within a criminal justice system that has often been envied throughout the world, our respective state legislators have in years past usually produced legislation that has done its best to deter the commission of crime, while at the same time provide an allowance for those accused of crime to be punished on an individualized basis.
In so doing, as a compassionate and just society founded upon judeo-christian beliefs, our judicial actions are those that delve into the pursuit of rehabilitation as a means by which each individual can be judged according to his or her own unique circumstance.
For many years this judicial philosophy has served our nation well. However, bit by bit these prinicipals of individualized judicial sanctioning has been eroded to the detriment of our nations ideals. Beginning with the advent of mandatory minimum federal sentencing laws, mandatory incarceration has replaced the notion that rehabilitation for non violent offenders resorting to the use of drugs or alcohol is in the best interests of society.
The consequence of such a misguided one size fits all approach to criminal sentencing has been catastrophic. Parents who in years past could secure needed rehabilitation and support a family, are now populating our nation’s prisons at an alarming rate. Non violent drug or alcohol abusers who could otherwise become a benefit to themselves, their family and society are now preventing those violent offenders in need of long term incarceration from just punishment.
These misguided laws adapted three decades ago were the biproduct of short sighted politicians eager to restrain federal judges from excercising individualized rulings in cases before them. Constrained by these modified federal laws, judges have been compelled to direct hundreds of thousands of non violent offenders to federal prison each year nonwithstanding the circumstance of the individual judged.
These knee jerk laws are often the biproduct of politicians more concerned with a two year re election cycle than the long term consequences of ill concieved legislative action. To a public not invested in the long term consequences of uniform punishment, politicans are quick to extol the benefits of getting tough on crime.
This lack of foresight has now come back to haunt society and the US taxpayer. Non violent offenders with drug/alcohol problems who were formerly candidates for becoming rehabilitated productive parents and employable tax paying contributors to society have now had their lives and their children’s lives destroyed. Those legislators in Washington, D.C. responsible for passage of such draconian laws are all since gone. It is today’s society that is left to address the mountng consequences.
In the state of Tennesse a confluence of events is now taking place that can cause a regrettable precedent in the punishment of those accused of drunk driving offenses. Legislation is now moving forward in Tennessee that will require all convicted of first time dui offenses to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle. This requirement will have no exceptions irrespective of BAC level, prior criminal history or employment, familial or financial obligations.
Trotted out before the Tennesse legislature in support of this law is Tennessee Titan NFL football player Delanie Walker. Walker had his aunt and uncle killed in an auto accident by an alleged drunk driver following the Super Bowl game he had participated in. The timing of this unfortunate event was ideal for the interests of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and its zeal to impose its will on one legislature at a time.
In recent weeks MADD has forged a partnership with the National Football League. Many a skeptic would suggest that this partnership serves as a welcome public relations ploy to counter the massive profits the NFL and its respective owners generate each year from alcohol sales at each sporting event.
With an actual NFL player to showcase, MADD has its ideal pitchman by which to compel the NFL to prove its allegiance to its newfound partnership with MADD. Unfortunately, this high powered team is at risk of imposing its will on weak legislators afraid to be labeled pro drunk driver for standing strong against a further erosion of judicial discretion.
If ignition interlocks are deemed an appropriate response to curtail drunk driving so be it. However, let us not allow the collective wisdom of elected or appointed judges to become usurped by the unelected whims of MADD to impose ignition interlocks on any and all individuals regardless of circumstance or benefit to society at large.
One need only to look at the present dire realities present within the federal system once judicial discretion has been taken away from judges best able to consider individualized judgement. Let us not allow this mistake to be repeated on the state level in regard to mandatory ignition interlock devices.