This week the american special forces soldier widely reported to have been the operative who killed Osama Bin Laden was arrested in the state of Montana for an operating vehicle while intoxicated offense.
Initial reports are somewhat sketchy. However, the soldier has maintained hs innocence and has affirmatively asserted that he will ultimately be cleared of the present allegations.
Through media outlets the soldier has stated that use of sleep aids may have caused a citizen report to the police of erratic driving activity. So long as only sleep aids are uncovered wthin this individual’s bloodstream and such sleep aids are not classified as a controlled substance under Montana criminal statutes, this soldier to whom all of us owe an immense debt of gratitude should be vindicated.
The more pressing issue for the purposes of this posting is the public harm both to reputation as well as livelihood that all too frequently damages the lives of good and productive people arrested for operating while intoxicated throughout America.
Should this officer later be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing the damage to his reputation will already have been done.
Although most of us will never attain the heights of admiration as an American soldier purportedly responsible for the killing of a most wanted terrorist, countless citizens with impeccible reputations are too often ensnared in dui proseuctions that in my view customarily do more harm than good to the general public welfare.
First, we have the occurences as touched upon above where initial sensationalized reports of criminal conduct may prove erroneous. In such cases, no amount of verbal exclamations to those familiar to us, or in the case of public figures, those who do not, will ever remove the stain of a criminal accusation.
It is not uncommon for the mere reality of a dui arrest branded upon one’s background check to be sufficient to cause concern among present or future employers irrespective of case outcome. Although innocent until proven guilty is a convenient slogan most of us know as a safeguard to protect us from a criminal conviction, those who have been arrested frequently discover that such criminal safeguards may do little to prevent the damage of any criminal charge from irreperable harm to our future standing within the community.
In cases where an upstanding individual may have in fact made a first time mistake and been the subject of a legitimate arrest for operating while intoxicated, I submit that depending upon circumstance the public good of a criminal conviction for dui is not always well served.
As the years have progressed the cause of eliminating drunk driving has become a non controversial cause with which politicians can conveniently rally behind. Unfortunately, this reality has over time caused the legal pendulum to have swung from a noble cause of doing all that we can to ensure that our public roadways are safe, to causing harm to otherwise good and upstanding individuals who have become ensnared in a political charge of dui with a threshold not always reasonably related to criminal conduct.
As I have stated elsewhere, the true initial failing in regard to how the legal system has addressed drunk driving occured with the lowered presumptive intoxication national standard of .08 for all states.
Mandated upon all states by a congress afraid to confront the power of MADD and other like minded political lobby organizations, political leaders tied a state’s ability to receive needed federal highway funding to its willingness to bend to the political will of Washington legislators in adapting the .08 bac standard.
As citizens asked to use common sense reasoning within jury cases each and every day, we all know that uniform intoxication standards for all people irrespective of body size, gender, etc. can be fraught with peril. Where one male individual goes out for an evening dinner with his wife and partakes in a few glasses of wine, a nationalized .08 standard of intoxication may very well serve as a damaging legal harpoon to his future livelihood and reputation irrespective of his positive state of mental and physical awareness and coordination.
Such has becoming maddingly the case where good people have been increasingly pulled over not for erratic driving activity, but rather due to expired license plates, not dimming headlights, etc.
The point being that if an officer of the law has not seen cause to assert that driving activity was endangering others on the roadway as a result of a later .08 reading or higher for bac, all the protestations in the world will not assist the first time dui offender from evading criminal sanction. It is within this context that I suggest that a major recodification of dui statutes be considered in a uniform manner at the statewide level to recognize the real world implications dui charges can have upon the lives of real world people and families who depend upon them.
To some extent within a minority of counties within Indiana, a more humane approach has been adapted within first time dui cases where certain favorable circumstances apply. Although insufficent to address the fact of a criminal charge itself, a small number of Indiana counties will allow for dui case witheld prosecutions that may eventually allow for a case dismisssal if certain conditions have been met. Significantly, during the course of any court ordered obligations a criminal conviction for the pending dui allegation would be, “withheld.” In other words, no conviction would ever be imposed to later be dismissed so long as any and all court ordered obligations have been satisfied.
Most relevant to the soldier the subject of this posting, Veterans Courts have also begun to become established throughout many counties in Indiana. These courts have been established in theory to meet the needs of veterans whose traumatic experiences may have cause them to resort to alcohol and/or drug use. Depending upon the county, veterans may be rewarded through successful treatment guidelines depending upon the nature of the respective Indiana county program. Unfortunately, in my experience at the present time the onorous obligations imposed upon a given veteran charged with a dui offense may outweigh the positive benefits of program participation. Nonetheless, such alternative forms of legal resolution for the first time owi offender can only be considered a positive development in tempering the potential damage that too often comes as a result of a dui conviction.
In summation, too many productive American citizens who have never been arrested are being charged with dui offenses that have no relation to the endangerement of public safety or the use of alcohol and/or controlled substances.
I believe it reasonable to advocate that in such cases state prosecutors pause before embarking upon a course of action that can lead to the destruction of reputation and livelihood counter to the general public’s greater well being.