Proposed North Dakota Law Would Brand DUI Offenders With A Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is a 19th century novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne which is critical of Puritan legalism. Here in North Dakota we have a long history of puritanical attitudes about alcohol (upon admission as an US state North Dakota’s constitution contained a clause prohibiting alcohol), so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that there will be a bill in the next legislative session seeking to brand DUI offenders with a sort of “Scarlett Letter” prohibiting them from buying alcohol.
Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) – In the wake of a West Fargo family being killed on I-94 near Jamestown by a drunk driver, and 2 youngsters in a tent in the Northern valley being run over by a drunk driver.
A local man with no affiliation to government is getting lawmakers attention and backing, with a plan to make our roads safer. But this penalty would be stiff – some say too harsh.
This idea has snow-balled. It’s now a proposed bill in North Dakota. Under this, if a person gets a DUI, he or she can’t buy alcohol at a liquor store, bar or any other place that sells booze. …
Here’s how it works: When someone gets a DUI their ID would get marked with an emblem of some sorts that says DUI. Every liquor establishment would then be forced to card everyone, whether you’re 21 or 71, and if your ID says DUI, you can’t buy alcohol.
The ID stays that way for a year. If you cause a crash while drinking it stays for 5 years. All of this on top of whatever the court gives you as punishment.
This is the sort of knee-jerk, “there oughta be a law” policy that is anathema to sound legislating. There have been a few tragic and high-profile news stories about drunk driving in North Dakota, and that has emotions among voters running high. But emotional arguments don’t make for sound public policy.
As I wrote back in July, more DUI laws aren’t likely to make our roads any safer. According to data from the state Department of Transportation, alcohol-related fatalities and crashes have actually remained relatively flat since 2002 (a 14% increase during that time span, though in the context of a 17% increase in traffic on our roads):
Yet, despite the relatively flat nature of alcohol-related fatalities and injuries, arrests have gone up significantly, rising 35% over the same time period:
As you can see from the data, arrests are a poor metric for real traffic safety. The increase in DUI arrests from 2002 to 2010 hasn’t made ND roads any safer. In fact, more draconian DUI laws haven’t have much of an impact either. Despite the legislature adding laws such as the requirement that DUI offenders not drink and report for regular breathalyzer screenings, DUI crashes/fatalities remain static.
So do we really think that branding DUI offenders, something that can be easily bypassed by the dedicated drinker simply having a friend buy him/her their booze, is going to make our roads any safer? It won’t.
It will only add cost for the taxpayers, and complications for law enforcement officers tasked with enforcing the law.Tags: dui, nanny statism, North Dakota News, prohibition