Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) was created with a noble purpose “to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and accidents caused by drunk drivers”. No one could or can argue against that objective and MADD has evolved into a strong force in Congress and state legislature so that every politician is afraid to deny their requests for increased punishment for D.U.I. offenders and additional funding for its objectives. Tennessee, in 1982, passed one of the toughest D.U.I. laws in America and it has steadily been toughened despite only the opposition of the liquor, beer and wine industry and criminal trial lawyers lumped in with the social media advertising, personal injury lawyers who have drastically lowered the image of attorneys in the eyes of the public.
The other side of the issue is whether the constitutional rights of individuals liberties are being eradicated by this continuous stampede to tougher D.U.I. and drivers license laws pursuant to MADD, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA) and other special interest that reap substantial financial benefits from said crusade.
Benjamin Franklin said it well many years ago. “Those who will give up Liberty for Security, deserve neither Liberty or Security.”
It is not against the law to drink and drive, unless it impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle (a very subjective standard for a police officer).
However, in Chattanooga (and most places in Tennessee), if you have the odor of alcohol on your breath, you will be told (1) that you have to submit to Field Sobriety Tests (which you do not have to perform under the law); (2) that you will automatically lose your driver’s license if you refuse to take a breath test called the ECIR II or give a blood sample (you will lose your license if a judge determines that the officer had probable cause to request such a test). They fail to inform you that even if found guilty, you have the right to appeal that decision and/or get a restricted license allowing you to drive to and from work, attend school and other limited conditions.
The breath machine results will be inspected and certified by a toxicologist who is employed by the Tennessee Forensic Services Division, a branch of the Tennessee Department of Safety, a law enforcement agency financial partially by grants from NHTSA and the Governor’s Highway Safety Office from funds distributed to the states.
You will be told if you have a prior D.U.I. conviction that a refusal to give a blood sample will result in one being forcibly extracted from your body with a needle in a part of the local jail by a nurse under a contract. You also may have your vehicle confiscated if you are caught driving on a revoked license.
Those are just a few examples of how basic constitutional rights have ended up under this popular “law and order campaign and political pressure from highly organized special interest groups in the political arenas.”
Prior to 1982, the “presumptive level” (not conclusive proof) that a person was under the influence was a 0.15 blood alcohol level but it was lowered to 0.12, then 0.10, presently to 0.08, and it is apparent the ultimate goal is to enact a zero tolerance level of 0.00 (remember Prohibition) in spite of the legality of the sale of alcohol in all fifty (50) states.
Now MADD in Kentucky (and other states) has enacted a Court Watch program to put pressure on judges who conduct bench trials (without a jury) in D.U.I. cases because they do not like the conviction rates and say “that it is unacceptable and calls for immediate change and is a violation of public trust.
The founder of MADD Kentucky was quoted as saying:
“The bottom line is we must take action by implementing a court watch program for bench trials. Our courts should spend more time protecting the citizens of our community and less time manufacturing reasons not to find a defendant guilty. With the court watch we will be supporting strict enforcement of the current DUI laws and a strong criminal justice system that can’t be manipulated easily.”
No one disputes the pain of family members who lose a loved one through the actions of a drunk driver, a terrorist, a bank robber, a mentally disturbed killer of school children, etc., but finding ways to scare and intimidate judges to start finding everyone guilty attacks the very foundation of our system of justice and reaffirms the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin’s statement about Freedom and Security made in the 18th Century.