The Ignorant Wish Harsher DUI Penalties Will Make Our Streets Safe

By Garth O'Brien | February 28, 2011 
Filed Under Washington DUI

A couple of weeks ago lawmakers, law enforcement and family members of drunk driving victims stormed Olympia demanding harsher DUI penalties. The minimal increase in jail time and slight increase in fines will NOT resolve your problem.

I prosecuted DUI for the City of Seattle for two years. A majority of my trial cases involved the crime of DUI. Over 80% of my first time offending DUI criminals had ZERO criminal history. Their ages ranged from 18 to 65 with a vast majority being in their 30’s. These people were executives, attorneys, doctors, fathers and mothers. They were scared out of their mind that they had been cuffed and arrested. They going crazy with the thought they were going to spend one day in jail. These are people that do not break the law.

These are people that had one drink too many after work with colleagues, at dinner with their spouse or at a friend’s party. Each year Washington State nabs an average of 47,000 people driving under the influence. Minimally increasing DUI penalties to “scare” these people is pathetic and will not solve the problem.Every few years we increase DUI penalties and guess what? Nothing happens. The arrests do not go down and people still die when an accident involves a drunk driver.

Lawmakers and cops need to grow a pair. You really want to STOP DUI? Require an alcohol detection device in every vehicle operated in the United States. Driving is a privilege regulated by a state agency; DOL in Washington State. Driving is not a right. If cars can detect their driver has been drinking then the car should not start.

But people can circumvent the system?

I hear that lame plea all the time. Currently, the crime of DUI does not include the element of intent. Proving intent would be impossible because 80%+ never intend to drive drunk. You know why because drinking IMPAIRS our judgment. We cannot expect someone buzzed to figure out they should not drive.

If you require and alcohol detecting device in every vehicle then you can add an element of intent to DUI. If someone is caught driving drunk and intentionally disabled the alcohol detection device then that individual is the person society is truly scared of. This is the person that does not care and will eventually kill someone while driving drunk. Because of that the mandatory penalties for a first time offender should be a minimum of five years and DUI should become a felony.

Many of you puritan fools will be in disbelief that someone cannot figure out when they are drunk. Well the law is NOT DRUNK DRIVING. It is being under the influenced or impaired by your consumption of intoxicants. You can also be busted for a 0.08 BAC reading. Can any of you right now tell me how many drinks will trigger that level for your body type and the other factors that impact how your body processes alcohol? Do you really understand the One Drink Rule? Ever have a martini? Think that is one drink?

A martini is usually 4 ounces of 100 proof alcohol. You can only have one ounce of 80 proof per hour. If you ever drink one martini you are well over the 0.08 limit. Go to a bar after work and watch everyone in that bar drink one to two martinis and then drive home. Do you really think everyone there is evil and wants to commit DUI?

Humans have not been able to stop committing DUI. Lawmakers have not been able to prevent DUI with their pathetic increases to the DUI penalty scheme. Olympia I am tired of seeing one of you huff and puff and beat your chest thinking you are the genius to stop DUI by adding a day of jail to the mandatory penalty.

Rep Steve Kirby of Tacoma and his colleagues need to grow a pair and force every car operated in Washington State to have an alcohol detection device. Otherwise, stop wasting your time passing lame measures that really only help you raise revenue to cover the gaps you have created by poor planning, spending and taxing. Sorry if my tone is terse, but the campaign to stop DUI has been a joke. People still die every year and 47,000 still are arresting annually in Washington State.

DUI Blog Comments

5 Responses to “The Ignorant Wish Harsher DUI Penalties Will Make Our Streets Safe”

  1. Stephen Shearin on February 28th, 2011 12:26 pm

    Much respect for your opinion but I wouldn’t want to be the writer of that law the first time someone couldn’t escape a dangerous situation or perhaps drive someone to safety because they blew a .03. Or the thousand other problems of rendering someone’s vehicle inoperable.
    That kind of zero tolerance sounds spiffy in a blog, but assigning ever stiffer penalties only leads to a nanny state.

    What needs to be done is urban infill and development with public transport and education. The challenge is one must fight the oil and auto industries who have far more power in the courts than the marginally informed public.

    Good luck to the state that passes that law. I’ll hear all about it from afar.

  2. Garth O'Brien on February 28th, 2011 12:40 pm

    I would love to have a transportation infrastructure like Europe. However, that is an improbable resolution. We would never spend billions of dollars connecting everyone in the western states to urban centers. There is just too much sprawl and land. Plus if you build it they will come will not happen with everyone. I know tons of people that live and work in Seattle and refuse to ride the bus.

    If you are driving under the influence to save someone you will still be charged with DUI. You also are impaired and can cause one of the annual 17,000 DUI related deaths across the US. You can call an ambulance or find someone that has not consumed intoxicants.

    Or better yet set the device to detect a certain BAC level. Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties have charged and prosecuted people with levels of 0.03. So have the medical community and law enforcement data determine an acceptable level. In my experience setting a device at 0.04 would be just fine.

  3. Cristine on March 20th, 2011 6:52 pm

    Interesting idea on the mandatory ignition interlock device for all vehicles sold. I’m sure it would be expensive at first, but have a negligible impact on vehicle price 10 years down the road…like the airbag mandate 20 years ago. Even if the price wasn’t an issue, I’m sure the ACLU and automakers would attack the idea. Anyway, would solve the criminal intent issue for sure.

  4. Garth O'Brien on March 22nd, 2011 9:11 am


    Nissan and Toyota have been developing this tech for the past few years to integrate in their vehicles. Cost should be negligible.

    Would be interested in how the ACLU would attack such a condition to drive. Driving is not a right it is a regulated privilege by each state. The blind cannot drive and those with poor vision must demonstrate proper vision-ware and must pass an eye test.

    The “incompetent” cannot drive because you must pass a written and practical test to secure your license. Everyone is required to have auto insurance.

    The only constant is no one is allow to drive under the influence of intoxicants. Set the alcohol detection device to 0.03. Now people can have a glass of wine with dinner, but once they start pushing the “under the influence” feeling they cannot drive. It will save lives, billions in costs and no one has the right or privilege to drive under the influence.

  5. Brian Leverton on April 19th, 2011 2:53 am

    The content on this blog makes a lot of sense to me but I am only an artist. Brian