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Posted at 7:01 PM ET, 03/31/2010

'Coddling drunk drivers'? Not quite

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Leonard R. Stamm
Greenbelt

In the March 30 editorial “Coddling drunk drivers,” The Post took an unbalanced view on drunken driving.

The Post seems to assume that lawyers who defend those accused of drunken driving favor watered-down and ineffective laws. But Maryland defense lawyers don’t benefit from laws that are less harsh, because they cannot command the higher fees that lawyers in other states charge to defend against harsher sanctions. Defense lawyers are, however, likely to be more sensitive to the problems of drivers who might be without recourse to challenge an unfair test or court result or who might have few transportation options as a result of legislative shortsightedness.

The editorial also implied that ignition interlocks, which require drivers to blow into a mouthpiece that analyzes blood alcohol level, are good for all people found guilty of drunken driving. The Post appears to be unaware of large problems with the proposed legislation. These include:

· The cost of having enough Motor Vehicle Administration workers to handle the increase in ignition interlocks.

· The inability of a driver to get an MVA hearing after he is accused of violating a court-ordered interlock by failing a test, even though he may have a valid defense.

· The fact that every commercial driver required to get an interlock in his personal vehicle (for an offense committed while driving a personal vehicle) will lose his commercial driver’s license and probably his job.

· The inability of these devices to screen for mouth alcohol, interfering substances and radio frequency interference, and to accurately report results.

· The lack of trust in judges to exercise appropriate discretion that is inherent with a system of mandatory penalties.

Trying to devise a solution that is fair to all concerned parties is not “coddling.”

The writer is a lawyer who defends people accused of drunken driving in Maryland.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | March 31, 2010; 7:01 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, crime  
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Comments

Maybe it is meant to deter more than rehabilitate. This certainly incapacitates the drunk driver and protects society from him/her. Just don't use an alcohol-based mouthwash, ever, you never know when you have to blow a breathalyzer test.

Chris Marsh

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | April 1, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Sir, i realize you are kind of close to the issue, and I would encourage you to step back and look at this from further away if you can.

Drunk driving is always crime and a dngerous one at that. If your clients were prosecuted for battery instead of DUI, the charge would be heinous battery, because the vehcle is an extremely dngerous "weapon".

Interlock is always the solution for those found guiulty. As a convicted drunk driver I can assure you that I am guilty and that the interlock would keep me from driving while intoxicated period. If the device fails and I am inconvenienced, that's the price I pay for committing this horrendous offense against my fellows.

Posted by: treebagger | April 1, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

At the Washington Post, lawyers who defend accused terrorists are good.
Lawyers who defend accused drunk drivers are bad.

Posted by: spamsux1 | April 2, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

You make a reference to the inability to fund the appropriate amount of workers to handle the increase of ingnition interlocks. In Virginia, the person required to have the interlock also pays for all costs associated; everything from installation to monitoring fees. Also, you state the interlocks inability to determine the difference between 'mouth alcolhol' from actual drinking violation. During the training the violator is shown how to use the device and informed of what to do and not to do (i.e. do not use mouth products with alcohol; retest within a time period to invalidate the previous test). Also, the initial editorial is incorrect in stating only repeat offenders with a bac of 0.15 and above are required to have an ignition interlock; first offenders with a bac of 0.15 or above are required to have them installed for a minimum of six months. Repeat offenders are required to have them no matter the bac.

Posted by: desertbarbie | April 5, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

you certainly are a LAWYER looking up at the bellies of whales. most of the dwi education clients that i have seen are charged about $2,000 by their atty. Preety easy money for getting the standard PBJ available to almost ever first offender; especially here in montgomery county. as to the interlock, that would be for those CONVICTED. and in montgomery county, that rarely happens for a first offender.

Yep, my county does in fact coddle drunk drivers!

Posted by: perryrants | April 6, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

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