'Coddling drunk drivers'? Not quite
By Leonard R. Stamm
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.
| March 31, 2010; 7:01 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Maryland, crime
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