Give judges discretion in drunk-driving cases
By Sarah Longwell
The Post’s devotion to mandatory minimum sentences in DUI cases is puzzling [“Coddling drunk drivers,” editorial, March 30], considering that a week earlier its editorial board argued against mandatory minimums for crack cocaine possession, praising a new bill for giving “judges a greater degree of discretion” in sentencing low-level drug offenders [“Fairness in sentencing,” editorial, March 23].
Why, then, does The Post oppose giving judges discretion in the cases of marginal, first-time DUI offenders?
It makes sense to mandate in-car breathalyzers for drivers caught with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.15 percent, or those with a previous drunk-driving offense. However, for someone whose impairment level was equivalent to talking on a hands-free phone, a judge should be trusted to decide whether an ignition interlock is appropriate punishment.
My organization opposes mandatory ignition interlocks for marginal first-time offenders, a stance that some have criticized as defending drunk drivers.
But arguing to retain judicial discretion in some first-time DUI cases is no more “pro-drunk driving” than The Post’s editorial is “pro-crack cocaine.” It’s ludicrous to suggest that anyone has an interest, monetary or otherwise, in keeping drunk drivers on the road.
The Post was right to applaud the return of judicial discretion when evaluating drug cases. But advocating against such discretion in low-BAC, first-time offender DUI cases is intellectually inconsistent and bad public policy.
The writer is managing director of the American Beverage Institute.
| April 8, 2010; 7:11 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Maryland, crime | Tags: DUI, Maryland general assembly, Sarah Longwell, ignition interlocks
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