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August 14, 2005

Drunk Driving Laws... Unconstitutional?

So ruled a Fairfax Co. (Va.) judge, deciding that the presumption of being under the influence at .08 blood alcohol content denied defendents the presumption of innocence.

I think we could get too silly about drunk-driving laws, but I think here the judge is just being an idiot. You can have a law saying that you can't drive if your BAC is .08 or above, whether you're drunk or impaired or not. The law would be against driving with a BAC at that level, not necessarily against whatever effect it has on you.

And that's basically what these laws do.

Perhaps, in the interest of formalism, these laws should be rewritten, so that they do not say you are presumed under the influence at .08, but rather simply that you are committing a violation with a BAC of .08 or more (no presumption of being under the influence; you just can't drive with that BAC).

If that's what the judge demands, fine. Law is a formalistic thing, so if he wants to be a bear on formalism, so be it. But rewriting the laws will take ten minutes and the net effect will ultimately be the same.

Saying that a test showing you're at .08 or above denies you the presumption of innocence is like saying a fingerprint match showing your fingerprints on a murder weapon denies you the presumption of innocence. Some evidence is so strong that it makes life tough for you in court, and it's very hard to rebut; this judge seems to feel that such very-strong evidence is therefore unconstitutional.

So, if you've got overwhelming, smoking-gun evidence against you, you walk free. You can only be convicted on sketchier evidence.

Make sense? Not to me.

That said, let's not go anywhere lower than .08 with these laws, huh?

Thanks to Trey Evans.

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posted by Ace at 05:47 PM

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