Most of us would probably cooperate, and only the more experienced would first think to want a lawyer and know which specialist lawyer to call.
And, how serious is the other guy's DWI? How should we, outside of criminal law proceedings, regard a one-time or repeat DWI offender? Former Anoka County resident and former Minnesota Senator, Rod Grams, who is now playing the gnat in Jim Oberstar's kitchen by running against the solidly entrenched Iron Ranger in Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District this year, thinks the other guy's DWI can be quite critical to an election. We learn as news that:
Grams — nationally seen as vulnerable going into the [2000 Senate] election — was defeated by millionaire Mark Dayton.It is awsome to think this might be true -- that it might be more than making excuses, or playing a blame game of might-have, could-have, on Sen. Grams part.
“I thought we had momentum. I thought we had a chance to win,” said Grams, who said his campaign was badly outspent.
The revelation concerning Texas Governor George Bush’s old DWI arrest just before Election Day may have had a cooling effect, Grams opined.
Consider what Grams was saying, loosing an election over: A DWI that was not the candidate's own; not a pattern of two or more offenses; and not within the past dozen years or so; but far more remote in time.
The Threat of Carnarge on the Roads Should Be Stopped
Whatever the correctness of Sen. Gram's speculation, driving while intoxicated is a serious thing - a crime - and it puts other peoples' families at risk of death, dismemberment, or property damage. Even those lucky to avoid injury face nuisance, trouble and travail in dealing with reluctant, delaying insurers.
All traffic statistics of any merit show the risks are greater of serious disabling injury and fatality, for auto accidents where one driver in a mishap was impaired.
Insurers raise rates in proportion to their taking on a greater risk, for a driver with a conviction or arrest record.
But how should the public judge an official's or community leader's actions? If the scout troop leader drives drunk, is the judgment that it does not affect the troop, or that it sets a quite bad example?
There is no simple answer.
In Feb. 2001, about the time the three Ramsey councilmembers now up for reelection began terms in office, MPR reported:
A new poll finds most Minnesotans support stiffer penalties for drunk drivers. The Minnesota Public Radio-St. Paul Pioneer Press poll finds more than half of respondents want to lower the legal blood alcohol level to .08. They also support raising the penalty for multiple DWIs to a felony.[emphasis added] The MPR online item indicates there are no easy answers, and cost is always a factor, but attitudes are tightening:
Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the Senate Crime Prevention Committee, says she's not surprised by the poll's results.[emphasis added] McCloud, a lawyer known for beating the system, says the repeat offender is the major focus of concern, the main problem to face and fix.
"It is no longer socially acceptable to drink and drive like it was 15, 20 years ago. I think now the question is, what are we doing about it. I think there's been a sea change," says Ranum.
But one defense attorney says the public's support is misplaced. Attorney Sam McCloud says he'll get richer if DWI laws get tougher, because he'll have more business. But from a taxpayer point of view, he says it's a mistake to spend more money to punish drunk drivers. He says the state needs to develop smarter ways of identifying drunk drivers who are likely to do it again.
"We've never solved an addiction by punishing somebody. The bottom line is, punishment is not the answer. We need to intervene in these people's lives and we need to get them real help, real significant, meaningful help. We need to do it early on before they get four or five DWIs," says McCloud.
This partly fits a side-bar table MPR presented, asking the question:
Have you ever driven a motor vehicle after consuming enough alcoholic beverages to feel your judgment or physical reflexes were impaired?The answer: Yes: Statewide, 46% had, 60% of questioned men had, 32% for women. Never: Statewide, 52% had not, 37% men had not, and 67% women had not. Remaining percentages were those not responding. One factor in the higher male incidence, is that couples out drinking together end up more frequently with the man driving home.
The key word in the question, however, is ever. For men, a distinct majority admit it, at least once [without knowing whether ever caught impaired].
Yet, most of us have never had a drunk driving police stop. Hence, there has to be a gulf between "ever" and being caught. It is frequency of being on the road drunk that correlates with having arrests and convictions. Yet this is a difficult correlation to quantify. In an authoritative, DOJ study, arrests are down since the mid-1980's, DWI arrests of white offenders are, percentage wise, higher than for other misdemeanor or higher crimes, and where statistics exist, usually drinking was for 3 - 4 hrs prior to police contact on the road. But no reliable number was found online for "drivers are on the road xyz times drunk for every single time one is stopped," and the nature of the number sought shows reasons why reliable statistics appear absent.
If caught more than once, we must assume the percentages of multiple times on the road drunk must have been quite high. An indicative factor is that law enforcement estimates are that an arrest results for only a quite small percentage of cases where impaired drivers take to the road.
Former Governor Ventura, in office when MPR published, is quoted this way:
"Everybody wants you to crack down on it, and then all of a sudden they realize this is going to cost - how much? Maybe they ought to look at it and say, what will it cost you if it's your son or daughter, your mother or father or friend, who's killed by a drunk driver? How do you put a dollar value on that?" says Ventura.
That is sensible way to view things, and when phrased that way it is hard to minimize or discredit societal concern.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, "MADD," has been a leading voice for reason and responsibility, nationally and in Minnesota. Unfortunately, Minnesota-MADD is presently rebuilding their website, but keep the link and keep checking, for when they are fully back online.
MADD, national, has an up-and-running site, providing much information and guidance.
What You Can Do
Join MADD, and law enforcement professionals, and say, "Shame on you," and more, to convicted drunk drivers - even when they have managed to contrive to skate after a conviction, on a technicality on appeal.
It is the right thing to do. For the scout troop leader. For the otherwise solid family man. As well as for the wife beater or child abuser; it is not respectable or acceptable to be a drunk driver. Or it should not be.
No drunk driver should put my family members, yours, or himself at risk on the roads of Minnesota. It should never happen. No repeat offender in, say the dozen years since 1993, should be cut any real slack at all. He has acted criminally, and been a serious threat to others.
BOTTOM LINE: I am a Ramsey City Council Candidate, running in part to see our Police Chief and staff tighten the screws on drunk driving. I doubt my opponent would credibly say the same.