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Mad at MADD

Written by Dary Matera Subject: Criminal Justice System
I’ve had it with MADD.

Lower blood-alcohol limits, combined with pressure tactics pushing for intensified police scrutiny and outright jackboot oppression, have turned thousands of regular Joes and Sues into .08 Felons.

You know the story. Average hardworking citizen stops off at a sports bar after work to catch a baseball game or hang with the girls. They have two or three beers and feel relaxed. Afterward, they think nothing of hopping into their car and cruising the remaining few miles home. They navigate the route perfectly, breaking no traffic laws, causing no accidents, killing no mother’s kid. Only this evening, they get pulled over. Why? The cops were staking out the joint. Shooting fish in a barrel.

Joe and Sue, who have no clue how to legally regulate their blood alcohol level, fail the test. For the next six months, their lives are hell. They’ll pay $2,500 to $10,000 in fines, court costs and possible legal fees. Their auto insurance will triple. They’ll spend hours in mind-numbing driving safety classes. They’ll serve a mandatory jail sentence in some wretch prison surrounded by real crooks. They’ll be branded criminals, lectured, beaten down and humiliated. They might even lose their job.

In some states, including Arizona, those arrested for minor DUIs now have to attend every preliminary hearing, sheepishly begging time off from work to do so. They can also be served and hassled by the police at their workplace. The stated intent is to embarrassed those arrested –- guilty or innocent -- and force them to bend over, abandoned all hope, and quickly plead guilty instead of opting for their right to a fair trial.

Why the hell are we sitting still for this?

Joe and Sue deserved it, you say? They broke the law. Well, guess who also broke the law in this scenario? The police officer who pulled them over perjured himself in court, falsely testifying that they were weaving to justify the stop. It’s the way the DUI game is played.

In fact, sit in on a DUI trial and you’ll invariably find a prosecutor who knows the cop is lying, a judge with a god-complex who’s aware the prosecutor coached the cop, along with an oily, no-money-down defense attorney who’s going to bleed his client dry. The defendant is the most innocent person in the courtroom.

Left unsaid is why the police stake out some sports bars and nightclubs, chasing away customers, while others, like the high end money pits in every city’s party district, stay cop free? Payoffs? Political pull?

If someone’s clearly impaired and weaving through a school zone at 3 p.m., hit them hard. If someone causes an accident while drunk, add that to the list of crimes. If a driver kills or hurts a fellow citizen while bombed, pile that on the rap sheet. But if someone does absolutely nothing more than drive home perfectly straight without incident on a deserted, kid-free highway late at night, leave them alone.

Yet, those are the vast majority of DUI cases clogging up our overwhelmed legal system. And the growing trend in many municipalities is Zero Tolerance. They prosecute folks for blowing any number at all, even .01s. A friend was run through the system for a .026 - a single beer over a long dinner.

In Texas recently, the impatient cops weren’t even waiting for bar patrons to enter their cars. These modern day storm troopers lurked inside, spying on peoples’ personal drinking habits, and then arbitrarily busted them right on their stools. The reasoning was to arrest the potential violators before they even thought about entering their vehicles.

And why not? We’ve spinelessly accepted all the other abuses the il-legal system has piled on us. This is merely the next step.

Let’s get real for a moment. Consider what would happen if people actually followed the current DUI laws. Ninety percent of the nation’s sports bars and nightclubs would close within months. Half the restaurants would follow. Thousands of people would be out of work. Multiply these numbers statewide and nationally, and you get the picture. A collapsed economy resulting from an overzealous police state.

I’ve never had a DUI. But I’ve been forced to do the street waltz numerous times. Once after leaving a 24 hour supermarket next to a popular nightspot known for great live bands and oppressive police stake outs. The cop said I was weaving, which was a crock, and made me look at his pen and breathe into a machine. An amusing diversion while sober, but a chilling reminder of out-of-control police authority.

Another time, I was yanked to the shoulder at 1:15 a.m. after viewing a late movie. The excuse this time was a drive by shooting report involving a similarly colored car. Fair enough, but how did a shooting investigation suddenly become another pen-and-breathalyzer road dance? Come on. I simply had the misfortune of going home at bar closing time.

Enough with this nonsense. There are plenty of real criminals around to keep honest, upstanding police officers busy. No need for an army of DUI Meter Maids to create a new class of .08 Felons.

Dary Matera

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