DA John Bradley Wants Your Blood This Weekend

Posted in Commentary, Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 4:25 pm by wcnews

WillcoWired has the story, Blood samples from DWI suspects will be taken this weekend.

For a more sane discussion of DWI law head over th Grits where they’ve been doing a series of posts on the subject of DWI:

DWI: A social problem masquerading as a crime wave?

This discussion raises a number of fascinating questions to which I don’t know the answers (and probably no one does). For starters, what options besides criminal sanctions might reduce DWI, potentially at a lesser cost? How about expanding public transportation? Or maybe taxing alcohol to fund a program of rides home from bars? As with cigarette smoking (which has declined more than drunk driving over a comparable period), TV ads might be more effective at reducing drunk driving than anything a cop can do.

Another question: How much do criminal sanctions deter drunk driving? Punishment only prevents wrongdoing if its certainly applied. In the case of drunk driving, where Bennett estimates officers arrest one drunk driver out of every 114 trips, most drunk driving brings no penalty and thus likely little deterrent. (As Matlock emphasizes, most offenders are more worried about their license suspension than any criminal culpability.)

How much do current DWI laws cost to enforce? It’s hard to tell because costs are divvied up among all sorts of state, county and municipal jurisdictions, with some occasional federal money thrown in to boot. (A back of the napkin estimate indicates Texas spends between $80-100 million per year on prison for felony DWIs alone; most DWIs, however, are misdemeanors handled at the county level.) Given the limited deterrence factor of one arrest per 114 drunken trips, would we see a greater reduction in drunk driving if the same resources went to non-punitive means of reducing drunk driving? Maybe.

If DWI is worth deterring as a public policy then it’s worth paying to deter. Indeed, we’re already paying some unknown amount on a pure enforcement approach that yields limited results. Is criminalizing DWI the best way to go, or does the tactic soak up money that could be used for more effective approaches?

And a couple of follow-ups:

Should states’ anti-drunk driving campaign shift to civil side of the courthouse?

Debating DWI breath test accuracy from ‘The Defense Perspective’

Whether one agrees or disagrees with taking the types of new approaches to DWI mentioned above, it’s pretty obvious what were doing now isn’t doing much to fix the problem.

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » Never saw this coming - UPDATED said,

    November 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    […] take on the dismissal. The part that’s always been ironic about this story is there’s a DA in Williamson County getting sheriff’s to take people’s blood if they refuse to blow, and soon-to-be-former Rep. Krusee (R-Didn’t Blow), used the exception […]

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