We see two major areas of concern with harsh DUI laws: 1. The current approach fails to protect the innocent; and 2. The focus on first-time offenders should be on education, evaluation, and treatment (if necessary), rather than punishment.
1. Protecting the innocent
We call for specific changes to protect innocent drivers from the DUI dragnet.
a. Require a second breath test
A single breath test is not sufficiently reliable. There is too much risk of error in the machine and police procedures. A second breath test would ensure that the results are more reliable.
b. Offer a blood test
Similar to (a), giving the accused the opportunity to have a blood test would further protect the innocent and provide greater assurance of reliability.
c. Cameras on all police cars and in all police stations
Juries should be able to see whether the accused really had slurred speech or impaired motor coordination. Cameras also protect police from false accusations.
2. First-time offenders
The current focus is on punishing offenders. Such punishment is unnecessary and less helpful at the goal (reducing future drunk driving).
a. The continued prevalence of drunk driving shows that current education efforts are not working. For example, one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on their record, according to the MN DPS.
b. The focus should be on educating first-time offenders, making sure they understand both the societal consequences of drunk driving, as well as the legal consequences.
c. At the same time, first-time offenders should be evaluated for alcohol and substance abuse, and for other mental health problems. Getting treatment to those who need it will do far more to protect society than fines, probation or jail.
d. Current punishment schemes impose horrific costs on offenders. This is particularly unfair to poor and middle-class offenders, who have more trouble paying the substantial fines or hiring lawyers to help mitigate the damage.