MADD’s 2009 Proposed Agenda to Curb DWIs in Texas

Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) told the Dallas Morning News in this article what they are pushing for in the 2009 legistlative session, and the two most prominent points are as follows:

  • Sobriety checkpoints
  • Mandatory Ignition Interlock devices on all vehicles, even for first time offenders.

I am not the only person to comment on this.  In fact, one of the blogs I regularly read and subscribe to Grits for Breakfast wrote about this matter already and summed it up with an opinion that I agree with when he wrote:

As for setting up roadblocks, I’ve always disliked this idea at more of a gut level than an intellectual one. Back in the days of the Cold War this was an easier argument to make because totalitarianism had a face so we knew what to compare ourselves to. "Can I see your papers, comrade" used to be a joke Americans made about Russian authoritarianism. MADD would have us turn it into the American way of life.

Simply put, to me an attempt to sweep the whole population (or everyone in a given area, like a road, a neighborhood, or the YFZ Ranch) for criminal offenses is repugnant to democratic values and the notion of liberty, no matter how many states have passed the law. I like the idea, a LOT, that the state must have reasonable suspicion before I can be detained.

I’d support a budget item for the state to pay for ignitition interlocks for repeat offenders when judges think they’re warranted. I think that approach makes sense without breaking the bank. But I don’t approve of MADD’s agenda as they’ve laid it out here and think they’d do more to reduce DWI by expanding use of strong probation like we’re seeing done in drug courts.

While roadblocks have not been used for years in Texas the possibilities for abuse are extreme.  Just imagine, a vehicle is stopped under the guise of looking for intoxicated driver’s … that person and the passengers could be subject to questioning and a search of the vehicle.  What happens when the Driver tells the officer, no, I do not consent to a search of the car (which is what I always recommend).  This is smothered in potentials for abuse. 

In a country that prides itself for providing freedoms for its citizens, the United States is rapidly becoming a police state.  Setting aside my feelings about the "Patriot Act" and other non-sense, if citizens support these changes, we are merely setting ourselves up to give away more rights.  This is the famous "slippery slope" argument, yes.  But, when we have cops out there who are given a second to snoop around in someone’s vehicle, that over-zealous attitude often kicks in and someone is going to jail for something that was otherwise harmless.

Let’s focus on the real problems here and not give the State more power.  Already, a first conviction for DWI in Texas carries penalties far harsher than those of comparable misdemeanors.  Consider this:

  • Surcharges ($1000-2000 for that first conviction) paid annually for 3 years (Thank you MADD) — and this has not curbed the number of DWIs (but MADD said it would);
  • Driver’s License suspensions of varying lengths
  • Community Service
  • Fines up to $2000
  • Defense attorney costs
  • Fees for filing occupational licenses
  • Texas Department of Public Safety fees (reinstatement fees etc)

Be vocal. Be heard.  Take a moment to write your legislature and tell them to vote AGAINST these proposed changes.  Sure, there are compelling stories that MADD can tell to "justify" their desire to get laws passed and stricter penalties in place, but we must always ask, "At what Cost?"

MADD’s agenda will not work, just like it has not worked in the past.  As penalties have increased the numbers for DWIs really have not gone down, and this Austin criminal defense attorney is appalled at the very idea of going forward with more restrictions and  limitations on our freedoms.