Singing Loudly: It's about time - drinking and driving

Singing Loudly

Friday, December 30, 2005

It's about time - drinking and driving

About a year ago (8/21/04) I posted a long post showing that drinking and driving is not illegal under Texas law (or any law). It is drinking enough to put yourself over a statutory limit (either blood level or so that you no longer have control of your faculties) which is illegal.

This week I noticed that the always good Injustice Anywhere and Blonde Justice have posted in agreeance with that sentiment. Apparently there is a new ad campaign that says driving while buzzed isn't illegal. Read their posts and read below the fold if you want more information about why MADD and the National Highway Safety Administration is full of crap.

Just remember when you go out this weekend that it is best to find a designated driver or a cab to take you home. However, if you go out to dinner and have a drink (and you know you haven't hit your limit), you shouldn't worry about the stupid ads that claim if you drink and then drive you'll be arrested for DUI or DWI. Have a Happy New Year and keep safe.

I'm appalled by the recent barrage of ads (usually on Friday and Saturday night television) sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Their "You Drink and Drive. You Lose" campaign propagates the misunderstanding of drunk driving law. In fact, in every state it is perfectly legal to drink and drive.

The Texas Penal Code Section 49.04 ("Driving While Intoxicated") states:

A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place

This requires: (1) A person; (2) commits an offense; (3) intoxicated; (4) operating; (5) motor vehicle; and (6) public place.

Of course, the next step would be to look for the definitions of each of those words: What is a person, what does commit mean, intoxication, operation, etc. The important one in this code is intoxication which is defined at the beginning of the section, 49.01 as:

(A) not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or (B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

The prosecutors can go about this in three ways: showing that you don't have the normal use of your mental faculties by introduction of alcohol (we'll limit it in this case), or you don't have the normal use of your physical faculties by introduction of alcohol, or having an alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit.

What the NHTSA would have you believe is that you can be arrested simply for drinking then driving. Imagine if the penal code had this as the law:

A person commits an offense if the person drinks and then drives a motor vehicle in a public place.

I'm being generous by adding more elements than the NHTSA scare ads depict. The result is still very easy to meet because the definition of intoxication, a very difficult definition to prove, has been removed from the elements. What is more there is now a question of how long after you drink should you wait to drive so that you don't "lose"?

A prosecutor has to bring more to the table than the fact that you drank. You have to actually be a threat to the public because you are driving without the normal use of your mental or physical faculties.

When a Judge recently ordered a man to install a locking device on his car ignition because he drank a six pack of beer per night (with no facts that indicate the person drove while intoxicated - possible civil rights violation?), it seems that this misinformation is causing problems. The government is trying to victimize the mere fact that someone drinks alcohol. Appalling.

When you head out tonight to your favorite restaurant, your neighborhood bar, or the liquor store do not drive if you're intoxicated. However, don't think twice about driving if you've just had a drink with your meal and know that you haven't reached your limit. Be safe, be smart, and you won't lose just because you've had a drink or two.


Actually, the ad campaign says "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving," implying that buzzed driving is illegal.

My argument (like yours, I believe) is that buzzed driving isn't necessarily illegal, depending on your definition of "buzzed."

By Blogger Blonde Justice, at 1:54 PM, December 31, 2005  

These ads are stupid. I understand wanting to keep dangerous drunk drivers off the road, but it doesn't necessarily mean you can't have anything to drink. The only counter ads that I've ever seen are billboards for DWI attorneys which say something like, "Drink, Drive, and Go to Jail....another government lie."

By Blogger Curtis, at 3:11 PM, December 31, 2005  

Happy New Year!!!

By Blogger Aethlos, at 3:10 AM, January 01, 2006  

considering the average person doesn't even know what the illegal level of intoxication is, what it takes to accomplish that level, and how long it takes to wear off, i have no problem with scare tactics preventing people from drinking and driving.

By Blogger Crystal, at 3:30 PM, January 04, 2006  

My answer to that would be that lying about the law does a lot more to damage the jury system than most people think it does. If these groups want the law changed to any drink and drive and you can be arrested -- fax the state representatives.

By Anonymous Curtis, at 8:29 PM, January 06, 2006  

maybe im jaded, but i don't believe "writing your representatives" is a successful method for advocating your position anymore. you should also realize where these people are coming from. family members who have lost a loved one to drunk driving know how much destruction a person can produce when they thought they were a little "buzzed." and if you look carefully at those commercials, that's the real connotation of those messages. they may be implying that being buzzed will land you in jail, but they are also identifying the problems with the mixed interpretations of what people consider to be a buzz when they are actually over the legal level of intoxication.

By Blogger Crystal, at 12:08 AM, January 08, 2006  

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