DUI Policy, Rationale, and Criminal Justice
Understanding Why DUI Is a Crime
The act of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), absent an accident or collision, often does not cause actual harm to any individual; thus, it is not a “private wrong,” or tort. It may seem, to a frustrated arrestee, to be a victimless act. However, the DUI act harms society in numerous indirect ways; thus, it is a “public wrong,” or crime. Without even causing physical damage, DUI harms society by:
· Creating fear, stress, and anxiety in sober drivers who are aware of pervasive drunk driving
· Decreasing use of roads by afraid individuals and businesses, thus inhibiting the economy and interstate commerce
· Restricting the perceived freedom of mobility of other drivers, bus riders, bicyclists, and even pedestrians
· Discouraging driving vacations for relaxation, pleasure, and time with family
· Increasing the perception of night and holiday danger, thus depriving working people of relaxation on public holidays
· Decreasing satisfaction with the enforcement of public safety, and thus the justice system.
These factors are not the result of a mere public phobia – DUI carries a high risk of actual harm (such as a collision), combined with a high severity of harm if a collision occurs. People know that drunk driving is dangerous, because it results in 36 fatalities per day, and 1/3 of traffic-related deaths. Because cars are so central to the American lifestyle, the prevalence of drunk drivers has a negative impact on everyone’s lives and productivity. That is why California’s elected officials chose to make a DUI a criminal offense, where the arrestee becomes a criminal defendant and the state of California becomes the plaintiff, even if no actual harm occurred.
Legal System Favors the Accused
Often the DUI arrestee does not initially realize the seriousness of the DUI charge in the eyes of the law. Once the gravity of the charge is recognized, the accused will be in the right frame of mind to learn that the criminal justice system is actually geared in the favor of the accused.
The major factor in the arrestee’s favor is our criminal justice system. Criminal suspects are innocent until proven guilty. They must be proven guilty beyond a “reasonable doubt,” that is, where a normal person would not in the least doubt the suspect’s innocence. If an average person could imagine that the accused possibly could have been driving sober, then the accused must be set free. DUI suspects enjoy the same high burden of proof and protection as those accused of murder. Our system lets many more guilty go free than it convicts the innocent.
With this as a starting point, the DUI accused will be pleased to learn of other factors in his or her favor: the rules of evidence, strategic defenses, and constitutional protections. These are discussed in other articles.
RLG attorneys are experienced in all aspects of DUI law. If you have been arrested for DUI, a criminal defense attorney at RLG will fight to protect your rights. We serve the entire Bay Area.
For outstanding legal representation, please contact RLG for a free consultation: (415) 877-4486
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