The Danger in DUI
I have a friend back in Georgia who happens to have a very high tolerance for alcohol. She got a call, while at a bar drinking, requesting she pick up a friend in trouble, and she headed off to help them. She was followed from the bar by a police officer who pulled her over and arrested her for DUI, and yes she was over the legal limit.
She maintains that she was not "drunk," and that her driving was not impaired. I mention this because I do think drunk driving is a serious offense. I had two friends from high school killed by a drunk driver, so I certainly take it seriously.
However, I think that there is a very stark difference between "over the legal limit" and "drunk" or "impaired." For example I would rather get in a car with this friend driving slightly over the legal BAC limit than get in a car driven by a clone of myself who was suffering from sleep deprivation, which I often am since my son was born.
Since the original arrest, a compounding of bad circumstances led to my friend sitting in jail for 3 weeks, consequently losing her job, and now her apartment. Because of all that, there is no possible way she can afford a good lawyer to fight the charges. If she gets convicted it will mean a fine of 300-500 dollars, a year of probation, 40 hours community service, a 250 dollar dui class, at least a year suspension on her license, another fee to get her license reinstated, and finally the possibility of getting sentenced up to 11 months more of jail time.
In the meantime a DUI conviction will make it very difficult to get a new job, and cause her car insurance to skyrocket. All this is for a first offense. Doesn't this seem a little draconian? Yes drunk driving kills, but my friend did not kill anyone. It is not even clear that anyone was in danger.
Back in Texas, I had another friend call me one day (this was several years ago) while driving home from a bar and inform me in the process that she was "really drunk" through slurred speech. I begged her to pull over and told her to get off the phone. She made it home fine. This friend is now a career woman who has no stigma to worry about from her night of reckless driving, but my friend in Georgia will likely have this DUI follow her for years.
Actually, driving while slightly buzzed or worse seems to be widely practiced. I would guess 60-70 percent of the people I have known over the last decade have at some point driven while over the legal blood alcohol limit. I know very few people who would hesitate to jump in the car, and drive out to a friend in need after only consuming a couple of beers. (I wouldn't do it, but just because 2 beers would practically knock me out...) The draconian laws are not even remotely a deterrent for those who do not feel impaired. Nor do the BAC limits seem that accurate at determining impairment.
Ultimately I feel like my friend is being punished for the damages she could have caused, had she actually been impaired and gotten into an accident, and not for the "crime" (driving while over the legal BAC) committed.