Breath of Oppressive Air

New Mexico legislators are fed up with drunk drivers, even to the point of taking draconian measures to stop it:

Some state lawmakers are convinced they have the answer to solve the D.W.I. epidemic and want to require everyone on the road to take a breathalyzer test before they can start the engine of any vehicle.

Today, the proposal is one very large step closer to becoming law.

A bill requiring an ignition interlock device be installed on every car, truck, bus or motorcycle in New Mexico passed the state house today and is on its way to the senate.

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Color me skeptical. It will be very expensive to retro-fit every single car in New Mexico with a breathalyzer. It will be a huge hassle to force dealerships to add this “feature” to every new vehicle. It will probably require a new state organization to oversee the task and maintain compliance. Will this law deter families from moving to New Mexico? Might they choose a job in another state to avoid puffing into their ignition?

One of the proponents claims that this is actually an economical solution when compared with the costs of incarceration. I’m not convinced that these numbers really add up. It would be interesting to look at how many DWI cases currently pass through the judicial system without incarceration. (This reduces the costs but also the effectiveness of the deterent.)

The cost analysis of this “blanket measure” also makes the assumption of 100% effectiveness. It compares ignition hardware costs directly against the judicial costs, as if DWI arrests will immediately drop to zero. What if a “designated blower” was used? What if some entrepreneurs begins marketing “canned air” as a car starter aid? Would “hotwiring” a vehicle bypass the breathalyzer? Would Valet Parking also be made illegal?

What effect does this law have on those with medical conditions? Is there an exemption for drivers with asthma or emphysema? If there are exemptions, then what about those drivers who qualify for an exemption yet also suffer from an alcohol problem?

Finally, it seems that this new law is intrusive enough that it may actually violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I believe that forcing those convicted of this crime to have these devices on their vehicles is acceptable because there is probable cause. Forcing the entire populace to comply with this kind of intrusive measure due to the criminal acts of a few is wrong.

This does not seem to be the silver bullet it is purported to be. If New Mexico (or any other state) is prepared to take drastic measures to curb this problem, then here are my recommendations:

DWI Penalties by Conviction Number

  1. “DWI” is tattooed prominently upon your forehead for 1 year.
  2. 1 Year of Jail time plus “DWI” is tattooed on your forehead for 5 years.
  3. 5 years of jail time plus “DWI” is tattooed on your forehead for the remainder of your pitiful life.
  4. Physician assisted death by alcohol poisoning.

Compliance on the tattoo would be enforced via monthly visits to a parole officer. It would be illegal for any vendor to sell alcohol to anyone wearing the “DWI” tattoo. The same penalties apply to anyone who supplies alcohol to an individual wearing the “DWI” tattoo who then commits a DWI, except that their tattoo would read “DWI Assist”.

The only possible issue with this one is that the tattoo might be considered “unusual punishment”. (Maybe not!) Of course, once you start doing it, it becomes much less unusual. Personally, I find forcing law-abiding citizens to blow into their ignition because of the crimes of others rather unusual.

King of Fools

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  1. Jim February 18, 2004
  2. Kevin February 18, 2004
  3. Jalal Abu Jarhead February 18, 2004
  4. King of Fools February 18, 2004