No Ociffer, Avvo Said I’m Not Drunk

In one sense, this is a sign of responsibility.  In another, this melding of technology with quasi-lucidity just went over the top.  As reported by Carolyn Elefant, Avvo has come up with application for the iPhone that steps into a very murkey world, drunk driving.

So, let’s say that you’ve been laid off from your Biglaw job and you go out drinking to drown your sorrows (or celebrate your freedom). En route to your next destination, you get pulled over. So who are you going to call? Your ex-colleagues, most of whom have probably never seen the inside of a courtroom? Your mom? No worries — because if you have an iPhone, you have a lawyer. Avvo, a lawyer directory/ratings site just announced the launch of a new iPhone application, dubbed “Last Call” that suggests the names of top DUI lawyers in the area from the Avvo directory. 

But “Last Call” is more than an ugly excuse for marketing lawyers to drunk drivers.  The front end tries to inform first.  As described by Techflash :

Dubbed “Last Call,” the app lets users log the number of drinks they consume during a set period.  It measures those drinks — whether beer, wine or a cocktail — against a person’s gender and weight. If the blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit, the “Last Call” service offers numbers for local cab companies.

If the driver chooses to drive anyway and gets nailed (or nails someone else in the process), then it provides the Avvo list of lawyers, and you better hope they got the ratings right.

Avvo CEO Mark Britton is very enthusiastic about this new application.

“Last Call is awesome because on the front end we can help you understand where you are in your alcohol absorption,” said Avvo CEO Mark Britton. “But, secondarily, if you have drunk too much and you need a taxi on the one hand or you have been picked up and need a DUI lawyer, you can get both of those in real time.”

I wonder whether some developer at Avvo field tested the concept at the local bar and grill, numerous times, before declaring it a winner?  There are many areas where this app could fail, from inputting error (hey, you’re drunk, right?) to claims of encouraging drunk driving by the false sense of security of knowing that a list of DUI attorneys is only a click away.  This is a far cry from “just say no.”

On the other hand, when the cop grabs your iPhone at the time of arrest and sees that you’ve used the application, input information that showed you to be intoxicated and drove anyway, even the best DUI attorney will have his hands full explaining that away.

This is a risky direction for Avvo, though Mark seems to understand this and has decided to move ahead anyway.

Avvo could be opening itself up to potential legal issues, but Britton said they put the proper disclaimers in place. A description of the service in the iPhone store says that “Last Call is provided for entertainment purposes only.”

Get that?  “Entertainment purposes only,” so if you can’t find a decent movie to watch, get drunk and play with Avvo’s Last Call for amusement.  It’s always amusing as well to contrast the marketing with the legal disclaimers, as it would be wrong to expect the app to serve the purpose for which it’s sold.  No detrimental reliance here.  It would be wrong.  Wouldn’t it, Mark?

Certainly, Avvo’s venture into the hazy world of drunk driving is more consistent with its stated purpose then including paid lawyer advertising on its website in direct conflict with its claims of free lawyer marketing to benefit consumers.  And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find other apps to follow, “Murder Tonight,” “Dime Bag,” “Hey Kid, Want Some Candy?”  There are as many possible applications as there are crimes.  Leave it to American ingenuity to capitalize off our tendency to violate the laws we love so much.

Is this a good trend?  It’s not entirely clear that it’s not, though it seems like it’s fraught with problems, negative policy incentives and unintended consequences.  On the other hand, as some drunken kid stumbles out of a bar toward his BMW (hey, this is only available on the iPhone), what are the chances that the first thing running through his mind is, “Shouldn’t I download an app to tell me if I’m drunk and provide the names of local DUI lawyers?”  And even if he did, what are the changes he would download some Mario Brothers game instead, fingers missing the button by mere millimeters?

But assuming that anyone does use this app, the day will come when a drunk will drive, an accident will happen, a death will occur, and Avvo’s “Last Call” will figure prominently.  What follows is anyone’s guess.

Still, there are some aspects of this app that could be helpful if used properly and under the right conditions.  Now if only the app would have a button that asserts the right to remain silent and refusal to take a field sobriety test.