My plan tonight is to remain true to my New Years Eve tradition. I’ll be fast asleep by 10 p.m. Your plans may differ. If they do, and if they involve a glass of champagne (or some other libation with the potential to enliven your evening), you should be concerned about driving home.
The nature of such concerns vary. Don’t drive drunk. You don’t want to harm anyone. You don’t want to be arrested. You don’t want a couple of police officers drawing your blood on the side of the road. But not driving drunk may fall short of saving you from any of these potential dangers.
Via Charles Platt at the Legal Satyricon, California DUI lawyer Lawrence Taylor offers the text of a speech he’s developed and given over the years. Having specialized in DUI defense since 1979, he’s had the opportunity to live through the development of the law, and it shows.
The speech, The DUI Exception to the Constitution, is long, detailed and thorough. My practice has never included DUI/DWI defense, and I defer to those far more familiar than me, but his description comports with my memory of how the law, and policy, developed over the years, and how drunk driving went from a hard offense, one based on actual conduct of drivers, to an absolutist offense, divorced from any particular danger, proven despite known scientific failure and devoid of the constitutional protections otherwise afforded.
Here’s a bit to whet your whistle.
I would like you to imagine for a moment that you’ve gone to a friend’s house for dinner. In the course of a very good dinner you’ve had a couple of glasses of a good Merlot [Edit. Note: ?] and it is now time to drive home. I would like you to imagine that you are on your way home — and, I will tell you, by the way, that two glasses of wine will not, in any state, put you under the influence of alcohol or over the legal limit of .08. As you are driving along the highway, you see ahead of you some flashing lights and barricades and police cars cordoned across the highway, with flashing lights directing you into an increasingly small channel. And, as you go in, you are stopped and two police officers approach you and stick a flashlight in your face and say, “Breath on me. Have you been drinking tonight? Please step out of the car.”
Some of you say, “Well, that can’t happen in the United States. We have the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which says police officers have to have probable cause to stop you.”
Of course, we know better. Read it all. It’s excellent. And get home safe tonight, no matter what your plans.
Happy New Year!