I recently came across media reports about a man who was jailed in Pennsylvania on charges of his ninth DUI. Since he has the right to be presumed innocent while is current case is on going I will instead refer to his history of eight DUI convictions. However, he is not the only one, many states have reported drivers who also have a high number of DUI convictions yet still re-offend. My complaint is that lawmakers are not doing the right things to keep problem drunk drivers off the road.
Politicians are being pushed by MADD and other DUI lobbies to enact stricter penalties for repeat DUI offenders. Currently, under certain circumstances, a person convicted of a third and subsequent DUI in Pennsylvania faces from 1-5 years in jail. There have been many proposals to raise the penalty range and even make a repeat DUI a felony in PA. Lawmakers supporting these bills believe that harsher penalties will deter people from getting behind the wheel while drunk. This, however, completely ignores the reality of DUI.
In many cases, especially when dealing with problem drinkers, these people are not thinking about consequences when they get behind the wheel. Beyond any amount of jail time is the very real possibility of death when driving drunk. If death is not deterring them, then it is highly unlikely that additional jail time will. Under typical circumstances, DUI is not a crime of premeditation and deliberation but one of poor planning and/or lack of judgement due to temporary impairment. Simply put, a person drinks too much to the point where they are too drunk to make a sound, rationale and fully conscious decision never thinking about the consequences of DUI.
Lawmakers need to focus on effective educational and treatment programs to help people with drinking problems overcome their addiction. Instead of being condemned out-right, and expensively warehoused, they should be treated like patients who need help. By showing concern for this person and helping them overcome their illness, lawmakers would be helping them as well as helping society. Increasing penalties isn’t solving the problem and it really never will.