Living in Georgia and having practiced law here a while I know something more about the legal and political environment of the State. In general, it is a broken mess. Yet, every once in a while, something good emerges from the murk of Peach State mediocrity. Recently, a federal judge held Georgia’s unconstitutional garnishment statute a violation of due process. Now, the State Supreme Court has aimed the same barrels at Georgia’s DUI law.
DUI laws, like drug laws (and most laws), are a failure. They do not deter dangerous driving. The continually high numbers of DUI arrests attest to this fact. The true intent should be to punish or prevent harm to the innocent. Other, ancient laws, grounded in Natural Law, can already do that.
The real purposes of modern DUI laws are three-fold:
One, they generate revenue for the useless government.
Two, they allow that government a degree of control over the people. In a free society it should be the other way around.
Third, these laws placate the ignorant, the state-worshipping, and those aggrieved few desperate for corrective action.
Failure aside, some hold dear to DUI enforcement (and not just the MADD moms). Part of this is reasonable. Most people drive and are potentially at risk of encountering an intoxicated motorist. Drunk drivers can afflict harm or death on others which is a bad thing. Other crimes are far worse but are much harder to understand or relate to – treason, currency debasement, suicidal immigration, toxic foreign policy, etc. Those evils are not quite so “in your face.” Still, if any crime is to be prosecuted, the enforcement must be carried out with respect for natural rights. The balancing is precarious but necessary if arbitrary tyranny is not a thing desired.
Georgia law states that by possessing a driver’s license and operating an automobile one automatically and impliedly consents to roadside sobriety and other tests in the case of a suspected DUI. An officer will read a driver an implied consent warning (they all carry little script cards) which, ultimately, gives the driver two choices. One, consent and forgo the rights against unwarranted searches and against self-incrimination. Two, refuse and suffer a suspension of the driver’s license – to the detriment of the right to freely travel.
The right to travel being universal, no state should issue permits for the same. States should also never place a person in a position of choosing which of his freedoms to sacrifice for the expediency of the government. There are proper investigative methods to solve crimes but usually the lazy state is dependent on the suspect’s cooperation or acquiescence. A man from a large metro-Atlanta county put an unusual spin on these concepts as part of his DUI defense.
John Williams was stopped in Gwinnett County for suspicion of driving under the influence. The officer read Williams his consent warning. Williams allegedly consented to a blood test which showed he was, in fact, legally intoxicated. The test would be the State’s primary evidence. Accordingly, Williams filed a motion to suppress the test results. He argued he was too intoxicated at the time, as demonstrated by the test results, to give his consent knowingly. “The defendant wasn’t actually capable of an informed waiver of his constitutional rights,” William’s attorney argued.
The trial court denied the motion but the Supreme Court held such argument must be considered given the importance of a suspect’s intelligent interaction with the legal system.
Catch twenty-two! Prosecutors are now in the position of arguing a DUI defendant was sober – sober enough to waive his critical Constitutional rights in a situation with serious (jail) consequences. If a man is so sober concerning important legal decisions why would he not also be sober enough to operate an automobile?
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As a freedom advocate I do not hold much hope this ruling will have any lasting effects. Trial judges and prosecutors could question the State’s witness as to whether he was satisfied, at the time, the defendant truly understood what he was doing. The General Assembly, ever eager to maintain control over its minions while providing them with the appearance of safety, could similarly change the wording of the implied consent warning.
I’ve seen such catches fall out in the government’s favor before. I’ve heard a state psychologist testify a defendant was utterly insane. So crazed he was a threat to society and himself and, thus, should be held without bond. So psychotic he lives in his own world, detached from ours. But, just for a brief second, while allegedly committing a crime, he knew and understood what he was doing. This happens all the time in America, a place from which honest reasoning has departed.
If the government maintains its war on intoxicated drivers (and it will), then it should rely on independently gathered evidence – evidence which does not involve the suspect’s compromised cooperation. Even better the state could concern itself with real crimes and the victims thereof. If a drunk driver causes property damage or physical harm to another, there are many ways to address the malfeasance. Best of all, government being as failed as any of its laws, it could merely go away.
The best scenario will not happen anytime soon. Government’s hate to admit their failure just as much as they hate you and your rights.