Tuesday, June 01, 2010
DUIs and politics
We at VUI are all for that crackdown and frankly say if you are drunk, don't drive. You are not important enough to risk peoples lives with your behavior.
Normally, there is a groundswell of support for law enforcement in getting drunk drivers off the road. However, lately, DUI arrests of ex politicians have some political factions in a fit. They are actually contending at the local gathering places and on website comment sections that law enforcement officers are targeting people for political reasons and giving their friends an undeserved break.
Frankly, some of those making such comments are really self important and they actually believe that a deputy sheriff or a state trooper actually knows who they are, knows their politics and is out to get them. It is hard to argue with people with such a delusional sense of self importance.
That said, there is a problem with the DUI system in South Carolina. South Carolina simply does not have the money to have BAC testing units in every patrol car. So, a police officer has to make a call once he gives the field sobriety test. Most of the time, the officer's call to make the arrest is the right one. Sometimes, the suspect blows well below the legal limit and is guilty of just being clumsy in a field test. Frankly, a good many of us would have a hard time passing it stone cold sober.
Such cases are not limited to politicians or police officers. Indeed, for every ex politician arrested for DUI who blew well below the legal limit, there are at least ten average citizens who dealt with the same situation. There is not a county in South Carolina in which something like that has not happened.
That is the DUI system in South Carolina. Police officers deal with limited resources, a complex DUI law, and frankly, do the best that they can to make sure some drunk guy does not hit you and your family on the roads. Sure, a police officer might make a mistake and arrest a sober person for DUI. That happens. But, it is a huge leap to go from contending the arresting officer made a bad call to contending the arresting officer was out to get someone.
We can blame the media for that leap. The media is quick to go into a frenzy about the arrest of a politician, police officer or celebrity for something like a DUI. But, when the suspect is cleared, the media is nowhere to be found. They are simply too lazy to do follow up stories clearing people who were arrested due to some police officer's bad call. There is no way that media types are going to dig and work and report about the system that police officers work under.
Most law enforcement officers do not care about this or that political point of view, especially on duty. They often do a thankless job, being on the front lines in dealing with people most of us hope we never have to deal with. Charging them with being motivated to score political points is insulting to the men and women who put on a uniform, strap on a firearm, and hold the line. Indeed, an outstanding criminal defense lawyer told me once that he had nothing but respect for law enforcement officers. He made them do their jobs with his courtroom tactics, but he never questioned their honor and their motivation.
For those of you who like to compare the local Sheriff to a Nazi and his officers as "jack booted thugs," because one of your buddies got locked up for DUI and blew below the legal limit, well, forgive VUI for not joining you in your indignation. While mistakes can and do happen, law enforcement officers do their best to hold the line. Besides, when a drunk driver hits your car, or someone is breaking in your home, and you dial 911, are you going to spew out your political remarks to the officer that shows up to render you assistance? Chances are you will want that "jack booted thug" to hold the line for you.