Legalize Drunk Driving

Lew Rockwell slams the criminal State for criminalizing non-crimes.

What precisely is being criminalized? Not bad driving. Not destruction of property. Not the taking of human life or reckless endangerment. The crime is having the wrong substance in your blood. Yet it is possible, in fact, to have this substance in your blood, even while driving, and not commit anything like what has been traditionally called a crime.

What have we done by permitting government to criminalize the content of our blood instead of actions themselves? We have given it power to make the application of the law arbitrary, capricious, and contingent on the judgment of cops and cop technicians. Indeed, without the government’s “Breathalyzer,” there is no way to tell for sure if we are breaking the law.

There is no other crime more damaging to the middle class than that of drunk driving.

The costs incurred for a single DUI are enormous, no matter if you hurt someone by your actions or not.  This 2006 article places the total cost of a DUI around 10,000 to 50,000 dollars.  That is an enormous amount of money for someone making 50,000 dollars a year to cover.  It may take half a decade or more for the average person to recoup the losses incurred.

This article places the number of annual DUIs in the US around 1,396,888.  If we assume an average cost of 15,000 per DUI, that would mean the public is forking over 20,953,320,000 dollars a year to lawyers, insurance companies and the State.

Is the public made more safe?  Obviously the law does next to nothing to deter drunk driving.  Just like drug laws and gun laws, DUI laws are another form of “pre-crime.”  They are laws that attempt to prevent actual crime (hurting someone) from occurring. Punishing someone that hasn’t hurt anyone or damaged anyone else’s property by their actions is wrong.

The State does far more damage to the public through the outlawing of literally harmless actions than it prevents in potential damages and lives lost.  We must consider that the money taken from a DUI offender may have been used to purchase medication, healthcare, or any other number of life saving or extending goods or services.

When calculating how effective DUI laws actually are, one must consider ONLY THE MARGINAL DECREASE in drunk driving that occurs by having the law in place – this number is relatively small. One study showed that lowering the standard from .1 to .08 had no impact at all on traffic fatalities.  Another study compared two nearby cities in Ohio, one with weak penalties for driving drunk, the other with severe penalties for driving drunk, they found no differences in DUI rates between the two.  The reason for this should be obvious. Most people who drive drunk think they are OK to drive and will not get caught, thus the law itself does nothing to deter them from driving at the time they make the decision to get behind the wheel. 

I also think it’s obvious that laws involving BAC levels are patently useless, given that no one tests themselves with a BAC meter after leaving a bar.  How the hell is the public supposed to know if they are over or under the limit?  How many of you could accurately determine your own BAC down to the .01 level, without a BAC meter, after having a couple of drinks? Can anyone name any other law on the books that follows a model where the public is sentenced to severe sanctions for something they are incapable of testing?  That right there should tell you DUI laws are about a money grab.

How many people reading this would be in favor of a law that mandates ignition interlock devices be installed on all cars before their registration can be renewed or approved?  Oh – so you’re against this idea?  Why?  Do you want more people to die?  Because this kind of law would actually do something to reduce DUI rates.  It would give the public a tool that they need to accurately assess their driving condition.   Of course, I’m not in favor of that idea either, but it goes to show that if politicians actually wanted to do something about DUI rates, there are far more effective laws they could pass that would have a dramatic impact on DUI rates.  Technology solves problems, laws generally make things worse.

I should make it clear that I’m not against laws that prohibit reckless driving, reckless endangerment, vehicular homicide, negligent homicide, negligent assault, etc.. If a person is weaving all over the road, damn right the cops should stop them! If a person hits someone because they are drunk, damn right they should be punished! But that’s not how DUI laws work.

Typically a cop waits outside a bar, and then pulls a suspected DUI over for speeding, or a tail light, or an expired plate, or rolling a stoplight, or any other number of contrived rules that everyone is guaranteed to break every time they get behind the wheel, and then the cop does his whole threaten and intimidate routine to get a drinking admission from the suspect.

The public must be treated as adults and be given the adult responsibility to decide on their own if they are capable of driving without hurting themselves or anyone else.  The State should not play the role of the nanny looter.  At a cost of 20 billion dollars a year, society can not afford to enforce yet another victimless law.

Crimes must have victims to be just.

DUI laws combined with the “war on drugs” are pissing 10% of the value of the entire M1 money supply down the gutter every year for the prevention of 400 deaths.

This is like invading two countries every year.

The combined annual cost of the war in Afghanistan AND the war in Iraq is 140 billion a year. We spend around that much enforcing DUI and drug laws.

This is insane.

  • Bollo

    yeah tell the parents of a child who is killed by a drunk driver that the crime is victimless

    • If you kill someone because you’re driving drunk, then obviously there is a victim – hence, the crime is not victimless.

      We have laws against negligent vehicular homicide on the books already.

      • josluizsarmento

        If you drive drunk you increase risk for other people without their knowledge or consent. This constitutes real, objective harm even if you happen not to hit any of them. And it is an infringement on their freedom.

    • Captain Obvious

      Thanks, Michael. Bollo: sleep-deprived driving kills thousands every year and causes tens of thousands of serious accidents annually.
      And yet, there is no crime called “driving while sleepy”. I rest my case.

  • Name

    400 deaths… So every 9 years we save more Americans than those who died on 9/11; while every year more Americans die from alcohol related OR cellphone related car accidents than died on 9/11.

    I guess this means 9/11 isn’t a “big thing” and that the people whose loved ones died in 9/11 are just a statistic.

    Of course, should I get drunk, while holding a gun in a mall… and subsequently shoot “perceived threats” we have a bit of a problem here. I brought my gun for PROTECTION, as do other law abiding citizens; I just happened to decide to take a mind altering substance and acted “confused.”

    A person waving a gun around, while drunk… but not having killed anyone yet hasn’t really committed much in a crime. No one has been hurt, and the gun might not even be… okay it was loaded. But no one was hurt just now, why in the old west movies they use to shoot guns off all the… well he wasn’t hurt BAD! etc. etc.

    At what point should someone stop an obviously dangerous situation? AFTER someone has been killed? WHEN do you take RESPONSIBILITY for your INACTION?

    OR, will you point at all the other “Drunk Gun Users” that managed not to kill people and say “Us Drunken Gun Users have a right to be drunk while discharging our firearms”

    Because a car is deadlier than a firearm.

    • Well, does $50,000,000 per life saved sound reasonable to you?