Is Jail A Fair Punishment for DUI? Ask Dear Abby.

People argue about how impaired drivers should be treated. Opinions vary from give-‘em-a-break to lock-em-up. Legislators from these two camps – and, to be fair, ones with nuanced views and an understanding of the complexities of the issue – do battle to ensure that the laws are protecting citizens while safeguarding the offender’s rights.ask-dear-abby-what-is-fair-punishment-for-dui
One way to resolve an argument is to ask Dear Abby what she thinks, and that is what one drunk driver did. Arrested for driving while taking legal medication and having had three beers two hours earlier, the offender now faced a one-year license suspension and jail. He thinks that jail is an extreme punishment for DUI in this case.

Let’s sum up his opinions (we’ll presume it’s a man for now):

  1. He didn’t put anyone in jeopardy.
  2. He deserves suspension but not jail time.
  3. If they are going to put him in jail, they should have put away the driver who injured his relatives in another incident.

Hmm. Let’s review the facts.

  1. He ignored the warning on the medication label.
  2. Three beers would take 4 hours to leave the body of a 180 lb. man – more for a woman or smaller man. So there would still be some alcohol effect after two hours.
  3. He was on his way to pick up his son. If that son was underage, he’d have been driving impaired with a minor, which is a serious offense in just about every state.

So the point isn’t really whether or not this person deserves jail. It’s that the offender still does not understand the nature of the offense. Opinion #1 is just plain false: he did put himself and others in jeopardy, though luck was with him and no one got hurt.

For the reply, Dear Abby got it right: he is guilty, and it could have been a lot worse. The people involved in the other collision are irrelevant to the case.

Whether or not jail is the answer, this driver – and many others – need a time-out of some sort to come to grips with the crime of drunk driving. Police and courts don’t have the luxury of waiting until someone is injured or killed to prosecute an impaired driver. They need to prevent impaired driving by the means they have. Fines, suspension, ignition interlocks, treatment, education, and yes, jail, are all called up on at some point.

Most people are now aware that drunk driving is dangerous, but this driver’s stubbornness and self-pity is proof that some people still don’t get it.