Oklahoma Threatens to Go All the Way: Ban Alcohol Sales to DUI Offenders

Cork in wine bottleAn Oklahoma state senator has proposed a new law that would ban persons with a DUI from buying any alcohol at all. The law, if passed, would require people with DUI convictions to be issued a replacement ID with the words ”alcohol restricted” on it. It would be against the law to sell such people alcohol, or otherwise supply them with it. The bill, proposed state Senator Patrick Anderson, was introduced to help reduce the number of deaths from alcohol-related crashes.

Does Banning Work?

There is evidence that banning substances can affect consumption, such as smoking bans in public and work places, which have led to reductions in smoking in general. However, the proposal has attracted objections on several grounds:

  • Enforcement – Anyone selling beer, wine or spirits would have to check the ID of every customer, making shopping a more time-consuming process.
  • Exceptions – What about a baker who sells a rum cake to a customer? What about religious rites that employ wine? If you’ve invited guests for dinner, can you buy some wine to bring home for them?
  • Overreach – Alcohol is legal for adults in all 50 states. Can you really forbid someone from purchasing something legal?

The measure was proposed for an old reason: something must be done.

But “something” is not “anything.” In fact, there is already an effective measure available for repeat DUIs – it acts not only as a deterrent, but as an actual preventive: the ignition interlock. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Currently Oklahoma requires ignition interlocks for first-time offenders only if they were arrested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater – almost twice the legal limit for intoxication. On the other hand, 24 states now require interlocks for all first-time DUI offenses with BACs over .08. And states with those laws have seen a reduction in alcohol-related road deaths.

Senator Anderson’s proposal is ambitious and well-intentioned, but it’s also untested and requires a lot of people to get on board. Ignition interlocks, on the other hand, are proven to do the job, and they require action only by the offender and those who install and monitor the interlocks.

Oklahoma needs to go with the proven solution – ignition interlocks.