Thursday, July 7, 2011

Punished for Responsible Behavior

Punished for Responsible Behavior
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 7, 2011

Make no mistake – I, in no way, condone drinking and driving. In fact, the penalties for such an egregious offense are not nearly severe enough.

Strike one should cost the intoxicant his or her driver’s license for two years and a $10,000 fine payable to a drunk driving victims’ fund. Strike two should cost the guilty party his or her driver’s license for life – yes, life, along with a $50,000 fine. Should a drunk driver kill someone a death sentence should be attached. There is no excuse for any person to slide behind the wheel of a vehicle having imbibed beyond the legal limit.

That said, a recent decision made by the Indiana Supreme Court upholding the conviction of a woman for public intoxication while riding in a vehicle as a passenger is outrageous.

Opting to do the right thing and not operate her vehicle, Brenda Moore took the responsible path and enlisted a friend to drive her home. However, for the offense of a burned out license plate light, Moore was arrested and charged with public intoxication.

While the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the initial conviction, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld that conviction in a decision it reached on June 28. The Indiana Supremes voted four to one retaining Moore’s conviction, noting that the law was properly obeyed as public roads are considered public places.

However, was Moore in public by riding in her vehicle? If so, does anyone riding on a bus or other mode of transportation run the risk of facing arrest should they be under the influence of alcohol when they avoid driving their own vehicle? It seems like a classic Catch-22 – damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

If the letter of the law has been appropriately followed, the intent certainly was not. Clearly Moore was attempting to behave in a legal and appropriate manner by responsibly choosing not to drive herself home knowing she was polluted by alcohol. For her sober decision, Moore should not have been subjected to arrest.

Certainly this is no plea to ease the laws as they stand. That would simply be injudicious. Instead, an intoxicated person riding in his or her own vehicle or even a public mode of transportation not causing any harm to another person or creating a disturbance should not be charged with a crime. It is essential the Indiana legislature revisit this law and amend it.

Sanford D. Horn is an educator and writer living in Westfield.

1 comment:

  1. Does this mean that Indiana bars will have to be connected with hotels or have something like kindergarten mats for their patrons to sleep on after last call instead of calling them a taxi?