Happy 4th of July, the day where Americans celebrate imaginary freedom, and police departments nationwide make millions of dollars violating the rights of nonviolent individuals.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that police can’t forcibly draw blood from individuals suspected of drunken driving without a warrant. However, DUI checkpoints across the country now have judges on site, or on call to issue immediate warrants for cops to take your blood.
Under the pretense of catching drunk drivers, police will be patrolling the streets and setting up checkpoints all over the country this weekend. In some cases they will arrest drunk drivers, in others, they will search and arrest nonviolent drug offenders, while other people may get citations for problems with their vehicle or registration.
Especially for people who haven’t even done anything wrong, these checkpoints are a gross violation of privacy and other natural born rights. Free people should not be stopped and searched or questioned in any way if they are attempting to travel freely. However, we sadly now live in a world where rights like traveling are seen as privileges, to be given and taken by government.
As it stands right now, the way that the state deals with drunk driving is tyrannical and infringes upon everyone’s rights, even people like myself, who hardly ever drink. Economist Jeffrey Tucker wrote an article on this subject and discussed the problems with the status quo while offering some solutions as well.
Laws against drunk driving have vastly expanded police power and done nothing to stop the practice. The best prevention against unsafe driving from drinking has been provided privately: friends, services offered by bars and restaurants, community interest groups, etc. This is the humane and rational way societies deal with social risks. The police have only messed up this process by adding a coercive element that targets liberty rather than crime.
And we can see where this is heading. Texting is now illegal in most places. So is talking on the phone. Maybe talking itself should be illegal. Some communities are talking about banning eating. All of this is a distraction from the real issue.
If our ultimate goals are to reduce driver impairment and maximize highway safety, we should be punishing reckless driving. It shouldn’t matter if it’s caused by alcohol, sleep deprivation, prescription medication, text messaging, or road rage. If lawmakers want to stick it to dangerous drivers who threaten everyone else on the road, they can dial up the civil and criminal liability for reckless driving, especially in cases that result in injury or property damage.
Doing away with the specific charge of drunk driving sounds radical at first blush, but it would put the focus back on impairment, where it belongs. It might repair some of the civil-liberties damage done by the invasive powers the government says it needs to catch and convict drunk drivers. If the offense were reckless driving rather than drunk driving, for example, repeated swerving over the median line would be enough to justify the charge. There would be no need for a cop to jam a needle in your arm alongside a busy highway.
Scrapping the DWI offense in favor of better enforcement of reckless driving laws would also bring some logical consistency to our laws, which treat a driver with a BAC of 0.08 much more harshly than, say, a driver distracted by his kids or a cell phone call, despite similar levels of impairment. The punishable act should be violating road rules or causing an accident, not the factors that led to those offenses. Singling out alcohol impairment for extra punishment isn’t about making the roads safer. It’s about a lingering hostility toward demon rum.
There is no doubt that drunk driving should be discouraged and that solutions to prevent people from driving drunk should be explored. However, it is entirely possible to do this without violating anyone’s rights in the process.
Meanwhile, in police state USA, it is business as usual.
This article first appeared on the Free Thought Project.
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