OPINION – Many of us recall the sci-fi movie “Minority Report” in which Tom Cruise played a law enforcement officer tasked with enforcing “pre-crime.”
Offenders were brought to justice, not based upon what they had actually done, but rather upon the psychically-divined premise that they might commit a crime in the future.
It certainly made for an intriguing movie plot.
This idea also seems to have inspired certain lawmakers in Utah who seem to hold to the idea wryly expressed by movie outlaw Josey Wales that, “There ain’t no end to doing right.”
This past week, the Legislature passed its 2017 House Bill 155, Driving Under the Influence and Public Safety Revisions, which would lower the blood alcohol content threshold for a DUI offense to .05 percent. While it appears that Utah will be taking a tougher stand on DUI, there is a definite downside to this legislation.
Before going any further, there’s something I need to make clear.
Drunk driving is never OK. Did you get that? Drunk driving is never OK.
I will be stating this several times throughout this column for those who need repetition to hear me drive the point home.
Even so, I can guarantee with near certainty that someone will misconstrue what I’m about to say as an endorsement of drunk driving.
I drive on the roads just like you do. I’ve encountered and called in drunk drivers who were dangerously drifting throughout all the lanes of travel.
I have no desire to see anyone killed or injured by their criminal foolishness.
Having said that, this law is not a good law. It invites the state into the lives of people who may pose no threat whatsoever and criminalizes behavior that may have harmed no one.
I remind you once again that drunk driving is never OK.
The problem is that an arbitrary number is not a reliable indicator that the person behind the wheel is driving drunk. People process alcohol differently based upon body weight, metabolism and personal tolerance.
As automotive writer Eric Peters has noted, some people are better drivers with trace amounts of alcohol in their systems than others are when absolutely sober.
Most people now equate having ‘x’ amount of alcohol in your system – in ever declining percentages – with ‘drunk driving.’ It is an epic victory of demagoguery and propaganda.
The merest potential connection; the flimsiest hint of possibility, no matter how tenuous or stretched. It’s now all you need to be regarded as having actually done something.
For the sake of those whose minds just slammed shut, I again remind you that drunk driving is never OK.
I’m asking you to make the distinction between someone who is impaired or drunk and someone who has exceeded an arbitrary number. A number that may or may not reflect an actual degree of impairment.
Think about it, if it’s such a slam dunk that .05 percent BAC is ironclad proof of impairment, why did law enforcement, for decades, allow people to skate when they blew .07 percent?
I know it’s painful to think outside the limits of conventional wisdom. I understand that you’re simply trying hard to keep your mental universe free of contradictions.
Let me assure you once more that drunk driving is never OK.
A person whose driving is posing an objective risk of harm to others can be held accountable through criminal laws against reckless or distracted driving. What if their driving shows no evidence of recklessness or inattention?
Do we assume that they are driving drunk because the new lower BAC limit says so?
Keep in mind that warrantless DUI checkpoints are a reality in Utah. What the Legislature has done is handed law enforcement a finer net through which to strain the innocent and guilty alike.
Is there any doubt that more people who pose no objective threat will be “caught” thanks to new technicalities that have been created through this legislation?
How does this not equal criminalizing behavior that has harmed no one?
A quick reminder for those who are hearing their pulse in their ears, drunk driving is never OK.
Holding people accountable for their behavior is a proper function of the law. The question that must be answered is when the law should be brought to bear.
Proper government requires that the law be brought to bear in a protective manner, meaning: Justice is pursued only after an objectively measurable harm has occurred.
Lawmakers clearly favor a precrime approach in order to appear “tough on crime” and to justify their existence by creating new layers of law and regulation.
Under their preventive approach, lawmakers seek to punish people for what might have happened.
One last time, drunk driving is never OK.
Then again, neither is artificially increasing the opportunity for the state to insinuate itself into our lives without clear probable cause.
We’d be wise to ask where all this precrime thinking leads.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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