How Dare the Police Enforce the Law I Wrote!

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Months after a D.C. woman gets hauled in for driving after drinking a single glass of wine, prompting the D.C. council to revise its moronic DUI laws, The Washington Post asks how the law got that way in the first place:

On July 7 of [1998], then-council member Sandy Allen tried to tack an amendment onto the open-container law to lower the level at which a driver could be considered intoxicated from .05 to .03 and below.

On July 13, according to the thick legislative record, Allen again brought up the amendment and asked that it be attached to Schwartz's bill. There was no discussion. All three committee members—Allen, Sharon Ambrose and Harry Thomas—voted in favor.

Allen said in an interview yesterday that she does not remember proposing the legislation. An aide to Ambrose said that neither she nor Ambrose remembers the amendment. Thomas died in 1999.

"I think we were trying to minimize the number of alcohol-related fatalities in the region," Allen said. "It was not my intention to have a zero tolerance policy. That was the police, using their own discretion in how they interpreted the law."

Whole thing here.

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  1. Give her a break. She was totally wasted when she voted that through.

  2. And some people wonder why libertarians are leery of the government. 🙂

  3. Sandy Allen, meet Carrie Nation, Carrie, Sandy.

  4. Sandy Allen, meet Carrie Nation, Carrie, Sandy.

  5. .05 to .03 and below.

    Does that standard apply to public intoxication as well? If it does, anyone having a drink in DC is a criminal.

  6. David,

    Breathing the air inside a bar makes one a drunk driver in D.C. After all, I am sure there are some alcohol molecules floating around in their from the drink guns. 🙂

  7. I dunno. It seems to me that anyone who can’t remember laws that he or she debated and passed has been making altogether too much law. This is somewhat akin to the situation in the Congress and State legislatures, where elected representatives have no idea what they’ve passed because they didn’t actually read the bills they endorsed with their votes. These are shameful situations, however you look at them.

  8. Sandy Allen, meet Carrie Nation, Carrie, Sandy.

    …and this is Carrie’s Ax.

    On a historical side note, why the saloon owners and customers didn’t treat that bible-beating, property-destroying witch to a richly deserved hail of gunfire, I’ll never now.

  9. We have tried making a crime of drinking alcohol, and that has failed. We learned that people will still drink alcohol, no matter how severe the penalty, no matter how unsavory the characters who provide it.

    Turns out, we have been looking at the DUI problem from the wrong angle all this time. Since it is impossible to prevent all alcohol consumption, the only logical way to prevent DUI is to outlaw driving.

  10. If you have 1/4 of a drink, you should not drive for at least 36 hours. That is the time for all the alcohol to be completely out of your blood. Any detectable amount of alcohol could get you a DUI if the cop perceives that you are intoxicated. In NY you could legally be charged with homicide if you have an accident after a single drink mixed with any drug, even OTC drugs. I am not joking.

  11. Akira,

    When people dress their plans up as religion, they get a free pass.

  12. Police officers in D.C. are subjected to random drug tests. Do you think they’re tested for alcohol too? I mean, if driving with .03 is bad, driving and carrying a gun with .03 must be even worse, right?

  13. Sandy Allen held the council seat currently occupied by one Marion Barry. Nuff said.

  14. No one ever seems to think of endogenous alcohol when passing these idiot laws. I suppose that maybe they are all ID proponents that think our bodies ability to breakdown alcohol (primarily through alcohol dehydrogenase) was magically put there by Dionysus who foresaw us all getting tanked in his honor, but it seems more likely that this ability evolved in response to internal production of alcohol long before we started fermenting things.

    Most of the body’s production actually comes from the flora and fauna in our intestines and is generally kept in check (BAC less than 0.01%), however, there can be variance to this where some one who hasn’t been drinking can show measurable levels.

    Another scenario is that some of their alcohol related deaths are actually wrong due to increases in BAC post-mortem. While alcohol is still produced by the little critters in our gut after we die, there’s no longer production of the enzymes that break it down. This leads to increase in post-mortem BAC which can be problematic for forensic scientists

  15. I’ve heard that drinking orange juice can also result in a measurable difference in one’s BAC. Any truth to that?

  16. Police officers in D.C. are subjected to random drug tests. Do you think they’re tested for alcohol too? I mean, if driving with .03 is bad, driving and carrying a gun with .03 must be even worse, right?

    No,they work for the government and are therefore capable of great feats that us mere mortals are not.

  17. mediageek,

    I’ve not heard about OJ increasing BAC, so I don’t know one way or another. I do know that OJ is often drunk by the control groups in human alcohol experiments (vodka and OJ for the drinkers). If these controls then show measurable BAC, this may have been mistakenly attributed to the OJ, whereas non liquid consuming controls would have been as likely to show some measurable BAC. Just a guess.

  18. mediageek,

    I know that diabectics are known to have false-positives.

  19. Seems like a grand conspiracy to increase metro ridership to me….. 🙂

  20. I’ve heard that drinking orange juice can also result in a measurable difference in one’s BAC. Any truth to that?

    Yes, any fruit juice for that matter due to natural fermentation.

    OJ will get you a DUI and suspended license for life.

    but it seems more likely that this ability evolved in response to internal production of alcohol long before we started fermenting things.

    Likely, plus also from natural fermentation in fruit. All herbivorous or in our cas omnivorous mammals have the ability to detoxify due to evolution. This is why alcohol is so much more toxic to a dog or cat. Carnivores have less ability.

    (primarily through alcohol dehydrogenase)

    And at high BACs the MEOS.

  21. “Yes, any fruit juice for that matter due to natural fermentation.”

    Though I add at very low levels unless spoiled.

  22. Also, don’t forget… bread.

    http://www.duiblog.com/2005/03/08

  23. “Seems like a grand conspiracy to increase metro ridership to me….. :)”

    Yeah, except no one is allowed to drink ANYTHING on the metro.

    They should lift that restriction on weekend nights and have a booze car on the train. It would make that ungodly slog on the Red Line much, much more tolerable.

  24. OJ will get you a DUI and suspended license for life.

    I meant to add in Sweden.

  25. MNG:

    My conspiracy didn’t involve one being able to drink or not drink on the metro (in fact, I think I remember news reports about riders getting arrested for that). I just meant that it would probably scare some people who would normally drive into D.C and have a few drinks into riding the metro instead.

  26. “OJ will get you a DUI and suspended license for life.”

    Naah, OJ is out looking for the real killers.

  27. I do think that it’s oddly (and pleasantly) civilized that the commuter trains in Chicago (the Metra, not the El) allow you to BYOB for consumption on the train.

  28. You can buy beer and wine at Caltrain stations (from SF to San Jose) or BYOB if you prefer. So, commuters can start happy hour on the ride home from work and Giants fans can do their “tailgating” on their way to the game. I’d be curious to know if it measurably increases ridership.

  29. Just eating a small sugary treat will up the BAC levels for some people.

    In an old job, I had to give breathalyzers daily (for criminals out in the community in day programs). One of our “clients” blew a .02, but claimed that it must have been the donut he’d just eated. Skeptical, I asked my co-worker to take the breathalzyer. The coworker’s was clean- we gave him an eclair, he ate it, then blew a 0.03. The client’s urine test came back clean as well.

    So no it doesn’t even take a lot of sugar to do it.

  30. Wasn’t there a Stevie Wonder song that went,

    Idiocy and Irony, Live together In Perfect Harmony

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