Andrew P. Thomas, the chief prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona, has begun shaming people convicted of driving under the influence by posting their pictures, names, and blood alcohol levels online. A misdemeanor offense is enough to qualify. For those convicted of DUI-related felonies, Thomas has rented billboards that say, "Drive Drunk…See Your Mug Shot Here." At the risk of confusing passers-by who might think he's the guy pictured in the mug shot, Thomas reserves the bottom quarter of the billboards for his own name, in white-on-red letters as big as the headline. To someone unschooled in the principles of criminal justice, these billboards might look like thinly veiled re-election posters. Thomas sets the record straight:
The purposes of the billboards and the Web site, Mr. Thomas has said, are to inform the public about drunken-driving laws, and to serve as a deterrent.
"People tend to like it, and it gets a message across to the offender," said Mike Scerbo, a spokesman for Mr. Thomas, who declined to be interviewed. "We haven't heard any complaints."
Taking Thomas at his word, he is imposing extrajudicial punishment, based on his unilateral conclusion that the penalties prescribed by law for DUI offenses provide an inadequate deterrent. Notably, even Mothers Against Drunk Driving has reservations about his approach:
"Some parts of the Web site are good because they are informational and trying to provide the victim's perspective," said Misty Moyse, the spokeswoman for the group. However, she said, "M.A.D.D. would not want to be involved in calling out offenders. We are interested in research- and science-based activities proven to stop drunk driving."
A local defense attorney, as you might expect, is a bit more upset:
"I just can't believe he's doing it," said Mark Weingart, a defense lawyer in Tempe who has advised hundreds of people facing charges of driving under the influence. "Besides the fact that it is in bad taste, D.U.I.'s usually involve somebody with no criminal history. The downside to this person being published on the Web site is tremendous. I don't see the point. Why doesn't he put sex offenders up there?"
Public shaming of sex offenders? How could you get politicians to support something like that?