D.C. Unjustly Imprisons Hundreds


As a little supplement to Katherine Mangu-Ward's sorrow-charts yesterday about U.S. incarceration, here's a little example of what happens when law enforcement machinery is calibrated against you:

Nearly 400 people were convicted of driving while intoxicated in the District since fall 2008 based on inaccurate results from breath test machines, and half of them went to jail, city officials said Wednesday.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the machines were improperly adjusted by city police. The jailed defendants generally served at least five days, he said.

And here is how the stacked deck can affect your freedom:

D.C. resident Hector Molina-Aviles, 45, drew a five-day jail sentence after his blood-alcohol level in a 2008 arrest registered .21—a level that triggers mandatory incarceration in the District. He had been celebrating his wife's birthday in Mount Pleasant. He was pulled over on 16th Street for speeding, and an officer later said he smelled alcohol, Molina-Aviles said. […]

Molina-Aviles said he initially refused to take the test but relented because he needed his license to drive to work as an actor and writer. He said he "never believed the high number they gave me" but pleaded guilty in January "because fighting this for years took over my life." He remains on probation, has to seek permission to travel to out-of-state jobs and has been told that if he wants to become a citizen after more than 30 years as a legal resident, he has to wait to apply.

Reason on drunk-driving tests here.