ACLU Favors Keeping Repeat Drunk Drivers on the Road


ACRU Staff


October 1, 2008

Ohio has tightened up its drunk driving laws in several ways which make it easier to convict repeat drunk drivers, and places higher penalties on them when convicted more than once. Ignoring the safety issues, the ACLU has opposed this law.

The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article on the website of the Record Courier in Ohio, on 28 September, 2008. Ohio has passed a law to make it easier to convict repeat offense drunk drivers in that state. The Ohio ACLU has attacked that law as violating the Constitution.

The new law, which goes into effect this week, concerns the method of proving prior convictions for drunk driving, which in turn triggers three changes in the applicable law. Under prior law, for a drunk driver’s prior conviction to be used against him or her, the state had to show from the record that the defendant had a lawyer, or who had declined a lawyer, and then was convicted.

As experience showed, sometimes the prior conviction was up to 20 years ago, and the record was not available. The new law changed the burden of proof to the defendant that the conviction, once the fact of the conviction had been shown.

The second change was to increase the penalties applicable to any defendant who had a second, or additional, conviction for drunk driving.

The third change was to existing Ohio law. It had required that when the defendant was unconscious or uncooperative for a blood test for alcohol or drugs, the state was required to get a warrant before proceeding. The new law mandates that the defendant submit to a blood test, if he or she had had two prior drunk driving convictions.

All these changes were based on the determination of the Ohio legislature that drunk driving was a highly repetitive offense. The legislature concluded that state drivers would be significantly safer if repeat drunk drivers were removed from the highways.

The ACLU had issued a press release attacking the law, before it was signed into law by the Governor. Their position was that no one should be subject to a blood test without a warrant.

The easiest example of why the ACLU is wrong is the parole and probation process. Everyone who is on parole or probation because of a prior conviction, then is subject to warrantless searches by parole and probation officers seeking evidence of violations by the defendants. There are other examples of how and why a defendant loses certain constitutional guarantees as a consequence of a prior, final conviction.

In short, the ACLU is having a knee-jerk reaction to an Ohio law which will surely reduce the number of drunk-driving accidents, and the number of victims of such drivers on Ohio highways.

Source for original story on the Net:



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