I Get Email

Monday, October 18th, 2010

I promised to share the hate mail responses to my column on abolishing drunk driving laws. I’m happy to say I actually haven’t received any. I have, however, received about a half-dozen emails from law enforcement officials like this one:

I spent 11 years in police work, from 1978 until 1989. The second most time-consuming thing I could do was arrest an intoxicated driver (second only to committing a mental person). Officers are taken off the street for hours at a time over someone who is barely, if at all, impaired. Meanwhile, grandma is driving the wrong way down a one-way street or driving 30 miles per hour on the freeway, and if you write her a ticket you’re accused of picking on old people….I’m with you all the way. Thanks.

I’ve also done three radio interviews on the column. All of the hosts were supportive. And only one caller was hostile. I’m really pleasantly surprised at the reception. Of course, there’s not a chance in hell that’s going to translate into policy changes any time soon. But still. Feels like public opinion might be turning just a little against MADD and the temperance crowd.

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27 Responses to “I Get Email”

  1. #1 |  Billy Beck | 

    Along on very slightly different lines, I present a reading:

    “At least Arthur J. Tuttle’s frustrations never approached those that afflicted his Minnesota colleague, federal district judge John F. McGee — the ‘bootleggers’ terror’ who had commandeered sightseeing buses to ship Volstead violators off to jail. ‘The fact is that the United States District Court has become a Police Court,’ McGee wrote from his chambers in 1925. Eighty percent of the cases brought before him were Prohibition related, he added, ‘with the end not in sight. I started, in March 1923, to rush that branch of the litigation and thought that I would end it, but it ended me.’ Then, McGee put his pen down and blew his brains out.”

    (Daniel Okrent, 2010 — “Last Call: The Rise And Fall of Prohibition”, p. 261)

  2. #2 |  billhilly | 

    I’m pleasantly shocked at the reception your article has received. I think I’ll celebrate with a drink!

  3. #3 |  qwints | 

    Drunk driving kills. As does sleepy driving and talking-on-cellphone driving. It amazes me to no end that police officers who enjoy undeserved credibility in their testimony as well as video evidence of impaired drivers behavior complain when they cannot get a conviction without changing the definition of intoxicated or impaired. Most voir dire panels I saw during my internship were overwhelmingly willing to punish DWI severely. But they raised concerns both about the arbitrariness of the standard as well as stupid prosecutions of people sleeping it off in a car.

  4. #4 |  qwints | 

    Couldn’t help but notice this article on the daily beast:


  5. #5 |  Mister DNA | 

    I’m pleasantly shocked at the reception your article has received. I think I’ll celebrate with a drink!

    I already did that, and now I’m enjoying a scenic drive on the city’s pristine sidewalks!

  6. #6 |  M | 


  7. #7 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Prohibition is prohibition.

    If it makes sense in one case, it makes sense in every related case.

    If it makes no sense in one case, it makes no sense in every related case.

    If marijuana is prohibited, then alcohol should be prohibited too.

    If alcohol is not prohibited, then marijuana should not be prohibited either.

    It is hard for me to find a clearer example of the insanity of the system than marijuana prohibition. A person who defends marijuana prohibition while defending the legality of alcohol is demonstrably insane and should, at the very least, be ignored. This idea needs to become more well-understood. Prohibitionists need to be reduced to utter ridicule and irrelevance, perhaps even be subject to commitment hearings.

  8. #8 |  KristenS | 

    I’m kinda disappointed – where are all the Patterico assholes on this? I was sadistically hoping to read some grammatically-chellenged, mouth-frothing hate mail.

  9. #9 |  Bob | 

    I think it went down like this because the article was so well written. In the first few sentences, you clearly and undeniably made your point. It was simply irrefutable.

  10. #10 |  Doug | 

    Echoing what the cop mentioned in the post, I had a cop friend who said if he always tried to find a DUI to nail towards the end of his shift if he had nothing going on afterwards. He said it was 3 hours of guaranteed overtime to process all the paperwork for it.

  11. #11 |  Joe Schneider | 

    With 7 million arrests for DUI a year it won’t be long before every single person in America who drink alcohol will have been arrested at least once. At this point just about everyone who drinks knows someone who has been unjustly arrested. The good news is thanks to the rise in jury nullification it is also getting harder for prosectutors to put together a jury that will convict without an accident.

  12. #12 |  Cyto | 

    I’ll disagree with Bob. If your argument ever gains traction I think you’ll find all the vitriol and venom you anticipated. Right now you are not on MADD’s radar because (as you rightly suspect) you are in no danger of succeeding. If anything MADD is closer to lowering the statutory intoxication ratio.

  13. #13 |  JS | 

    This is why that column needs to be in as many papers as possible, on as many websites as possible and read by people in city and state governments including cops!

  14. #14 |  Pablo | 

    Joe Schneider–the other day I realized that about 20-25% of people I know have had a DUI. Granted I know some colorful people but it seems like it is so easy to get arrested for DUI these days, one can hope that so many people get caught up in the net that there is public revolt over the issue (much like the anger that birthed MADD, in the days when society did indeed ignore the problem of drunk driving).

  15. #15 |  akb4189 | 

    As long as we can execute people for taking a life while they were drunk driving, I have no problem with this.

  16. #16 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Great job Radley! MADD does not hold the sway it thought it did, I guess.

    Hey Cynical. Your comments (#7) some it up very, very nicely. I would give you +10 if I could.

  17. #17 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Killing people is wrong, akb4189. I sense that you understand this.

    Very much appreciated Helmut. Double standards infuriate me.

  18. #18 |  MacGregory | 

    #14 Pablo
    I was thinking the same thing but I think my percentage of friends with DUIs may be a little higher. One of the more outlandish stories that I’ve personally heard demonstrates Radley’s point. A friend of mine gets rear-ended while waiting at a stop light. The man who hit him gets a traffic citation. My buddy gets arrested for DUI, despite having done nothing wrong.

    This subject always gets my dander up because I’ve been through it. It wasn’t so much the 24hrs in jail that got to me. It was the 6 month license suspension. I was “lucky” I guess, since I had access to public transportation. A person who lives in a rural area without it is just fucked and stands to lose much more than just driving “privileges.”

  19. #19 |  Billy Beck | 

    MacGregory @18: you wouldn’t believe how people are getting drilled with this routine up here in The Finger Lakes.

    The Vampire State is flat-out manufacturing poor people with bullshit like this, and it likes it that way.

  20. #20 |  Xenocles | 

    Radley Balko getting love letters from LEOs? Almost makes you rethink the position, doesn’t it?

  21. #21 |  anarch | 

    I guess the exception to Never Talk to the Police is when you’re talking to everyone and they happen to be listening, eh?

  22. #22 |  Josh | 

    Any links to the radio interviews?

  23. #23 |  Joe | 

    Impairment and bad driving should be the issue, not wether your BAC is 0.079999+

    I did know a guy who recorded a 0.65 BAC. He wandered into traffic and got struck by a motorist. He was a hard core alcoholic. That BAC was recorded from the blood test at the hospital, so it was not a breathalyzer (which can be inaccurate).

    Most people would have died from the BAC alone, or from the car strike, he survived both. A rather stupid but tough hombre he was.

  24. #24 |  Joe | 

    I’m kinda disappointed – where are all the Patterico assholes on this?

    At their mandatory AA meeting as part of their DUI deferments.

  25. #25 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Wow Joe, I thought .50% was fatal in all cases!

  26. #26 |  Ron | 

    #3: IN DC a few years ago there was a Wash Post story about a woman arrested and IIRC prosecuted in DC after passing all roadside sobriety tests AND having a police station blood test returned at 0.00. I think she was ultimately acquitted, but it shows the abuse you can expect if the definition of impairment is made even more fuzzy than it is.

  27. #27 |  Mattocracy | 

    Be advised. I need more of these hopeful posts to offset the posts that make me mad as hell.