It is never a good idea to enact a law as a response to a singular event, no matter how horrific. That includes the tragic deaths of a mother and her two children at the 16th Street Mall last November. In response to the tragedy, apparently caused by a drunk driver, Rep. Joel Judd (D-Denver) introduced H.R. 1189 (pdf), a draconian bill which would have caused DUI penalties in Colorado to skyrocket. Sensibly, the Rocky Mountain News opposed the bill.
First-time offenders would lose their licenses for at least five years, and multiple offenders for 20 – unless they satisified other requirements we’ll discuss later.
The News says that Judd has revised some of the harshest provisions of his bill. That’s a good thing. We cannot treat all inebriated drivers the same.
There’s a difference between a driver who shows no visible signs of impairment and blows a 0.08 at a sobriety checkpoint and a nearly stupefied motorist who weaves in and out of traffic. Courts should be allowed to make such a distinction.
One size fits all justice doesn’t work, particularly when it involves non-flexible penalties for everyone, regardless of the the individual circumstances of the offense and the character and history of the offender.