DRUGS OR DRINKING ALCOHOL WHILE DRIVING IS A DEADLY COMBINATION
Driving while intoxicated is a huge problem. About one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver. Penal Code section 23152 makes it illegal to drive intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level of .08 if there was no moving violation or collision, or .04 if there was a moving violation or collision. Nevertheless, 1.8% of adults in California even report driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days and you know most people aren’t fessing up. On average, a drunk driver will drive drunk 80 times before their first arrest.
California’s implied consent law requires all drivers who are lawfully arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence to submit to blood alcohol testing. The driver gets their choice between a blood and a breath test. If driver refuses both tests, their license will automatically be suspended for one year. Officers also have the discretion to strap the driver down and forcibly remove their blood from their arm (forced blood draw) under the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Schmerber v. California. Drunk driving and causing damage to people or property can result in a felony conviction and jail or prison time.
In the civil realm (not criminal), getting into an accident while driving drunk has consequences too:
First, Section 3333.4 of the California Code says that if the convicted drunk driver did not cause the accident, they cannot collect for their pain and suffering in a personal injury case. In other words, the drunk driver can only recover for their hard costs like lost wages and medical bills if someone rear-ended them out of nowhere. A good personal injury attorney will be able to get the driver some money in their pocket despite section 3333.4.
Second, if the drunk driver did cause the accident, the plaintiff may collect punitive (punishment) damages. While an insurance company technically is not responsible for paying punitive damages for their drunk defendant, the situation still works as a great bargaining chip for an astute plaintiff’s personal injury attorney.
I have proposed a solution to this drunk driving epidemic – universal interlock ignition breathalyzers in every car. The savings from the system would pay for it in three years. It would reduce DUI’s by over 80%. California and the other States won’t institute that change, however, because the California alone makes somewhere in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually off those convicted of DUI. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone but the State if we just didn’t have the option to drive drunk?
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