DWI arrest at BAC 0%

July 5, 2008 – 1:20 pm by John

Radley Balko blags about an Arizona designated driver who was arrested for DWI with a blood-alcohol content of 0%. Balko and the newspaper columnist he cites both thought the arresting officer might have been getting back at the designated driver's husband, a lawyer who defeated the officer in a DWI court case recently. Shockingly, the police department denies this.

Also shockingly, the affidavit that the officer wrote contained completely fabricated symptoms in the driver—bloodshot and watery eyes, flushed face, and the strong smell of alcohol on her breath. The reason he arrested her for drunk driving is because she refused the field sobriety test. She refused it because it is her right and because the officer had no reason to suspect her of drunk driving. You'd better submit to the police state or you'll be punished for your disobedience.

In a final, bizarre twist to a totally unpredictable story, the officer is not going to be punished in any way. The policies of the Arizona state and local police that make everyone out to be a suspect and lead to the wrongful arrest many drivers (according to the Phoenix New Times column) will not be changed.

Some detractors and police-state apologists will claim that the occasional wrongful arrest, which gets corrected and dropped from the drivers' records in due time, is a small price to pay for saving people's lives from drunk drivers. It is hard to argue with that, and the State does own the roads, however wrongfully, but as long as you admit a few things, I'll call it a good start: (1) a body that is unaccountable to the people and, in fact, to the law will misjudge where that happy medium between Draconian DWI laws and safety from drunk drivers is, and they will always err on the side of giving themselves more power to arrest, harass, terrorize, and imprison; (2) this tendency of the police state to take more powers over its subjects and apply them more vigorously and arbitrarily will necessarily be implemented in many facets of government, not just life-saving efforts; (3) all of the wrongful arrests won't be corrected and dropped from the records, an injustice against which the victims have no recourse, because of the fact that the law and its courts are the sole, final arbiters of justice in society; and (4) police officers do often get overzealous in their enforcement of the law, leading to injustices that cannot simply be called errors or misjudgments, and they often go completely undisciplined while their captains and spokesmen defend their actions and blame the victims, and this lack of accountability and consequences is a major problem with all types and levels of law enforcement in our society.

I'm not trying to persuade people to renounce monopolistic government with every post I write; I'm just trying to find common ground with Statists and get them to admit there are problems with things that they wouldn't have acknowledged before, which might lead them to regard the utility of the libertarian position with less aversion than before.

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