The Impaired Dual System Framework of United States Drunk-Driving Law: How International Perspectives Yield More Sober Results

By Newaz, Daphne D. | Houston Journal of International Law, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

The Impaired Dual System Framework of United States Drunk-Driving Law: How International Perspectives Yield More Sober Results


Newaz, Daphne D., Houston Journal of International Law


I. INTRODUCTION
II. UNITED STATES' DUAL METHODS OF PROOF IN
    DRINKING AND DRIVING PROSECUTIONS
    A. The Highly Subjective, Misplaced Field Sobriety
       Testing System
       1. General Problems with the Field Sobriety
          Testing System
       2. Specific Problems with Standardized Field
          Sobriety Tests
       3. Specific Problems with Nonstandardized Field
          Sobriety Tests
    B. The Fledgling, Yet Promising .08 Per Se Statutory
       System
       1. Tolerable Problems with Breathalyzer
          Machines
       2. Lenient Punishment for Refusing a Breath Test.
III. INTERNATIONAL, COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF DRUNK-DRIVING
     LAWS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
     A. The Limited Involvement of International
        Organizations
     B. Why the United States' System is Impaired: Field
        Sobriety Tests and Ineffective Enforcement of Per
        Se Laws
     C. Scandinavia: The Very Strict Founding Father
     D. Great Britain: The Current Leader in Strict
        Enforcement
     E. Australia: Enforcement and Federalism Can Coexist
     F. Canada: Putting Field Sobriety Tests Where They
        Belong
IV. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Throughout the world, alcohol is regarded as both the bringer of elation and discontent, as "[n]o other substance has been so lauded in verse and song or criticized so frequently as has alcohol." (1) Countries have developed a kind of ambivalence towards alcohol because of the dualistic nature of its exaltation and regulation. (2) While alcohol historically posed no great threat to communities, (3) its devastating effects have become increasingly apparent as an international catastrophe. (4)

Impaired driving is a grave and serious international dilemma that results in countless casualties all over the world. (5) Despite these tragic consequences, "[t]he incidence of driving while under the influence of alcohol is one of the most frequently committed crimes throughout the world." (6) In Great Britain, sixteen percent of total road deaths are caused by drunk drivers, (7) while in Ontario, Canada, over 12,000 drunk-driving accidents occur in a single year. (8) The European Commission contends that in its member countries, up to twenty percent of road accident deaths and serious injuries are attributable to alcohol and amount to an estimated loss of life of ten billion euros per year. (9)

In the United States, of the 42,815 total traffic fatalities that occurred in 2002, forty-one percent were alcohol related. (10) In 2002, 258,000 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes. (11) Motor vehicle accidents where the driver is impaired by alcohol cost employers over nine billion dollars a year. (12)

Statistics like these, along with the lobbying of public interest groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) (13) and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), have resulted in "the almost schizophrenic development of drinking-and-driving law" in the United States that is aimed at achieving fast and arguably haphazard prosecutions and convictions of those charged with drunk-driving offenses. (14) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), resolving this problem requires the cooperation of law enforcement, courts, and medical professionals to assist prosecutors in convicting alleged offenders. (15) The effect is that most states have two entirely different methods of prosecution to prove the offense of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). (16) This system is not only confusing for the jury and unfair to the criminal defendant, but it is also untenable. (17) One method of proof, consisting primarily of evidence from field sobriety tests, is subjective. (18) and inaccurate, (19) while the other method of proof--breath, blood, or urine tests--cannot be properly implemented. (20)

Drunk drivers create a very serious social (21) and international (22) problem that needs to be corrected. …

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