Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DWI eradicated

Almost completely.  And yes, I'm serious.

Oh, wait, I'm not being clear: DWI has not been stopped in Austin, oh no, it's alive and well in our fair city.  But it has been eradicated from my docket of cases.

You see, I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and he was asking about the kinds of mischief kids get up to.  I told him there's a lot of vehicle burglaries, some home burglaries, and a whole heck of a lot of pot smoking.

And that got me thinking about the kinds of crimes I used to handle in adult court, that I don't see much here. You would expect there to be less rape, robbery, and murder simply because kids don't get into that stuff as much, and so it is.  But the biggest change is DWI.  Now, you may think that this would be normal - after all, kids can't even get licenses until they are, what, fifteen? But consider:
  • most kids we see are aged fifteen and older
  • juvenile delinquents just loooove getting their hands on (and in) other people cars
  • most of the kids we see drink, and many are there for substance abuse

So in the nine months I've been in juvie, how many have I had?  One.  Not even one conviction, just one kid charged with it.  There was no conviction in that case because the blood test came back a big fat zero for alcohol, and while he was found with MJ on his person, there was no way to prove he was intoxicated while driving.

Care to explain this to me?   (Although don't get me wrong, I'm delighted we seem to have very few intoxicated children driving on our roads.)  Could it even be the one area where kids are more sensible, more mature, than adults/  Doesn't seem likely, but who knows. . .

And while we're on the subject, I came across an article about the different penalties for DWI across the world.  South Africa gets the award for cracking down hardest:
  • In South Africa, drinking and driving results in a ten-year prison sentence or the equivalent of a $10,000 fine and, in some cases, both.  (Compare to Texas, where this is the potential penalty for a third DWI conviction, and even then prison time is rare.)
 The Scandinavians, who I always think of as a little soft on crime, come in next:
  • Finland and Sweden automatically sentence drunk drivers to one-year jail sentences including hard labor. In Norway, a drunk driver is jailed for three weeks with hard labor and loses their license for a year. If they do it again, they lose their license forever.
 Less harsh, and more amusing:
  • Turkey: punishes drunk drivers by taking them 20 miles from their town and making them walk back with a police escort. 
  • Poland: drunk drivers are subject to jail, fine, mandatory attendance at political lectures. (Evil bastards.)
  • Malaya: if a man is caught driving drunk he is jailed. If he is married, his wife is jailed, too. 


  1. Finland and Sweden automatically sentence drunk drivers to one-year jail sentences including hard labor.

    Is that a joke?

    There is no "hard labor" punishment in Finland.

    BAC less than 0,5 per mille is not punished. If BAC is at least 0,5 per mille, the statutory range is fine or imprisonment up to six months. If BAC is at least 1,2 per mille and the circumstances of the offense imply (potential or actual) danger to others, the statutory range is a stiff[*] fine or imprisonment up to two years. There is also a mandatory driving ban for DUI offenses (statutory minimum length of six months or one year depending on severity and history).

    In actual practice, courts have compiled nonbinding (but well heeded) tables specifying "typical" sentences for each BAC level. One such table (current as of 2006) gives 4 month imprisonment and one year driving ban for a first offense of aggravated DUI with BAC 3,00 per mille.

    (Note that it is a well established practice in Finnish courts to use only the lower end of a statutory sentencing range. That is, IMO, regrettable. Individual lower courts cannot change that, they would just get reversed in appeal. About the only actors capable of effecting such a change would be the Supreme Court or the Parliament, neither of which show any interest for it.)

    [*] I can explain the "stiff" part in detail if asked, but the calculation is a bit complicated. The details would explain the newsworthy massive speeding tickets occasionally imposed in Finland.

  2. AJK: Are you suggesting that some stuff on the Internet is wrong?? Wow, I never knew... :) Thanks for the correction btu it's still interesting to me that your penalties for a first offense are tougher than ours, here in Texas. But no "hard labor," eh? Ah well, maybe losing a license and having to walk/bus it in the cold qualifies...

  3. Here in Missouri, the juvenile court jurisdictional statute (RSMO 211.031.2(e)) specifically excludes most traffic cases: "[T]he juvenile court shall not have jurisdiction over any child fifteen and one-half years of age who is alleged to have violated a state or municipal traffic ordinance or regulation, the violation of which does not constitute a felony[.]" That means that traffic offenders older than fifteen and a half are routed to my office (prosecuting county ordinance violations) when I usually only get cases for 17 years old and up.

    Not sure if Texas has a similar provision. I will say, though, that I don't get all that many 15 and 16 year old DWI offenders either. Maybe a couple a month, which seems low (in a good way).

  4. Forgive my humorless feminist moment, DAC, but it feels rather jarring for a prosecutor to list as a funny sentence the idea that a woman can be jailed based on nothing she has done, but instead for her husband's crime. "Malaya: if a man is caught driving drunk he is jailed. If he is married, his wife is jailed, too." It's an extreme example of misogyny. It's not funny.

  5. Vic: we definitely have jurisdiction over them, it just seems to be a rarity. Thankfully.

    Anon: well, of course you're right, and I suppose I meant "funny" as in "ludicrous." I joke about death, destruction, and mayhem, none of which are funny but if I couldn't do so, (a) I'd be a very quiet person and (b) this blog wouldn't exist. Remember, it's their misogyny, not mine in the sense that my comment falls into the "Take my wife, please," category. But again, you're right and it's an unbelievably ridiculous practice.

  6. I would imagine it comes a lot from the fact that teens can't "go out" drinking. Presumably they're doing most of their drinking at home or their friends instead of going out to dinner, a bar, etc and then needing to get home. Just my guess...

  7. I feel Malaya has made a right thing, husband and wife both jailed and this will make husbands not to drink thinking of there wife's. Hope this should also be a rule for south asian countries. Confidentiality Agreement

  8. Jenny: that's a good point, I'd not thought of it that way. I bet you're right about that.

    Lisa: I'd disagree just because the end result will be a woman punished despite not doing anything wrong. And as Anon said, the idea that a woman is somehow an appendage of her husband to be treated badly just to correct his behavior... I can't go along with that. I do like the romantic notion that maybe a husband will do the right thing to protect his wife, but I'm not sure the reality fits that picture too well. Especially when alcohol is involved.

  9. In my county, the officers usually just write DUI tickets for juveniles instead of trying to make a DWI case, which then go to the municipal/JP Court instead of my office. Here, at least, I think it's not that juveniles aren't drinking and driving, they're just not being charged with DWIs.

  10. I'm not so sure how they handle DWIs (or DUIs here) in my county, but then again, my experience with the law is through my friends (I'm 18, hoping to pursue a career in law). Most of them get tickets, community service time, and revoked of license privileges. However, a lot of them end up dead or in major accidents. I suppose the death rate is what keeps the adults here so on guard.

  11. I'm glad your experience is through your friends, Daisy, try to keep it that way!


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