Reader Question: Backseat Drunk Driving?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Debbie asks: I was shocked when I found out that a person can be convicted of “drunk driving” even if they haven’t been driving. That a person who feels they have had too much to drink who climbs in the back seat to sleep it off is just as liable to be arrested, charged and convicted for “drunk driving” as a person who drives up to a “sobriety checkpoint.” Is this true?

My reply: It is true – unfortunately.

The argument given by defenders of this vile policy is that it’s necessary to prevent people from “getting away” with “drunk driving” by pulling off the road and jumping into the back seat just before a cop rolls up behind them.

But it means that responsible people who haven’t been driving after drinking are treated as if they had been doing both – presumptively. There is no obligation on the part of the AGW to prove that the person in the backseat had, in fact, been driving.

I think there ought to be – for the same reason I think that no one ought to be convicted of stealing money because an AGW finds cash in their wallet.

Things have been up-ended.

It was once accepted that it should be difficult for the government to arrest/charge/convict people; or at least, it ought not to be made easy by eliminating the burden of proof. And that’s what’s at issue here, fundamentally.

Certainly, a few people who had been driving after drinking might “get away
with it” by finding a place to park and piling into the backseat, just in the nick of time. But that is no more a justification for presumptive guilt than the fact that you and I are online makes us presumptive consumers of kiddie porn.

Well, not yet.

But I have no doubt that the principle of presumptive guilt will continue to be expanded in practice and that eventually, our homes/computers and so on will also be subject to “safety” checks – and we’ll be forced to prove we’re not kiddie porn consumers, etc.

Aren’t you glad to be an American? Where at least you know you’re “free”?

. . .

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  1. Many years ago, a friend of mine had a ready response to such. He had pulled over on the shoulder, hit the back seat, and was taking a nap. A deputy opened his door and prodded him. Being quite startled, he drug the deputy in the backseat with him, and proceeded to “punish” him for interrupting his nap by beating the crap out of him. One would likely be sent to prison for such today, or shot. Back then the police were not allowed to enter your motor vehicle without a warrant. I think he got a parking violation.

  2. This whole thing derives from a legal system that holds a bar tender or a person having a private party liable for the behavior of all “guests.” When I first heard about that in the 1980s, I just shook my head. It’s a shift of true responsibility in the name of “accountability,” which absolves the guilty and escalates the tyranny on average people. It’s truly a disgrace.

    • Well-said, Swamp!

      A man is responsible for what he does; to hold him responsible for what other men do is tyrannical. If the owner of a bar can be held responsible for the irresponsible drinking of a patron then it follows a Chevy dealer can be held responsible for the actions of a buyer who wrecks his Corvette. Hell, why not sue the company that made the knife OJ used to kill?

  3. It’s been 40 years since a friend decided after he’d left a part he’d be better off to pull over and sleep. So he pulled off into field and spent the night. The next morning the highway patrol drove out and arrested him for DWI with no proof he was drunk or had been. For the most part he’d been working hard and was as sleepy as drunk, several hours before he was accosted.

  4. If the title says motor home the 4h amendment applies.

    Otherwise the 4th amendment exceptions apply. The car can be up on blocks with no wheels and off to jail you go.


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