New Mexico is considering a drunk driving bill which would become the strictest such law in the nation, if it passes. The law would make it illegal for many individuals convicted of drunk driving to ever purchase alcohol again.
The state has had one of the highest drunk driving related fatality rates in America for several years. While it understandable that New Mexico lawmakers want to do something to thwart DUI traffic deaths and intoxicated drivers, the proposed law is merely a feel-good measure that will end in futility.
DUI offenders in New Mexico prohibited from buying alcohol in bars, stores, and restaurants will merely revert to the tried and true tactics of underage drinkers and have someone else purchase the booze. When I was an Ohio University student, the administration enacted a similar measure in an effort to combat the college’s party school reputation.
A one keg rule per person became the law of the campus. The only place in town that sold beer kegs remained as busy as usual because multiple people would just go buy kegs for the same party. Common sense arguments by city and campus police about the ridiculousness of the law were ignored. The one keg rule remained for several quarters, until administrators finally gave up on their ingenious plan.
A similar result will likely occur in New Mexico if the controversial drunk driving law gains passage. Should the law become a reality, it could pose a logistical nightmare at the local level. New Mexico drunk driving offenders would be issued a special license to indicate they cannot be served or buy alcohol. Expect the lines at your favorite weekend watering hole to get a lot longer if the waitress has to check all identities before plopping some ice in a glass and mixing a drink. If high school and college students can successfully get their hands on passable ID, then surely a determined alcoholic could as well.
In 2005, New Mexico passed a law requiring ignition interlock devices in cars for just one year after a first offense. Even with the new law, there was not much of a reduction in drunk driving convictions in the state. Democratic State Representative Brian Egolf recently stated that he decided to push for the lifetime alcohol purchase ban after watching a man with an ignition interlock device buy soda and miniature bottles of whiskey at a store. The man allegedly blew into the device, and then proceed to mix himself a drink and drive off. Witnessing how easy it is to bypass an ignition interlock device, should have made the the pitfalls of the alcohol lifetime ban crystal clear.
The lack of effectiveness of the New Mexico drunk driving bill is only one aspect of the controversy swirling around the proposed law. Many advocates for lifetime electronic monitoring of rapists and child molesters have been told such a law would be unconstitutional too extreme of a punishment.
Drunk driving is a serious and potentially deadly crime. But, not all DUI arrests involve an accident or even a victim, but every rapist or child molester did harm another human being. The emotional impact of such a crime is often a lifelong burden for sexual abuse victims. Tracking via an electronic anklet is nearly foolproof and would likely prevent a repeat offense – or at the very least, lead to another conviction and time behind bars.
The New Mexico DUI law would do absolutely nothing to prevent a drunk driver from tilting back a can of beer at a party or giving a pal with a standard license cash to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels.
What do you think about the New Mexico lifetime ban on alcohol purchases?
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