Friday, July 1, 2011

Convicting the Passenger of a Designated Driver for Public Intoxication: What Happened to the "Discretion" to Not Enforce the Law?

In the aftermath of Tuesday's Supreme Court's decision Brenda Moore v. State upholding the conviction for public intoxication of a passenger of a designated driver, the Indianapolis Star today published both an article on the subject as well as an editorial calling for a change in Indiana's public intoxication laws.  One would think the editorial was a no brainer, that no one would dispute that passengers of designated drivers should not be subject to arrest for public intoxication.
Indiana State Police uses billboards to promote the use of designated drivers.
But there will be a dispute.  Next year, when Senator Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) reintroduces his bill to reform Indiana's public intoxication law, he will be met with fierce resistance from law enforcement officials and prosecutors who will plead that the legislature not limit their "law enforcement tools" and who will assure the legislators they will exercise "discretion" wisely in using those tools.

If they will exercise their discretion reasonably, why did the IMPD officer use his "discretion" to not arrest Brenda Moore?  Why did the Carl Brizzi's Marion County Prosecutor's Office exercise the "discretion" to not prosecute her?   Here's another question, why did Attorney General Greg Zoeller appeal the decision to the Supreme Court to get the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the passenger thrown out and in the process deal a blow to successful designated driver programs all over the state, including programs run by the Indiana State Police who Zoeller represetns?  Zoeller had the "discretion" to not appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Here are some other questions.  Will Chief Paul Ciesielski use his "discretion" to order IMPD officers to NOT arrest passengers of designated drivers for public intoxication?  Will Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry use his "discretion" to say he will not prosecute passengers of designated drivers for public intoxication?  Oh, and here's a question for the organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD):  Do you support the Brenda Moore decision?

Whenever I hear law enforcement officers say they need maximum authority but assure they will use "discretion" in exercising that authority, I just roll my eyes.

1 comment:

Nicolas Martin said...

In 1840 Tocqueville evaluated the risk of democracy:

"Above this race of men [living in democracy] stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

"Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

"After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."

-- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The American people have been trained as democratic sheep, and there is nothing so trivial that it will not be regulated, even ruthlessly, by government.