DUI (driving while impaired or DWI in North Carolina) is a serious issue because of the costs it could imply: specifically injuries, property damage and death. The real question, however, is whether the establishment of stricter DUI policies works.
Lawmakers have linked strict laws to reductions of alcohol- and drug-related crash fatality rates across the country. That is just a general rule — some people defending against DUI charges might not represent the same type of risk. After all, everyone makes mistakes.
The case for strict laws
On one hand, strict DUI laws play a role in the decline in DUI-related accidents. For example, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol alone is a factor in a large portion of all traffic fatalities.
Research in different forms often draws the same conclusion. It also shows that lenient states in terms of DUI laws tend to report more traffic fatalities related to alcohol.
One might assume that stricter laws reduce tragedies on the road. However, on the whole, the main factor that determines a state’s fatality rate seems to be its population density, not its laws. Even more strangely, DUI laws seem to correlate more strongly with demographics and neighboring states’ driving laws — not fatality or crash rates.
The case for compassion
Strict laws might be desirable for those who demonstrate that they are a danger to society. However, even the lowest levels of punishment could result in stigma and long-term consequences.
For example, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety outlines the increasingly severe punishments possible for DWI. There are five levels of misdemeanor DWI and one felony level.
Even misdemeanors are not minor crimes. In fact, there is no such thing as a minor crime: By definition, a crime is an act or omission that requires someone to render judgment on the perpetrator. As such, it carries a certain stigma. Nobody should have to suffer from the burden of a criminal record if an unjust charge or an improper arrest violates their civil rights.