Indy Shame

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An Indianapolis-area radio station has found a new twist on the trend toward public shaming of people convicted of a DUI: Its morning DJs plan to read the names of the past week’s DUI arrestees every Monday. With “Bad Boys” — the song you may remember as the theme from the TV show “Cops” — in the background, the station also plans to interview guest commentators from organizations like the Indiana State Police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Several states have actual laws that mandate “shaming” for repeat DUI convicts, including Georgia. In our state, people convicted of driving under the influence twice or more must have their pictures published in the paper. Georgia also requires special “scarlet letter” plates for certain DUI offenders, although they are not as visible as the bright yellow and red license plates required in Ohio. Several other states have “shaming” laws on the books, and others have considered mandating DUI plates in bright colors.

Court decisions have been inconsistent about whether “shaming” laws or sentences violate the Constitution, but generally, the trend is to allow them. There are several problems with that:
1. A “scarlet letter” license plate or other addition to a vehicle invites law enforcement to assume the driver is intoxicated, which we do not doubt could lead to illegal traffic stops on very thin pretexts. A license plate, vest or other public shaming technique could also invite prejudice from the community. Don’t take that possibility lightly — we found one testimony online from the wife of a DUI offender who said their car has been physically attacked.
2. A license plate unfairly stigmatizes the entire family of the DUI arrestee.
3. A DUI license plate doesn’t do much to stop chronic intoxicated driving. It also doesn’t do much to warn other drivers of a possible drunk driver, because by the time you can see the license plate of an approaching car, you have very little time to get out of the way.
4. Philosophically speaking, we are not sure we’re comfortable with laws that make or invite moral judgments on an offender. Morality is for religion; our government should concern itself with justice.

Also, in the Indiana radio station’s case, they were reading names of arrestees — not people who have been convicted. A radio station isn’t a government, but it’s still violating the spirit of the basic Constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And, as most Georgia DUI defense attorneys know, not every arrest for driving while intoxicated is valid. Breathalyzer tests — the field test on which many prosecutors build their cases — are notorious for their inaccuracy.

The law on driving while intoxicated is complex, and as you can see, having an experienced Georgia DUI attorney fighting for your rights can make a big difference — in your conviction, your sentence and your future. If you have been charged with DUI/DWI in Georgia, you should talk to the Atlanta DUI defense lawyers.