‘Civil’ libertarians: “One who is actively concerned with the protection of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the individual by law:”
What are these fundamental rights guaranteed to the individual by law? Are they what most of us have been taught…that every person has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? By that definition, anyone who is put in jail has had one of his or her fundamental rights, as guaranteed by law, taken away. Wait a minute; if they are guaranteed by law, then they can’t be taken away, which means that everyone in jail is illegally there, true? Of course not…what a dumb argument! How about the pursuit of happiness? If it makes me happy to rob banks because, as Willie Sutton said, “That’s where the money is,” am I not allowed to seek my happiness? After all, who’s getting hurt if I don’t kill anyone? Hey, the money is insured and I’m happy because I’m doing what I love. Just how asinine is that logic? Now that we’ve knocked those two “fundamental rights” all the way to hell and back, let’s take a look at the third one: We are guaranteed by law the fundamental right to life. Wow, unless you happen to be O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, or George Zimmerman, I guess you can’t argue with that?
Where do your rights end and another’s begin? I take a very simplistic view of this question. Your rights end when you knowingly do something that endangers the rights of others. Since the only right that we seem to have left is our right to life, there’s the key. If you knowingly do something that endangers the lives of others, you sacrifice every other right you think you have. “Oh, c’mon,” you say, “on that basis the legal system would be performing ritual killing so fast, the population growth couldn’t keep up.” Yeah, wouldn’t that be great….just kidding!
“Where is this all leading?” you ask. It leads to the question of how we act, within our right to life, in the actions we take that can conceivably take away the right to life of another. The classic example of this is the drunk driver who, having been convicted of the crime of drunk driving, is parted from his or her license but who continues to drink and who continues to get behind the wheel of a vehicle until he or she ultimately takes away the right of another to live. Let me give you a few examples: Jerry Zeller of Rapid City, South Dakota, racked up 34 DUI arrests before he fell asleep in his bed in 2008 with a lit cigarette in his hand…bye, bye, Mr. DUI. Thank you, Jerry, for doing something the police could not do…stop you from driving. The great thing is that he did it before he managed to kill someone else. “A Virginia man was given seven years in prison for his 25th DUI arrest in May of 2012. Tracy Michael Decker was arrested after arguing with an employee at a toll station. If that wasn’t bad enough, Decker’s BAC was 0.28 percent; he had open alcohol containers in his vehicle, and had two 4 year old children without seatbelts in the back seat.”
The examples are endless; however, the laws concerning punishment are as varied as snowflakes. In Florida, four dui convictions will get your license taken away forever. How does that stop one from driving while intoxicated? That’s right; it doesn’t. Nothing will stop a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel other than a punishment so severe that he or she will never even consider driving again. Other than the threat of death or a ‘scarlet letter’ being branded into the drunk’s forehead, there is little that can be done until they kill someone…and they do. Ignition locking devices don’t seem to work; there are too many ways to circumvent them. The laws seem terribly lenient on the drunk driving offender. The best state in which to drink, drive, and kill is Oklahoma. You can get as little as zero time in jail or only up to one year. In Alaska and North Dakota, you get one year to life. Other punishments are all over the map…ouch! This really is no joking matter, but the lack of cohesive law enforcement in the states is a bit frightening. Perhaps judges have to have been personally affected before they will dole out the maximum sentence to these ‘free range killers.’
I have known people who have been killed by drunk drivers. I cannot possibly understand the pain they feel, although, I’ve seen their personalities change. I have known a driver who killed someone while he was driving drunk. It cost him his family, his career, and, eventually, because it haunted him so much, it cost him his own life. Back in the day when I was drinking, I did drive drunk. I was one of the lucky ones; I neither killed someone else nor did I kill my wife. Having done it once and gotten away with it, the next day I made a solemn vow never to do it again…it had scared the bejusus out me.
Technology has made so many things possible in our collective lives. Here’s a new challenge: Devise a technological program that will prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and killing others. Whether the driver has to remember a 16-digit code which a drunk probably wouldn’t remember in order to start the car – it works with computer passwords—or sensory skin feelers on the steering wheel to prevent the car from starting, something must be done to prevent the continued carnage.