These are the musings, ramblings, rantings and observations of Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy on DWI defense, general criminal defense, philosophy and whatever else tickles his fancy.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Deterrence and DWI
Doug Berman, the author of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, has chimed in with his opinion regarding the "leniency" courts have (supposedly) shown convicted drunk drivers. His argument is that repeat offenders should be treated more harshly in an attempt to get them to see the error of their ways.
Mr. Berman's thesis is based upon the faulty notion that we are all rational beings and subject each and every decision to a cost-benefit analysis. This is the basis of the concept of deterrence.
Senior Criminal District Judge Larry Gist, of Beaumont, Texas, has a slightly different view of our fellow citizens. In an October 2007 article in Voice for the Defense (the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association magazine) he suggests we all fall into one of three categories: NORPS, SLICKS or SLUGS.
NORPS are Normal Ordinary Responsible People (presumably like us) who are generally responsible and are capable of self-correction. Rehabilitation and deterrence work for NORPS because NORPS are rational (most of the time). For instance, when a NORP is arrested for DWI his or her eyes are opened wide to the cost (in time, reputation and money) involved in handling a DWI arrest. Going through the process is enough to convince them not to get behind the wheel impaired in the future.
SLICKS are the folks who think they are smarter than everyone else -- we all know someone who falls into this category. SLICKS are (generally) incapable or rehabilitating themselves due to their anger and hatred of society. These are the folks who deserve to be hanging out in the "Grey Bar Hilton." SLICKS are incapable of rational thought and deterrence doesn't work for them.
SLUGS get into trouble because they commit stupid, impulsive and poorly-planned crimes. SLUGS seek out attention. SLUGS never accept responsibility for their actions and don't really care if they are incarcerated (three full meals a day and a bed to sleep in) or rescued by a "do-gooder" who take over his problems. SLUGS don't respond to deterrents.
Mr. Berman's idea seems to be to raise the cost of committing a DWI to such a level that the cost far outweighs the pleasure/benefit derived from driving drunk. The problem is that most folks who pick up multiple DWI's aren't NORPS and don't think rationally when making decisions. Therefore, upping the penalties won't cause them to curb their behavior.