Monday, December 26, 2011

Television show DUI perpetuates the lie

I finally got around to watching an episode of TLC's new reality show DUI the other night. For those of y'all not familiar with the show, it follows the stories of two people arrested for driving under the influence - from traffic stop to the end of the case.

The first episode introduced us to Cierra and Jimmy, two folks unfortunate enough to find themselves cuffed and stuffed into the the back seat of a police car. Cierra was accused of drinking and driving while Jimmy was accused of driving while high on the hippy lettuce.

Of course we had to ride along with police officers out looking for drunk drivers. Up in Oklahoma it appears that sobriety checkpoints are okey-dokey (so much for the 4th Amendment north of the Red River). A long line of cars sat on the shoulder of a highway in Tulsa as officers approached each car.

Following Cierra we live the nightmare of being arrested and carted off to jail. Answering questions asked by a hostile police officer. The humiliation of being searched and photographed. Calling her mom to get bailed out.

The show ends with both Cierra and Jimmy pleading out their cases - on what appeared to be their first court date. No questioning the legality of the stop. No questioning the validity of the roadside coordination exercises. No challenging any of the evidence. Just walking up, pleading guilty and walking away.

I guess that's the message the cops and producers want to send out - if you're arrested, you must be guilty. We even have both of our stars confessing before the camera.

Jimmy was excited because he got an 18-month deferral, meaning the case would be dismissed if he completed his probation and he could keep it off his record. Of course, since Jimmy was dumb enough to sign the release there is no undoing his arrest and conviction.

Somehow I doubt we'll be getting too many folks on DUI walking out with dismissal forms. A 30-minute time frame with two cases doesn't give much time to discuss much of substance. We'll get to hear each week from an officer telling us that DWI is the worst possible offense a person can commit. We'll see people acting contrite and telling us how the experience changed their lives. But we won't see anyone challenging the evidence. We won't see anyone fighting their case. We won't see anyone who was convicted on the opinion testimony of a police officer. We certainly won't see anyone being acquitted by a jury.

DUI is propaganda. Its purpose is to pound the notion that if someone's arrested they must be guilty into the skulls of its viewers. The goal is to poison the jury pool across the country.

What we really need is a show in which we see officers lying on the witness stand. A show in which we see officers making questionable arrest decisions. A show in which we see the shortcomings of the state's breath test machine. A show in which we see how the Constitution has been subverted in the name of making our streets safer. But that'll never sell.

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