Instant suspension of DUI suspect licenses crosses line - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Instant suspension of DUI suspect licenses crosses line

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Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 7:36 pm | Updated: 10:32 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, has decided to continue a reckless vendetta against drunken driving and he seems willing to sacrifice our civil liberties and every bit of common sense in his rush to save just one more life.

A set of new DUI laws recognized as among the toughest in the country, including the mandated use of ignition interlock devices for a year on a person’s first misdemeanor conviction, has been in effect for less than three months. We have no idea if more jail time, higher fines and a physical barrier to driving after drinking will be wildly successful, an abject failure or fall somewhere in between.

But Waring already is back to heap even more punishment on DUI suspects before there is confirmation the driver did anything wrong. As Capitol Media Services reported in Friday’s Tribune, Senate Bill 1008 would require the immediate suspension of driver’s licenses for motorists who are part of an accident involving a serious injury or death and they are arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

State law already requires police to physically take away the driver’s license of DUI suspects. But they receive a temporary permit in return, giving the motorists an opportunity to challenge a license suspension at a state administrative hearing. As driving is considered a privilege, not a right, the standard in such cases is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” DUI suspects can lose their driver’s license for 90 days even if they eventually defeat the criminal charges.

But at least a truly innocent person has a chance to appeal to an authority not beholden to the police before they lose access to a daily part of most people’s lives that often is critical to keeping a job and caring for a family.

Waring’s bill would deny even this minimal version of the due process of law. A DUI suspect anywhere in the state instantly would be powerless to drive, even if the police don’t yet have any physical evidence of intoxication (such as breath or blood test results).

Sure, Waring’s bill would keep the current requirement for the state to hold an administration hearing within 30 days. But the state frequently ignores that deadline, and the real-world damage would be done by then anyway.

SB1008 completely disregards the American notion of “innocent until proven guilty” and would push Arizona much closer toward a police state in which judges and other independent arbiters of justice are irrelevant relics.

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