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As a DUII prosecutor in the state of Oregon, I can say that people charged with DUII are not all the same. They tend to either be social drinkers that made a mistake about the level of impairment they were at, alcoholics that think they are social drinkers, or hard core alcoholics that are aware of their problem.
It is important to note that the state is not prosecuting people for being alcoholics with DUII laws. This is America and people are free to waste themselves away with alcoholism. The state is prosecuting people for getting behind the wheel and endangering others, something people are not free to do.
Unfortunately, despite major gains over the last 30 years, driving under the influence of intoxicants is still somewhat socially acceptable. This social acceptance is reflected in Oregon's decision to give the vast majority of people charged with DUII a free first pass via the diversion program. The ambivalence of the Oregon legislature toward holding intoxicated drivers accountable for their actions is further reflected in allowing most people another diversion if 10 years has passed since your last conviction for DUII or diversion (every 15 starting in 2010). This legislatively created get out of jail free card is an anomaly in the criminal code. If we must have diversion at all, why not once in a lifetime? Why do we allow so many DUII offenses before someone can get a felony DUII in this state?
The laws in Oregon are very lenient towards intoxicated drivers, especially when you consider the huge community safety concerns that intoxicated drivers pose. Maybe one reason for the state of our laws is because, unlike a lot of other crimes, DUII crosses all socio-economic boundaries. No matter what neighborhood you live in or how many rooms your house has, you are likely to be or interact with people that have been charged with DUII. Oregon's elected representatives that make the laws we all live under are no different in this regard. It might be easy to get tough on "those people" that commit theft, rape, or murder, but with DUII there really is no "those people." It's all of us.
posted 3 years, 9 months ago
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