In Massachusetts, Driving Drunk, Getting Caught, Walking Away Scot Free

When it comes to driving sins, awareness is rising about the dangers of texting. Not to be forgotten is the old classic, drunk driving, which is still the number one driving-related killer. Nearly one-third of motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol. In 2009, that added up to about 11,000 deaths.

Most people that are arrested in Massachusetts for driving under the influence of alcohol are found not guilty by judges. Photo: Washington Post

Good thing we have a system of strict penalties for those who get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking, right?

Oh wait. A series by the Boston Globe found that across Massachusetts, even the most blatant offenders are overwhelmingly acquitted for this deadly serious act. The series found that judges hand down “not guilty” verdicts a staggering 80 percent of the time for drivers charged with operating under the influence — meaning no fines and no penalties.

Here are some lowlights from the series: A “not guilty” verdict for a multiple offender who ran his snow plow into a house with a vodka bottle in his glove compartment; “not guilty” verdicts for all 11 OUI defendants seen before a judge with a history of drunk driving himself.

James Sinclair at Network blog Stop and Move is disgusted:

…as for the question that “who gets hurt” when a drunk driver is set free? Well, the article lists multiple cases of drivers with multiple DUI’s in their history … drunk driving events that can’t be entered into the record because “they deserved a second chance”.

And what’s worse, these are only cases where the driver gets CAUGHT. How many times are these criminals hitting the streets and not being stopped?

The lawyers are making huge amounts of money, and so can afford cheap expert witnesses and other tools. The prosecutors cannot. Further, the lawyers [are sometimes able to steer trials to the] judges they want… the ones they know rule “not guilty” almost every time.

And in many cases, the judges are their longtime friends and partners.

The blatant disrespect for life is infuriating.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Steven Smith at Forbes writes that those who seek to make New York City housing affordable should look to build upward. This Big City writes that a fairly definitive study confirms that building bike infrastructure networks boosts cycling rates in cities. And I Bike TO says the the removal of a bike lane hurts women the most.