The Death of DUI

Posted on December 12, 2017 in Uncategorized


For a long time people have predicted the end of DUI. From a traffic safety point of view, this vision of no more DUI has been the stated goal of enforcement and also legislatures for time in memoriam.

For the longest time, many thought it could be achieved through stiffer sentencing and longer license suspensions. This tough enforcement policy has failed because DUI is not typically a crime of prolonged premeditation. Very few offenders when asked say that when they started to drink that they did so with full and complete intent to purposefully break the DUI laws. Most of the time, it is either situational (the designated driver left him or her at a bar and no one would give them a ride, or that they got caught up in the moment losing track of their number of drinks) or that they do not realize how intoxicated they truly are. As such it is not a crime for which harsh sentences make for a general deterrence. The statistics show that harsher sentences and longer suspensions do not act as a specific deterrent to those who are true problem drinkers and who continue to drive while drunk.

When interlock devices first came on the scene, there were many who predicted that no car would start in America without a breathalyzer clearance. Clearly, this prediction was wrong. It was wrong because consumers would not support it. It wasn't cool and with a vastly lazy American public it took a few extra seconds of time, which no one seemingly has. I would not go running to etrade to buy stock in a company that announces that it has developed some sort of
inexpensive, easy to install tactile or passive system will make it so there is no extra actions for drivers of cars, but prevent those from driving drunk. There are always gloves. And one thing is true for every upgrade in technology there is always some way to beat the system.

When and if that day comes when there no longer DUI, we should all celebrate.

I know I will.

But when it comes, will we even know what the beginnings look like?

Never before in history has this dream of safe roads been closer. The birth of a large technological leap forward will come with autonomous cars. Autonomous cars are driverless cars that do not need driver input to get from pre-programmed point to another. Just program in where you want to go and it does the driving. Far from the 1950′s cheesy version that immediately comes to mind, these cars are already here.

It seems like once a month a new traditional car manufacturer announces that they are testing and implementing this very technology. While one could debate when it will come about with some saying as soon as 2020, there is little doubt that it will be here, and it will likely be sooner than we even dare to think.

If you are a private DUI defense practitioner, you have to become prepared for the market in DUI defense to completely bottom out.

The people who can most afford NCDD members fees will move towards autonomous cars first. Just think of it. A car that will get you from point A to B without the stress of worrying about traffic and will allow you to work or play or watch a movie or even possibly sleep. Heck, you will not even have to be sober. With an autonomous car, one could be substantially impaired in the vehicle compartment and there would be no lawful probable cause or reasonable articuable suspicion to stop the car to lawfully investigate the occupant's level of sobriety. These cars just don't make mistakes. There would be no legal rationale for checkpoint stops for autonomous cars. Accidents would be a rarity. With the thousands of hours logged to date by the Google autonomous cars in heavy traffic areas in California, there has not been a single accident in these cars when they are in autonomous mode. It is not hard to imagine with
performance like that that the technology will not simply be optional, but it will be mandatory. If the complete fleet of cars and commercial vehicles in the US were replaced whole scale tomorrow with autonomous cars, and if even there was a 10% reduction in traffic fatalities or accidents, the public would scream for mandatory autonomous cars. The legislature would deliver. Based upon an appropriate extrapolation of the data available to date, the 10% number is extremely low with many studies concluding that if there was a whole scale replacement, the reduction would be closer to 80% to high to mid 90% range.

By not planning for the future or even thinking things might change, today's DUI practitioner is in trouble. Heck, it's not just DUI practitioners, but PI attorneys, bad faith insurance attorneys, insurance defense attorneys, and a whole lot more.

One only need to look at trends in related criminal defense fields to see that this prediction will be reality.

Once Big Pharma discovered that they could produce pills to give middle class people a modified high but remove all the risk of going to buy from a dealer and get medical insurance to cover it, the local drug dealers were doomed. Couple that with the very aggressive lobbying by Big Pharma to increase federal drug penalties and the viability of a drug defense practice was going to slow. Like all those attorneys who thought that the street drug trade defense would remain as profitable as it was in the 80′s and 90′s, there are going to be some very unhappy people soon in DUI defense.

Car manufacturers have realized from the smartphone industry that people will upgrade technology as soon as they can regardless of price and regardless of need. It is an ideal inelastic market. How many of us get the newest iPhone the minute it can be ordered even though we know the change is nearly undetectable? How many folks are on Tesla's waiting list? How many people got an iPad mini when they already had an iPad? You had to get an S4 phone when you had the S3, then you know what I am talking about.

I suspect that once these cars are out, the manufacturers will develop a buy back program to get more of their tech on the road and further entrench their brand and technology. With the tech hungry public, the car manufacturers know that some people are iPhone, some are Android, but you rarely see people who switch once they are ingrained in a system. The company that gets system loyalty will have an edge – which is why they would want to be first to market. Forbes in May predicted a market cap for autonomous car technology to be in the trillions. TRILLIONS. If you couple this with the "cool factor" of the people with discretionary income needing to "keep up with the Joneses," then the future becomes even more clear.

Heaven forbid if the rumored marriage of Tesla electric cars with Apple and Google comes true, those autonomous heavy tech zero emission cars will be on the road tomorrow.

So, what are you going to do?

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