(Photo: Milwaukee County Sheriff/AP)
Yesterday, JSOnline’s Don Walker reported that Yovani Gallardo pled no contest to DUI – or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated if you want to get technical. Gallardo’s blood alcohol content was 0.22, easily exceeding the legal limit of 0.08.
Whenever a celebrity gets arrested, there is often speculation that they won’t have the same criminal justice experience as regular folks would. At first blush, it seems that Gallardo’s sentence isn’t anything exceptional:
According to online court records, Gallardo was fined $865 and will lose his driver's license for seven months. In addition, Gallardo will have to use an ignition interlock device for a period of one year. Such devices, which require the user to exhale into it like a breathalyzer, is required in Wisconsin for first offense operating while intoxicated offenders with an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher.
Although it doesn’t appear that Gallardo is getting special treatment, it begs the question – is ordinary treatment appropriate? Is suspending a driver’s license for seven months suitable punishment for a first offense?
One presumes Gallardo won’t have any trouble getting a ride to work during those seven months. That might not be so easy for the average person. Taking the bus to work, or having to get a ride from a friend-colleague-spouse would be an inconvenience at best, and more likely a serious burden. What about people who have young children in day care? Is taking the bus a reasonable option for them?
What about running errands? Everyone needs to go grocery shopping, pick their kids up from school, and do all sorts of other chores that require driving. Not everyone is going to be able to find alternate transportation for these kinds of activities for seven whole months. I would guess most folks in those circumstances are going to drive anyway, even with a suspended license. They’ve been put in a position where their easiest option is to break the law.
If the purpose is to discourage drunken driving, a several hundred dollar fine is enough for a first offense (which I understand is $300 – Gallardo was subject to additional fines for his level of intoxication and lane deviation). The law should assume that it was a one-time lapse in judgment. Penalties like suspending a driver’s license or requiring an ignition interlock device are more appropriate for repeat offenders. But for a first offense they are excessive.
Certainly, none of these penalties for a first offense will be especially onerous for someone in Gallardo’s position. As for the rest of us, it’s easy to see how they could be needlessly disruptive, and even encourage additional law-breaking – which would not make the general public better protected from drunk drivers. If the law isn’t going to make us safer, it’s a pretty lousy law.