March 30, 2007

On Drunk Drivers' Human Rights

We are informed today that a 19-year old kid tested positive for driving drunk. He was charged, released, went home, got into the car again and had an accident (not killing himself but hitting three cars in the process).

According to Stravaraland's Attorney General, it is a violation of human rights to be kept overnight in prison until you are sober to drive.

I dont get it. In the U.S. this is standard practice in most states. If human rights are not being violated in the U.S., why are they being violated in Stravaraland?

Any views?

PS: Possible answers that I deem inadequate:
1) You might be marginally above the limit. In that case, you might be allowed to go home after being charged if you can stand on one leg for 30 seconds or if you can walk on a straight line. Anyway, by the time someone takes you home you should be sober in this case anyway.

2) Police might be mistreating you if you stay in. Well, then you deal with police behavior, you dont let drunk people back on the street!

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apodime,

You are making a valid point. However, being drunk is not illegal. What is illegal is driving whilst drunk. Granted, keeping someone in prison whilst they 'sober up' prevents them from driving a car and being a danger to the public and to themselves. However, isn't there a simpler solution than denying someone's liberty? How about impounding the car and sending them home in a taxi? In the US this is impractical given the larger distances outside urban areas. In Cyprus it's probably an acceptable solution.

The wider issue here is deterrence. How do you stop people from thinking than drink driving is OK? This only comes with education, culture, peer pressure etc - it won't necessarily come through legislation or even the more vigorous enforcement of existing legislation (which is what is arguably lacking in Cyprus at the moment...).

Take the car from the person, don't put the person in jail.

Keep up the excellent blog !

30 March, 2007 12:50  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

"Take the car from the person, don't put the person in jail."

So, what if the 19-year old goes home and picks up the second car to continue the testosterone drive?

"However, being drunk is not illegal. What is illegal is driving whilst drunk. ... isn't there a simpler solution than denying someone's liberty?"

I do not see why denying someone's liberty for a night (actually 3 hours given the most usual time they get arrested), when they are a proven public danger to the life of others, should be an issue, or not a reasonable measure.

"The wider issue here is deterrence. How do you stop people from thinking than drink driving is OK? This only comes with education, culture, peer pressure etc - it won't necessarily come through legislation or even the more vigorous enforcement of existing legislation (which is what is arguably lacking in Cyprus at the moment...)".

I disagree. I agree that education is needed and will come over time, the question is how long the lesson will last. A country going from Third World to First World in GDP dimensions is not automatically First World in most other dimensions. Severe punishments (and I do not consider an overnight stay in prison severe) will help make the education lesson faster to understand.

30 March, 2007 13:12  
Blogger Sceptic Anonymous said...

It's a legal issue surely. The Police merely implements the law and there is no law that allows the Police to detain a person without an arrest warrant from a court.

For the same reason a police man cannot break into a house even if he suspects there are guns/drugs or a crime is being carried out. He still needs to have a search warrant.

It's all about separating the different powers, in this case the law enforcement from the judges. I find it scary every time the Cyprus media have a moral outrage about drunk and drive and come up with ridiculous solutions.

The General Attorney has actually stated that persons detained for this reason can effectively sue the Cyprus Government and most probably they will win the case.

Bad habbits cannot be combatted with bad laws.

The problem in Cyprus as ever is the lax attitude vis-a-vis actual enforcement of law. We have introduced the point system on driving licences yet no one has been denied his licence. It's the whole attitude toward law and the perception that anything goes, worst case scenario you pay a fine and then you are free to do as you please.

In most cases is easy. Just implement the law uniformly and consistently. Not only when the media has its moral outrage crisis and then moves to the next sensation.

30 March, 2007 13:35  
Anonymous m said...

Initially I had the same reaction as you: Why let him go if he clearly cannot drive? Or Why was he not escorted home and left to leave with a friend?

What makes the story fishy is that, apparently his alcohol level was only 36microGrams (below the previous limit of 39) which means he was not drunk-drunk. Also, after 3 hrs when he was found the second time, did his alcohol content not fall?? (apparently it was 19microGrams). [All this according to kanali 6 radio] Now something, somewhere is not ok... and I thinkthe police would have reason to let a story like this "leak" (as opposed to the other hundreds that happen every day) to let people "see" that "oh, they were right to keep them locked up".

This is Cyprus, the police station is maximum 10 minutes from your house. Send them home to sleep it off, unless they are above 60 or clearly a potential problem.

30 March, 2007 14:07  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

I dont get it.

If detaining a drunk driver is legal in the US, then the issue of separation of powers should not really enter this discussion?

I do not think this is a ridiculous solution for this problem since it is a strategy used by countries that have managed to deal with this problem (eg the US)

30 March, 2007 14:10  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

In fact, given we all agree about law enforcement and how it holds the potential solution but does not really work on the island, letting people in for a night might not be such a bad idea for that reason as well.

Paying a 50 pound fine later, or putting (maybe, depending on who and what you know and how drunk you are to use these) 2 points on your driver's license (if you are not dead from the accident) are not sufficiently inconvenient to prevent you from doing this again.

But staying a few hours in uncomfortable environments is a surely fast track to implementing equality before the law in the land. Maybe this is why so many people feel upset about this, it is something unavoidable regardless of who you are given the circumstances...

30 March, 2007 14:20  
Anonymous Γιώργος Ιορδάνου said...

The Attorney General just said that it was unconstitutional, and that the chief of the police, cannot decide by himself these kind of things.

On the other hand, there's a law proposal in the parliament, to find a solution to the problem (if i'm not mistaken the proposal was prepared by dhko and dhsy). They are suggesting that drivers that the alcohol in their blood is marginally above the 22mg limit, would be charged and allowed to go home. Drivers way above limit, would be kept in, taking an alcotest every hour.

It is a burocratic matter, that is getting resolved, and as always we make a big deal out of it. In addition to that, i don't want the police to have such decision-making powers.

Cheers

30 March, 2007 16:11  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

OK, let me see if I can get consensus.

The Attorney General pointed out that a law is needed to keep drunk drivers overnight in police custody.

Some parties have responded to this and a law enabling police to keep heavily drunk drivers will pass parliament.

There seems to be broad agreement that this is not a bad law.

At the same time, as a matter of principle or fear of police inadequacies, nobody wants the police to confer too much power to itself.

Are there any strong disagreements with the above? Did I misinterpret anything?

30 March, 2007 16:45  
Anonymous Γιώργος Ιορδάνου said...

Yep apodime, that's exactly the case (at least as i understand it).

Some idiots of course like the facistoanarchist Mavros attacked the attorney general pointing him as responsible for what happened with the 19 year old kid. He cannot get the fact that he was just doing his job.

I may be a little obsessed with the police not having more power than the absolute minimum, but i prefer my obsession than possible χούντες. Plus, the average iq of cypriot policemen is depressingly low.

30 March, 2007 21:22  
Blogger Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...

Let's clear up the legal stuff first: laws are passed by parliament; the police merely enforce them. The police have no right to enforce their own laws. THANK GOD.

About this particular case: the guy wasn't even drunk. As someone already said, his alcohol level the first time he was stopped was 36 mg. Even in the old days it had to be at least 39 mg for the police to lock him up. After the accident, it was only 19 mg. The guy was not drunk. He was just an asshole.

The problem is not drunk driving. The problem is asshole driving (which may of course be magnified by drunkenness, but you don't have to be drunk to be an asshole). So let's just pass a law prohibiting assholes from driving. Apodime?

30 March, 2007 22:27  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

Actually, my solution is simple.

Hire a company to bring in 10 American policemen (big cars, a few guns, big sirens) and tell them that for 6 months, any fines they give out, are theirs to keep. Just supervise that they dont overdo it and ask them to train a special Cypriot equivalent. So, one Cypriot policeman (tested to have a decent IQ) will be in the car, both making sure they dont overdo it and at the same time learning the trade. I bet in 6 months there will be a new Cypriot driver on the streets.

31 March, 2007 09:46  
Blogger Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...

Δεν θα πάρω, ευχαριστώ.

31 March, 2007 10:23  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

Όπως έλεγε και ο Ν Λανίτης, αυτό είναι φάρμακο, δεν είναι γλυκό. Είναι αρρώστεια η αμπαλατοσύνη τζαί θέλει ραβτί, όχι ασκήσεις δημοσίων σχέσεων από διάφορους Αππωμένους...

31 March, 2007 10:51  
Anonymous Γ.Ι said...

Απόδημε,

Ενεν ραβτί που θέλει, εν cultural development. Τζιαι αν εχάθηκε το παιχνίδι με την προηγούμενη γενιά, εν κρίμα να χαθεί τζιαι για τούτη, επειδή μετά ακολουθά η επόμενη.

Τα σέβη μουη

31 March, 2007 13:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this one: we bring 10 Texas Rangers (big cars, a many guns, optional sirens) and tell them that for 6 months, they can shoot any driver violating the law. It's much simpler than yours because it doesn't involve one policeman overseeing another policeman to make sure they don't overdo it (nice model of moderation you have there pal), and it doesn't require a minimum IQ (which is difficult to find in the Cypriot police force as is). I bet in 6 months there will be a new Cypriot driver on the streets. Simpler, better.

01 April, 2007 16:43  
Anonymous ziouziou said...

stravaraland just like you said!
Finally not even a year ago we got A SMART person in charge of the policeforece that made some radical changes... like, there would be no policement jumping in the middle of the street to stop a car ,at night all policcars should have their sirens on, and the best of all was, if you were drunk, you would be taken to the police station to sobber up and let go the next morning. The stravoraland attorney jouneral decided against that, but forgot about MY rights of NOT BEING HIT BY A DRUNK DRIVER. so what is the point of stopping thme and giving them the alcotest? only in cyprus....may the killing continue

01 April, 2007 22:34  
Blogger the Idiot Mouflon said...

I've witnessed worse cases that did not make the press because it was not necessary at the time. Yes, the "leak" and its proportions intended to stir the issue, probably the other one about the drunk cop was intentional too.

Still, the problem remains.

Anyone ever worry about the slippery slope that such steps (detaining the person) lead to?

I believe that before detention you must use all other means first, that should be a basic principle of any liberal constitution. Escorting sounds nice but what if they do not wanna go home? They may want to walk around the town while drunk and that's not illegal -if they don't pee in public or start a fight -right?

Practically, all the other meausres that involve policing may face similar problems.

And in any case, the U.S. hasn't exactly dealt with the problem, it just hides it. While being there, I've been asked to buy alcohol for minors (21-) from inside a car (a thick cloud of THC that came out their window as they rolled it down made the walk to the University quite interesting). The little pricks were stoned out of their minds and they wanted beer!!! Is that a solution?

***

The problem with the way this was handled by the media is the fact that we are all discussing the legal & policing issues regarding the matter. How about discussing alternative means of transportation or our role in providing examples of behavior that do not contribute or encourage drunk driving?

Why do we rush to accept a discussion only about what should have been our last line of defense?

Sorry for the γλωσσοδιαρροια and for not directly answering the q. but methinks there's a problem with focusing on that question first. When all else is resolved, ask again.

02 April, 2007 13:56  
Blogger AnTonymous said...

Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...
About this particular case: the guy wasn't even drunk. As someone already said, his alcohol level the first time he was stopped was 36 mg. Even in the old days it had to be at least 39 mg for the police to lock him up. After the accident, it was only 19 mg. The guy was not drunk. He was just an asshole.

The problem is not drunk driving. The problem is asshole driving (which may of course be magnified by drunkenness, but you don't have to be drunk to be an asshole). So let's just pass a law prohibiting assholes from driving. Apodime?
-------------
Couldnt have said it better myself!!!
The point is: Somebody gets pulled over and he is intoxicated over the limit?
Get him at the station if needed, to get an accurate result and if he still is unable to drive according to the results of the breathalysers,let him go and keep his car for the night.
The impact is still as strong compared, to paying the fine some time later, and if impact is what will change the mentality of a person to stop drinkin and drivin that should do it too.If it doesn't then unless theres a tragedy outcome, the mentality of that person wont change.
The law, as somebody stated, is not being drunk but drunk driving.Yes theres always a chance he might get another car(highly unlikely to happen much,just cause it happened in this case), but that was explained by illantros.
Theres is always a chance of anything bad happening as long as there is enough stupidity and im not talking about drunk driving only here, but anything stupidity can cause, and police cannot be given the right to lock everyone up to prevent everything.

02 April, 2007 22:15  
Blogger Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...

It's instructive to recall just a few incidents involving the Cyprus police in the last year or so:

- two students get the shit beat out of them because they talked back to the MMADites
- a policeman in Limassol was running a mpourdelo
- journalists are arrested in Moni because they "attacked the police"
- a few weeks ago yet another incident of the police shooting at an immigrant
- just a couple of days ago a policeman abandoned his post, went drinking, and caused an accident. Blood alcohol level: 140mg. While on duty.

There's more, but that's enough to make it clear that giving the police more power is not the answer.

02 April, 2007 23:01  
Anonymous ham said...

xypnate re...

oso tha yparxoun aftokinita tha yparxoun kai distyximata... astynomokratoumeno kratos katastolis den theloume... thank you ... piennete stin ameriki

Sorry ... tse twra sta egglezika

Simple solution to prevent fatal accidents without violating HUMAN RIGHTS (ie getting arrested on saturday night and be in prison until monday morning when the court offices open - personal experience - alc. 41mg):

Many accidents are caused by teenage soldiers @ 6 am. Why does a soldier need to be back in campus at this time and not at at 12 or later ... he will definetely drive back to mathkiatis @ 100mph ...

A policy that involves taking the drunk driver;s driving licence for a period of time would be more appropriate than having him/her imprisoned...

Can you imagine your mon behind the bars because she had TWO glasses of wine @ 22:00? ennen logiko etsi?

05 April, 2007 15:51  
Anonymous C.P said...

Hello to everybody, I would like to post and my opinion to this great blog.

In england if you caught drunk and driving they kindly ask for your licence and when you will finnaly give it to them they take out a scissor and they cut it from the middle. Then they calling for someone to pick you cause you don't have driving license anymore and they send you to get a lisence from the begging.

Soo that would be a measure a good one cause if you drink and your house is 10 to 45mins from your place of entertainment then you will be going carrefully directly home and not taking any kind of touristiki or main streets and thinking that you have 100% reflexes and that you are in a rally team and the road is the track.

As many of you already know you must be at home 45mins after you stopped drinking cause after that the alcohol in your blood starting to reduces even more your reflexes.
Ok of course if you are able to see the road with both eyes and not with the one close :o)

Soo firtly we must think and create some applicable laws and then to start doing the job right.
In order to reduce these kind of accidents and "illegalizations".

And in my opinion police dept's must start cleaning the force from any kind of "dirty" policemans.

23 October, 2007 10:05  

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