By Joe Jarvis
25 years without the possibility of parole.
What did this guy do? Rape? Murder? Armed Robbery? A botched terrorist attack?
Nope. He drove drunk.
Granted, he drove drunk a lot. Actually, this was his fourth driving while intoxicated conviction.
But driving is a bit of an overstatement… he was arrested in the parking lot after turning on his car and pressing the brakes.
The man said he was just sitting in his car waiting for a cab. That is probably a lie. This guy is clearly irresponsible. His blood alcohol content was .276 which would put most people down for the night with a bad headache the next day. It was completely reckless for him to attempt to operate a vehicle in such a condition.
But 25 years in prison? No one was actually hurt by his behavior. Yes, many people could have been hurt. He was putting other people at risk for his own selfish reasons. But that is still a pre-crime. What he did was a crime because of what that behavior could lead to, not because of actual harm done to any person.
I think people should be punished for actual harm they do, not for victimless crimes. But forget the philosophical consistency for a minute and just think about this subjectively.
People who actually kill someone drunk driving don’t usually get that kind of sentence. In the last month, a man drunk driving in New York got 3.5-10.5 years for hitting and killing an elderly couple. A California man hit two pedestrians, killing one, left the scene, and was sentenced to one year in prison. A woman did get a 25-year sentence for killing one pedestrian and injuring another while under the influence, but she will be eligible for parole after 5 years.
At the trial of the man who never hurt anyone, the prosecution presented three prior DWI convictions which weighed into his conviction and sentencing. Yet judges routinely do not allow that kind of evidence for much more serious crimes. In one murder trial past violent crimes against women, even with the same style of assault, were not allowed to be presented at trial.
The court ruled that the sentence is not excessive because it was his fourth DUI arrest. The prosecutor says we owe law enforcement a debt of gratitude for keeping us safe.
But what happens when law enforcement commit serious crimes with actual victims?
A corrections officer was found guilty of raping a male inmate. His sentence: two years of PROBATION. He did not even get a single day in jail. For RAPE. Of a prisoner who could not fight back or run away.
So a man will be put in jail for 25 for driving under the influence, and guarded by people who could literally rape him, and not even face a single day in prison.
The man who was raped by a prison guard sued the prison alleging cruel and unusual punishment and failure of the prison to protect someone in their care. The court rejected his claims and dismissed the lawsuit.
A former Nebraska prison inmate who was sexually assaulted by a corrections officer in 2012 can’t pursue civil damages against prison officials who placed him in solitary confinement after he reported the rape.
The contrast between civilian and government officials is stark. Government officials get off basically scot-free for actual serious harm to victims.
And for the civilians, the sentencing can be harsh but follows no sane guidelines. This is not meant to be a defense of drunk driving. The point is that victimless crimes are often punished more severely than actual wrongdoing.
Under a common law system where all suits derive from conflicts between individuals–victimizations–this would not be the case.