Sunday, June 1, 2008

When Fines and License Suspension are not Enough

Nassau County, the county that covers the western portion of Long Island, has announced what the local media have dubbed a "controversial" move. Starting this past Memorial Day weekend, every person arrested for DUI/DWI by the Nassau County police will have their name and photograph circulated to area newspapers and websites, where these things will be published for all to see.

Why the move has been called "controversial" is beyond me, however. Nassau County officials have minced no words when it comes to why this particular initiative was put into place. They have said that the publication of the names and the photos are there to embarrass, and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has dubbed the collection of photos "the wall of shame."

So why do I think that this is a good idea? The fact of the matter is that drunk driving is one of the largest contributors to traffic fatalities and, despite a lot of tough talk about controlling it and punishing it harshly, it does not seem that DUI/DWI is punished that harshly. While the most recent report that I found regarding DUI/DWI conviction rates states that many states either do not keep records of the outcomes or paints the outcome in the most favorable light possible (meaning that the numbers are somewhat fudged to make it look harsher than the reality), a quick Google search of DUI/DWI fatalities and their accompanying punishments shows the less than severe consequences for a severe crime.

Even without a fatality, it seems that jail time can be easily avoided by copping a plea. The most common punishment, it seems, is a fine and/or a suspension of one's license. This, however, does not stop someone from going back out and doing the same thing. Sure, people are not supposed to drive with a suspended license, but the kind of person who catches a DUI/DWI may not exactly be the person (in some cases) who would respect a suspended license. Plus, if the person is rich, what is a fine to them? That's where the embarrassment factor comes in. Now someone who gets a DUI has their photo published and (hopefully) their friends and family would urge them not to drive, knowing that they were arrested for DUI. Additionally, those with money and influence would not be able to sweep the incident under the rug; the name and photo is out there and people would know.

Also, this could be an opportunity for someone to get help. Denial is a major factor in alcoholism, and a DUI/DWI could be someone's breaking point or rock bottom. If their friends or family knew about their DUI/DWI they could try to help that person out, seek some counseling for them or something of that nature. Alcoholism is a disease and at times a public DUI could be a person's unraveling point, forcing that person to look at themselves and try to begin to turn their lives around (read: Vito Fossella). The embarrassment factor could force one to realize how desperate their situation is, and judging by the looks of some of those arrested so far in this public DUI initiative, there are certainly some of those people out there.

So while this embarrassing initiative may not deter those without shame, it hopefully will make some people think twice about getting behind the wheel of a car drunk. The act in and of itself is selfish and dangerous, and the legal repercussions can often be sidestepped by those with money and influence (a decent amount of people in Nassau). So next time someone gets behind the wheel drunk in Nassau County they should think to themselves, would I want the entire tri-state area to know about this? Peace.

Photos - The scene of a fatal drunk driving accident (, A map of Nassau County in New York (, An alternative mode of transportation (

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