If Drunk Drivers Were Treated like Sex Offenders…

Nobody likes sex offenders. People aren’t very fond of drunk drivers, either. In fact persons convicted of DUI, DWI are thousands of times more likely to be involved in the same type of crime again, and kill or injure far more people including children and young adults each year than previously convicted sex offenders. But no matter how egregious the crime, both groups are entitled to the same rights under our Constitution. In particular, after they complete their punishment, they should be DONE and able to start over. If they offend again, then the punishment should be swift and more harsh. Their families, especially their children, should not be harassed and ostracize simply for living with a former offender. This is what we, as Americans, expect from our legal system and from each other. This satirical analogy is intended to show just how far from those expectations our government’s treatment of sex offenders has become. Hopefully you will agree that this “fake history” is absurd, unconstitutional, and would cause much more harm than good. Unfortunately, it has direct parallels to what has really been happening to sex offenders and their families.
If Drunk Drivers Were Treated like Sex Offenders…
You are caught running a red light. The policeman who pulls you over discovers you’ve been drinking, and arrests you for drunk driving. The judge sentences you to a $1000 fine and 60 days in jail. Recognizing your drinking problem, you participate in a treatment program, join
AA, and never drink again , let alone drink and drive.
Drunk driving tragedies have been in the news a lot recently, and the public wants to toughen up on drunk drivers. A law is passed requiring anyone convicted of drunk driving after the year 2000 to be put on a non-public registry for five years from the date of their conviction. The registry exists so if there are any hit-and-run accidents, the police
know who to check out as suspects first. You are now required to report to the police station once a year to give them your address, driver’s license number, license plate numbers, and
vehicle descriptions. You must report any changes in information within five days. If you fail to report, you can expect two years of incarceration on a felony charge. Reporting was demoralizing and embarrassing. Thank goodness you only have to do this for one year!
As a reaction to an especially messy drunk driving incident that got many people up in arms, everyone convicted of drunk driving after the year 2000 is restricted from living within 1000 feet of the nearest bar or store which sells alcoholic beverages. Your state legislature also
decides that its RDDs (registered drunk drivers) will need to be on the police registry for ten years from the date of their conviction. This takes a big bite out of the state budget, so RDDs are expected to pay $500 per year to offfset the cost. Your house is within range of two liquor stores. You have to move far out of town, forcing you and your wife to find new jobs. It’s a scramble, and Santa isn’t as generous this year. Your children, who had to change schools mid-year, are not happy. And now you are stuck on that registry until 2011!
Early 2008
The national government has imposed a minimum sentence of two years in prison for any drunk-driving charge, and a maximum of ten years if there has been damage to property or personal injury. Failure to register now carries a stiffer penalty of five years in prison, with no
parole in either situation. RDDs originally convicted of personal injury incidents must now re-register four times a year, at a cost of $250 per visit. Failure to register carries the same penalty as a new offense. Your family celebrates the fact that this time, the changes do not affect you. But it is cold comfort. You live in a small town, and people sometimes harrass you when you are out with the family.
Thanks to politicians who all want to show they are tough on Drunk Drivers, living restrictions are expanded to include any place where people congregate to drink. All RDD-owned vehicles must have pink license plates so others will know that a drunk driver might be behind
the wheel. Another federal law forbids any current RDD from owning certain types of vehicles. No studies have actually confirmed this, but it is believed that people who own these vehicles are more likely to drive while intoxicated. You own one of these restricted vehicles. You are allowed a month to sell it or face a felony charge and two years’ incarceration. You lose a
lot of money in the process, and can only afford to buy a clunker. You also have to move again, because there is a Kiwanis Club just over the hill. The only place that qualifies is a run-down trailer park filled with other RDDs. Your kids and wife are frequently harassed by schoolmates and neighbors whenever they drive anywhere, and the car is often
vandalized. The kids are regularly getting into fights at school, and your oldest shows signs of serious depression.
Early 2009
Two studies have shown Drunk Driving accounted for nearly __ child deaths last year, and __ serious child injuries. In a rapid response, federal government passes the Cindy Sweet Act, named after a child who became a paraplegic after one such incident, which mandates
that all states create a public, web-based registry listing ANYONE who has had ANY type of alcohol-related conviction and made it retroactive to include all people convicted of those offenses, no matter how long ago.  This registry includes the RDD’s home and work addresses, his/her photograph, description of his/her vehicle and of course the vehicle license plate number. RDD’s that have been convicted of personal injury charges must install breathalyzers, at their cost, into each vehicle they drive, that send radio reports back to their local police station for monitoring. A positive breathalyzer is grounds for immediate arrest. You lose your job because your employer refuses to be listed on the registry, and nobody else will hire you in spite of your excellent employment history. The road to the trailer park is lined with signs like “Baby Killers Ahead” and “Beware! Child Murderers!” Others are much cruder. Your eldest tries to commit suicide, and is placed in a treatment center. Unable to take any more of this, your spouse packs up the younger kids and moves out, with your blessing. You move into a two- bedroom trailer with five other RDDs, to conserve what little money you all manage to earn from odd jobs. Interestingly, not one of your trailor-mates have ever even driven drunk. But they all get the same treatment.
Penalties for new offenses, and for failing to register, have doubled. RDDs are no longer allowed to drive on the interstate, for public safety reasons. The breathalyzer and license plate requirements are expanded to include any vehicles owned by family members, because the RDD might have access to them. Also, all these vehicles must have a GPS installed for law enforcement to track whether it is safely parked in your driveway or parking lot between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., since those are the hours most bars are open. The new requirements have caused you and most of your trailer-mates to lose what little income you make, because you had night jobs. In desperation, everyone chips in to buy two bottles of good rum – the
first drink any of you have had since your convictions. Passing around the bottles, you all get roaring drunk, climb into your breathalyzer- enhanced vehicles, turn on the engines, and wait. Within minutes, police arrive and take all of you into custody. You are guaranteed to be
in prison for five years or more. But at least you are warm, and dry, and have steady job.
If you think this can’t happen. Take a look at the history of the registry that is built on lies, myths and misconceptions. if you don’t stand up for the disfavored groups rights then be prepared to lose your own.

5 comments for “If Drunk Drivers Were Treated like Sex Offenders…

  1. Jen
    October 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I have thought the same thing many of them are not stopped until they kill Someone!! But a sex offender gets a life sentence for talking online with profiles that say they are 20 and turn out not to be

  2. Molly
    October 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    The author has captured the idiocy of the SO laws perfectly.

  3. Renee
    October 13, 2014 at 5:24 am

    I am dating a sex offender and have since researched and learned how unjust and cruel the laws are regarding registration. Anyone who has any knowledge of labeling theory would understand how hard these laws make it for sex offenders to get on with their lives. These laws need serious reconsideration as they don’t help anyone but instead harm individuals who deserve redemption just as much as anyone else. Great article.

  4. Angel
    October 24, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    My name is Angel. It is not my real name, but it is a name. For the sake of this article, I wish to remain completely anonymous. I am a sex offender. I will remain a sex offender for the next ten years, and at the end of that ten years, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I will still appear on Google and even once I am given my freedom back, my name will still remain tarnished. I have effectively been given a life sentence. I engaged in inappropriate acts with a teenage girl when I was twenty-two. I am guilty. No one held my arm and forced me to do this. I made a cognizant decision to do so and I served time for it. I was given six years in prison, and yet my prison sentence has yet to end.
    Society chooses to demonize sex offenders. Surprisingly, I understand this. I have nieces and nephews. I have friends with small children. I have been involved with women who were the victim of rape. A person who strips the innocence from another person is effectively giving them a life sentence as well. More often than not, that person will suffer until their dying day. They will carry a shame with them until they return the earth from which they were borne. I know this simple fact because I too am a victim of sexual abuse. No, it’s not the cause of my action. We cannot allow the past to dictate our choices.
    I can understand why society treats those lumped into that category with such disdain. I can see both sides of the coin. The problem is the view we are given is often misguided. I was once the person looking on the registry and making sure their were no predators in my neighborhood. I didn’t want any Child Molesters or Rapists coming near my loved ones or their children. We as a society though are not really educated. We are given a fear campaign and told to watch out for the Boogeyman in our backyards. That person is often hiding in our very homes.
    I am not saying these words to scare anyone, or further propagate fear. I only wish for people to understand the truth behind Sex Offenders. We’re not all the monsters you’ve been taught to fear. Are their bad ones? Yes? Are their ones who will go out and continue committing sex offenses? Yes. That is not all of us. The media would make you believe that most Sex Offenders will continue committing sex offenses. They use our ‘recidivism rate’ (Which is a fancy way of saying how many times we go back to prison) to measure this. What they fail to tell you is that more often than not these return trips to prison are over petty violations and not having anywhere to live.
    I came out of prison hoping to build a life for myself. I was told I would have a few years of parole but I wanted to keep moving forward and not let this hold me back. I didn’t really understand the full implications of this. My first two weeks out the state paid for a motel for me to live in. At the end of that two weeks, I was told I had to find a place to go or I would be sent back to prison. My state maintains a 1,000 restriction for registered sex offenders. This basically means I cannot live within three city blocks of a school, park, playground, youth center, daycare or any other place where children might congregate. I would implore the reader to really look around their city the next time they’re out and see the full implications of those restrictions. A thousand feet is only three city blocks, but that distance can mean a great deal with so many restrictions. As an added condition of my parole, neither was I allowed to visit these places. I gave my parole officer address after address for friends and family who were willing to let me stay with them. With each address given, I was told they were in restricted areas and that not only could I not live there, neither could I visit these places. I have a very loving family and many wonderful friends and for that I am blessed. They lent me money so I could stay in extended-stay motels until I could get myself financially stable. Not everyone has this. Most of the offenders coming out of prison have no one left and very few options
    I had financial support but due to the rules that were extended to me by parole, I was limited on the emotional support I could receive. I was not allowed to visit my friends, or family, and thus when I was struggling with some inner crisis, it feel upon my own shoulders to deal with. This often lead to emotional breakdowns and extended hospitalizations. I didn’t give up though. I kept moving forward and kept telling myself things would start to look up. I finally got myself fiscally stable and moved to the next stage of regaining a normal life-intimate relationships.
    This became the next hurdle. Another condition of my parole was that I couldn’t have an intimate relationship with another adult without the consent of my parole officer. Strict guidelines were placed upon this. The person could not be more than five years younger or older than me. The person could not have children under the age of eighteen. The person could not be a felon. The person must meet my parole agent. I know all of this seems easy at first glance but it would often be two or three months before my parole officer found time to sit down with the person. We live in a society where intimacy is expected within the first month or two. The first challenge was finding a partner willing to look past my background. Next came someone who fit that criteria (and being as I was 25 at the time, it was a challenge to find someone between the ages of 20-30 who didn’t have any children). Finally, getting them to be patient enough to wait for my parole officer to approve them. As you can imagine, this never quick worked out. I ended up doing an additional two years in prison because I decided I wanted to engage in healthy interaction with another consenting adult.
    The final hurdle of course was maintaining my fiscal stability. The restrictions placed upon us pretty much lumped us all into extended stay motels on a strip that just barely fit the restrictions placed upon us. These motels are not cheap. It’s a struggle to maintain them. In addition, we were required to pay forty dollars a week to attend a “monitoring class” for the entire length of parole. For most of us, the only option was to go back to prison.
    It is not that Sex Offenders keep recommitted crimes. They are often sent back to prison because they have no where to go. Few employers want to hire us and once we’ve managed to find meaningful income, we struggle to pay for all the hoops we’re told we have to jump through. We are basically stripped of our support group and given little to look forward to or even fight for
    Even when parole comes to a close, we are still often given new rules as legislation passes and the reins on us are tightened. Society doesn’t understand that most sex offenders never recommit a sex offense. Society doesn’t understand that few of those offenses are committed by someone driving around in a paneled van. It’s committed by someone they trust. Legislation passes laws to keep us off the internet. They pass laws to keep us from living in certain areas. This protects no one. You haven’t taken away their ability to walk those few blocks to find a victim. Since the advent of true smart phones in 2007, we live in a society where computers not fit inside our pocket and can be bought for less than fifty dollars at a gas station. You are not keeping the true predators offline, because the ones who want to find a new victim regardless of what laws you enact.
    These laws do not affect the predators because they are going to circumvent them if they so see fit. These laws affect the people who are ACTUALLY trying to get their lives together. You limit where we can live and then wonder why we just stop registering. You then lock us up and brag to the public that you protected the community. You endanger our lives by making our addresses public. You do not just endanger OUR lives but the lives of our loved ones and our children. You call it protecting the public but how are you doing so? If I am a predator and you post my picture so my neighbors can see, I just go to a different neighborhood. Are you trying to protect the children? Just because you might know what I look like now doesn’t mean they do.
    I remember when I was a children, we practiced stranger danger. Do you know what has gone wrong in society? We are plugging our kids in front of tablets, televisions, and cell phones and letting these things educate them. I was on an anonymous app called Whisper and stumbled across an eleven year old child using it. She had already been sent dozens of naked pictures by men (even after it was clear that she was just a child) I couldn’t help but wonder where her parents were in this but thankfully convinced this little girl to delete this app. If you want your children safe, EDUCATE THEM. The big thing you need to remember is that the boogeyman isn’t usually some guy driving around a park trying to grab your kiddo, it’s someone you trust and have known for years. More often than not, it’s a FAMILY MEMBER.

  5. LA
    December 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you Willb for the blog post, I’ve had very similar parallels roll around in my brain and am glad to see it blogged so well.
    Thank you commenters, especially “angel” – again, well put and straight forward, sadly too few will likely see that sentiment, and even less will open their heart enough to empathize, much less sympathize.
    I found this blog via W.A.R newsletter and will save it back for future sharing and reference. If you are interested in supporting, either in time, financial, or just spreading the word, make sure you support SOSEN and maybe get involved with W.A.R or another RSOL site. Every ‘small pebble’ makes ripples in the lake (i.e you’ll make a difference).

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