Tuesday, January 08, 2013

If The Profile Fits...

I’m not sure how it escaped my notice at the time, but apparently a few years back the state of Michigan passed something known as the ”super drunk law”:

On January 9, 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed two public acts that created what has become commonly known as Michigan’s “super drunk” law.

1 With an effective date of October 31, 2010, this law amends several sections of the Michigan Vehicle Code and most notably adds a new definition of drunk driving applicable to drivers with a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of 0.17 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.

2 Drivers convicted under this new definition will be subject to enhanced punitive and license sanctions and will also be required to undergo one year of alcohol rehabilitation, which may be an alcohol treatment program or a self-help program. The enhanced punitive and license sanctions will apply only to first-time high-BAC offenders.

Second-and subsequent-offense license and punitive sanctions will remain unchanged, regardless of the driver’s BAC, presumably because the current overall punishment for repeat offenders is still greater than that established for super drunks.

Prosecutor: Dude, you are charged with being like...super drunk while driving the other night. How do you plead?

Defendant: Whatever...

Rumor has it that Michigan lawmakers are now considering adding another legal distinction to apply for drunk drivers that will be known as “totally wasted.”

While on the subject of drunk driving, we can also address an e-mail from Bob and Cindy:

After a lot of enjoyment and some chuckling while reading our new favorite web site fraterslibertas, I believe you may be the go to people for my concern; maybe you can shed some light on the commercials that peak during every holiday season, the driving after drinking commercials.

It seems that the commercials show white men as the only people stopped for drinking and driving.

Are these commercials based on the percent of the race or ethnicity of actual people pulled over for DUI, or demographics of viewers, or on actual convictions, or who is driving during the holiday, or the percent of people with ID’s that can drive?

Please help maybe you can shed some light into this gray area. They don’t have
to show anyone in particular being pulled over, except they do, I wish someone would put an end to the commercials as they just show white men as the culprits.

That’s actually an interesting question as I’ve also noticed a certain similarity in all the drunk driving suspects in these spots. It turns out to be one that isn’t all that easy to address. There aren’t a lot of demographic statistics readily available online on drunk driving arrests.

The State of Minnesota does have a breakdown of demographic data on felony DWI sentencing in 2011. There were 660 offenders sentenced for felony DWI in Minnesota in 2011 while there were 29,257 DWI arrests that year so it may not be a representative sample. Here is the breakdown:

DWI offenders are slightly more likely to be male (88%) than in the overall felony population (83%).

So the gender profile does seem to fit. Especially since 73% of those arrested for DWI in Minnesota that year were male.

A greater proportion of felony DWI offenders are likely to be white (69%) or American Indian (8%) than in the overall felony offender population (57% and 7%, respectively). The proportion of felony DWI offenders who are black (16%) is much lower than the proportion of black offenders in the overall felony population (28%).

According to the State Demographic Center, the 2010 census racial breakdown for Minnesota was:

White 85.3%
Black or African-American 5.2%
Hispanic or Latino 4.7%
Asian 4%
American Indian 1.1%

While the white may be slightly underrepresented in the felony DWI data compared to the overall numbers (and the black and American Indian numbers overrepresented), they don’t appear to be egregiously out of line. So in Minnesota at least, the profile from the PSA commercials of a white male being busted for DWI is a pretty accurate one. Guilty as stereotyped.

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