What Is The "DUI Exception To The Constitution"?


Mr. Taylor (retired) describes how our nation’s system of justice, has caused the constitutional rights of DUI suspects to diminish over the years. DUI, just like the crime of child molestation, is a politically and socially unacceptable crime. This gives legislators, judges and others in the legal system the opportunity to easily circumvent the constitutional rights of DUI suspects. Many of the players in our legal system have pressure on them to either violate DUI suspects’ constitutional rights or risk the possibility of not being re-elected. The reason why so many constitutional rights have, and continue, to disappear for DUI suspects is that we are a nation of common law and legal precedent. This means that the laws that govern our country are judge-made laws. The problem with judge-made laws is that they create a slippery slope. Judges interpret certain statutes and laws to mean one thing, which then gets expanded far beyond what the judge’s actual ruling entailed. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that roadblocks to checking for possible DUI suspects were constitutional. Although the court never mentioned checking for drugs, insurance, or a valid registration, local law enforcement agencies have done just that and have turned these roadblocks into an opportunity, to also check for violations other than DUI. And thus, this is how a slippery slope is created within our legal system.

Show Transcript


Richard Jacobs (RJ): Do you see the potential of a legal slippery slope with the erosion of protections such as, you know, "The DUI Exception to the Constitution," the right to trial by jury, double jeopardy and other things that you have spoken about in your blog?

Lawrence Taylor (LT): Yes, I did, I coined that term, "The DUI Exception to the Constitution," about twenty years ago and it has not gotten any better. There has just been an unending series of decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court as well as State Supreme Courts taking away constitutional rights and we could spend the rest of the day discussing that. There is a slippery slope and first of all, DUI is a politically incorrect crime. Along with child molesting, those are the two probably socially unacceptable, politically incorrect, types of offenses. And that means that prosecutors and legislators and judges can get away with not following the rules in the Constitution easily. In fact, there is a lot of pressure on them not to, if they want to get re-elected.

RJ: Oh.

LT: It is a slippery slope partly because we are a nation of legal precedent. We are a common law nation, our laws, our legal system, is based on the British legal system and which is practiced in the former commonwealth colonies. The rest of the world follows the French Napoleonic code, a civil code; they’re different. The primary difference is, we are a nation of precedent, not of statutes, we do have statutes, but we have certain courts that interpret them and when they interpret it, it becomes law.

RJ: Right.

LT: So, if the Supreme Court of Alabama says it’s okay not to give Miranda Rights in a DUI case until after he’s already in jail and after all the processes or over three hours, four hours after he’s been arrested. Well that’s precedent. But it’s not just precedent for DUI and that’s a slippery slope.

RJ: Right.

LT: It’s politically easy to derogate, to take away constitutional rights in a DUI case. Fine, but they’re not going to use that in other areas, when a person is arrested for theft, when a person is arrested for any number of different offenses. They can now, to a considerable degree, use that precedent. And, for example, when they legalized roadblocks, when The Supreme Court five to four decided roadblocks were okay. . .

RJ: Right.

LT: and I have yet to find in the Fourth Amendment anywhere where it makes an exception for roadblocks; it doesn’t.

RJ: Right.

LT: And the Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist admitted it, but he just said, well, yeah it is a violation of constitutional rights, but it’s just a little violation and the government has a big interest in stopping DUI's. So what do they do with that? Well, after that of course, the slippery slope, as you said, kicked in and state law enforcement agencies starting stopping people at roadblocks for drugs, for example, to search the car for drugs, to check for registration, license, for all kinds of different things. That’s what happens. You set precedent; you start opening it up into other fields.

RJ: Right.

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