Was 1984 a vintage year? Just ask George Orwell.
To clarify (prior to any need for clarification), I have never had a DUI or any alcohol-related driving offense, although—hand before God—I once rear-ended a drunk while perfectly sober, augmenting an odd statistic: Drunk driving accidents that are the sober guy’s fault.
The polemics of drunk driving are equally weird, since there’s no real argument: In this day and age, with all our hyperlinked awareness, there is no excuse for endangering yourself or others by taking the driver’s seat when plastered. I get it—though as a nonsequitur, three drinks will put you over the top in most states unless you happen to weigh six hundred pounds or read War and Peace between cocktails.
My issue is not with the law; it’s with the law’s enforcement.
Hypothetically, say, a drunken priest gets pulled over and claims to have consumed nothing but water, and when the officer says, “I clearly smell wine on your breath,” Father Patrick replies: “Sweet Jesus—He’s done it again.”
How much do you want to bet that the good Reverend gets off with a warning?
Nothing against cops, mind you. If I’m in serious trouble, I don’t call a Gallo brother. But the fact of the matter is, DUI charges, like most driving infractions, tend to be discretionary on the part of the over-pulling officer. Granted, playing god in such circumstances may be one of the few perks associated with a woefully underpaid job that I am far too much of a wussy to do myself, and there’s as many reasons for letting you off the hook as there are reasons for getting behind the wheel to begin with, but most of them are silly.
That’s not even my point.
Let’s say Father Paddy doesn’t get let off the hook. Let’s say he get a stopped in a police roadblock screening randomly for fools such as he. Knowing something about the Fourth Amendment, he insists that police officers had no probable cause to stop him and the need to have one is a Constitutional guarantee.
Isn’t it? Well, suppose that like me, Father Patrick is from Michigan, where the State Supreme Court maintained (Sitz versus Michigan, 1990) that indeed, the Fourth Amendment does not permit such roadblocks. Only to have the United States Supreme Court rule 5 to 4 that of all potential circumstances, DUI is a Constitutional exception.
Again, please, only in Americanese? A Constitutional exception??
If Father Patrick was, say, from South Dakota, he might be well-advised to take the breathalyzer test and forget about his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Or to call an attorney or have Miranda read him or even, to remain silent when asked how much he’d consumed. Regarding Neville versus South Dakota, 1983, the United States Supreme Court ruled that there is a DUI Fifth Amendment exception as well. Now, I have read the 108 words of the Fifth Amendment 108 times, and I can’t find it. Can you?:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Even so, you can’t fight city hall, so the moral of the story, I suppose is, ‘If you drink a fifth, don’t plead the Fifth’…
Okay, so, as I do not intend to get hammered and hit the freeway any time soon, neither do I intend to get hammered by MADD hate mail. Bless you, ladies; I know the stats because I looked them up: Drunk driving fatalities have dropped steadily in most states thanks in part to your efforts and in part to a $13 million ad campaign pointing out the dangers of drunk driving. If it wasn’t for the auto industry, which (being a Detroiter) I support absolutely, I’d propose an Amendment making driving illegal; then the stat would drop to zero .
The Amish have been saying it for years: Don’t drink or drive.
MADD, like Father Patrick, is doing God’s work. However, despite nickel slogans (literally), it’s in the Constitution that we better trust.
As for the question in the title, what kind of wine goes with that hallowed document, that’s easy. Thomas Jefferson, the closest thing we have had to a wino president, toasted its signing with Malmsey. I think I know what he’d have said about these insidious erosions of some very basic American rights:
“It’s enough to drive a guy to drink.”