There's no excuse for drunken driving, but there should be a limit to how far government goes in punishing those suspected of the crime.
New York City is going too far.
On Monday, New York became the first city in the United States to allow law enforcement officers to seize vehicles on the spot of drivers suspected of drunken driving -- even first-time suspects.
Police officers already serve as judge and jury on the spot in a way, when they charge and detain suspected drunken drivers. We agree that they should have this power. It is a matter of ensuring the safety of both the driver and other motorists and their passengers and children.
New York policy allows the police to keep the suspect's vehicle until there is a conviction or acquittal. If there is a conviction, the vehicle is auctioned off by the police department. With an acquittal, the vehicle is supposed to be returned to the driver.
Meanwhile, the innocent driver has been punished by having to lease a vehicle, bum rides, and have their life and those of their family disrupted during the lengthy judicial process. It could put the jobs of family bread-winners at risk. This is just plain not fair.
Twenty-two states do allow local officials to seize vehicles of drunken drivers, but most of those involve repeat offenders. This seems like a more reasonable approach. These individuals have already proven to be irresponsible, even in light of previous convictions.
We say that if local municipalities want to get more tough on even first-time drunken drivers, that they wait until after guilt is proven in court. We do believe that we need to be tough on drunken drivers -- but only if they are proven to be so in a court of law.