Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Speaking of neoprohibitionism...

Single Glass of Wine Immerses D.C. Driver in Legal Battle

Now, come on... Do we REALLY believe DC is doing this to protect the precious lives of its citizens? Do we REALLY think DC cops are stopping drivers and forcing them to jump through hoops because they care about driver safety?

I vote "NO" on that one, boys and girls, and here's why:

Debra Bolton had a glass of red wine with dinner. That's what she told the police officer who pulled her over. That's what the Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test indicated -- .03, comfortably below the legal limit.

She had been pulled over in Georgetown about 12:30 a.m. for driving without headlights. She apologized and explained that the parking attendant must have turned off her vehicle's automatic-light feature.

Bolton thought she might get a ticket. Instead, she was handcuffed, searched, arrested, put in a jail cell until 4:30 a.m. and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Bolton, 45, an energy lawyer and single mother of two who lives in Alexandria, had just run into a little-known piece of D.C. law: In the District, a driver can be arrested with as little as .01 blood-alcohol content.

As D.C. police officer Dennis Fair, who arrested Bolton on May 15, put it in an interview recently: "If you get behind the wheel of a car with any measurable amount of alcohol, you will be dealt with in D.C. We have zero tolerance. . . . Anything above .01, we can arrest."

Neither the police department nor the attorney general's office keeps detailed records of how many people with low blood alcohol levels are arrested. But last year, according to police records, 321 people were arrested for driving under the influence with blood alcohol levels below the legal limit of .08. In 2003, 409 people were arrested.

Although low blood alcohol arrests have been made in other states in conjunction with dangerous driving, lawyers, prosecutors and advocates of drunken driving prevention said they knew of no place besides the District that had such a low threshold for routine DUI arrests. In Maryland and Virginia, as in other states, drivers generally are presumed not to be intoxicated if they test below .05. Nationwide, .08 is the legal limit -- meaning a driver is automatically presumed to be intoxicated.

Fair acknowledged that many people aren't aware of the District's policy. "But it is our law," he said. "If you don't know about it, then you're a victim of your own ignorance."

Bolton said she didn't know. But defense lawyers who practice in the District do.

"Even one drink can get you in trouble in D.C.," said Thomas Key, a lawyer who successfully defended a client who had a blood alcohol level of .03. "They might not win a lot of these cases or prosecute them, but they're still arresting people."

Not many people fight the charge, said Richard Lebowitz, another defense lawyer, because the District offers a "diversion program" of counseling for first-time offenders.

"If diversion is offered and accepted, there's a guarantee that the charges will be dropped," Lebowitz said. "If you go to court and try to prove your innocence, it's a coin-flip. So most people choose diversion."
Bolton didn't. She balked at the $400 fee and the 24 hours of class time required to attend the "social drinker" program.

"I think it would have been fine if I'd done something wrong, but I didn't," she said. "I had a glass of wine with dinner." ...

You can read the rest for yourself. But needless to say...

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
--Ayn Rand

Monday, October 10, 2005

Damn Right It's Neoprohibition!

Sorta crossposted, with just a bit more color, to The House.

Mad props, or should I say MADD props to Fox News. Also I want to give props to my people at the Modern Drunkard board for the link.

The Supreme Court gave its OK to the road blocks in 1992, despite conceding that they may violate the Fourth Amendment. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote that the threat to public health posed by drunk drivers was reason enough to set aside concerns about searches without probable cause. Given that they're usually publicized, the primary effect of these roadblocks is to deter social drinkers. The hard-drinkers, the real threats to highway safety, know to avoid them.

Sure enough, after former President Clinton signed .08 into law in 2000, drunk driving fatalities began to inch upward again — after two decades of decline — suggesting that the real drunk drivers were successfully avoiding the roadblocks. Thankfully, fatalities fell again last year, but that hardly proves MADD correct — deaths continued to go up in those states that employ sobriety roadblocks. The corresponding fall in fatalities in states that refuse to use the roadblocks more than made up the difference, suggesting that, freed from roadblock duty, law enforcement was able to work more effectively to catch drunk drivers.

Nice little dig at Clinton there, although I can't say I disagree. But the danger with an article like this, be it on Fox News or CNN, is that it would apply partisan spin to what is probably the only issue where both parties are in agreement for one reason or another. In other words, the "socialist" Left wants to take your hooch away just as much as the "religious" Right. They have truly got their shit together on this and the taxpayer, as well as the responsible, casual drinker gets caught in the middle.

MADD has also worked to undermine the criminal protections of accused drunk drivers — protections routinely granted to accused murderers, rapists and other felony crimes. MADD, for example, has pushed to impose tougher penalties on motorists who refuse to take roadside breath tests than on those who take them and fail — effectively turning the Fifth Amendment on its ear. The organization also favors "administrative license revocation," which means the revocation of the driver's licenses and, in some cases, the confiscation of the vehicles, of those accused of drunken driving before they're ever given a trial.

The organization is also pushing the widespread use of ignition interlock devices, in which a driver must blow into a tube to start his car, then blow again every 20 minutes or so while driving. Washington state recently passed a law allowing judges to mandate the devices in the cars of people merely accused of drunk driving, not convicted. And the states of New Mexico and New York have both considered legislation that would require the devices in every car sold in-state. The New Mexico bill is stalled in the state senate after being passed by the house. The New York bill was initially killed, but it gains more votes each time its determined sponsors reintroduce it.

MADD is also pushing its agenda onto family laws, including a zero tolerance policy for divorced parents. Under the bills MADD is trying to push through state legislatures, a parent caught consuming one beer or glass of wine before driving could face penalties that, according to MADD, "should include, but are not limited to" — "incarceration," "change of primary custody," or "termination of parental rights." This means that if you take your kid to the game, have a beer in the third inning, then drive home, you could very well lose your rights as a father.

What started out as a legitimate organization that has been initially successful, has now begun to tread down a road that only leads to the further erosion of our rights. We don't have to fear the coming of neoprohibition. It's already here!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Dominoes Keep Falling

Hmmmmm. More Ramifications from Kelo.

Landowners must yield to ballpark
By Tim Lemke
October 6, 2005

The District will begin using eminent domain to acquire parcels of land at the site of the Washington Nationals' ballpark by the end of this month, after unsuccessful negotiations with nearly half of the landowners.

City officials said they expect to file court documents to take over at least some of the 21-acre site in the coming weeks and have $97 million set aside to buy the properties and help landowners relocate.

The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.

"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. "There are some we haven't heard from at all."

Many property owners on the site said the city's offers are inadequate. Others are suing the city on the grounds that it has no right to use eminent domain to acquire land at the site, despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of municipal governments to take private property for the purpose of economic development.

In April, the city notified property owners on the site that they would be required to move out by Dec. 31.

City officials said the District is on target to have title on all of the land by that date, but they don't expect to have full possession of the site until early next year, with construction on the $535 million stadium to begin in March. That would give the construction team, led by Clark Construction Group of Bethesda, about two years to build the ballpark in time for Opening Day of 2008.

Officials said that timetable remains realistic. Clark built the 80,000-seat FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, in less time.

"Twenty-four months is not bad," Mr. Green said. "There's always the possibility of doing it in 22 or 23 months."

Meanwhile, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission has been sparring with the new Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC) on the location of ballpark parking.

The AWC, which the city created to promote development along the Anacostia River waterfront, said it prefers an underground parking garage beneath 600,000 to 800,000 square feet of office and retail development.

The commission said that would run up too many costs and take too long to build.

"We're not going to do it," said Mark Tuohey, chairman of the sports commission. "We don't care what they say. There's no money."

In order for parking to be built above ground, the commission must change a zoning requirement. A hearing before the zoning board on the issue is scheduled for Oct. 17, but could delay the process further. If the commission is denied a zoning change, it would have to turn to the D.C. Council for legislative permission or take the case to an appeals court.

"If we lose and it goes to the court of appeals, that takes years," said commission board member Linda Greenan. "That's not a good strategy."

Any discrepancy over development of the stadium site could affect ballpark financing negotiations, which have reached a sensitive stage.

"It could cause confusion on Wall Street, which is exactly where we don't want it right now," said John Ross, a special adviser for the city's chief financial officer and a commission board member.

City officials insist on below-ground parking because it would fit with plans for a retail and entertainment district near the ballpark. They are considering removing parking entirely from the cost of the stadium and paying for it separately, using tax-increment financing or other revenue streams.

Mr. Green said the debate over parking is not delaying completion of a lease agreement for the stadium, which Major League Baseball says must be finalized before it announces the Nationals' new owner.

"There's no real holdup," Mr. Green said. "It's just a very complicated document."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Domino Theory Alive and Well

Florida city considers eminent domain

Florida's Riviera Beach is a poor, predominantly black, coastal community that intends to revitalize its economy by using eminent domain, if necessary, to displace about 6,000 local residents and build a billion-dollar waterfront yachting and housing complex.
    "This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year," said Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown.
    He defends the use of eminent domain by saying the city is "using tools that have been available to governments for years to bring communities like ours out of the economic doldrums and the trauma centers."
    Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach is doing what the city of New London, Conn., is trying to do and what the U.S. Supreme Court said is proper in its ruling June 23 in Kelo v. City of New London. That decision upheld the right of government to seize private properties for use by private developers for projects designed to generate jobs and increase the tax base.
    "Now eminent domain is affecting people who never had to deal with it before and who have political connections," Mr. Brown said. "But if we don't use this power, cities will die."
    Jacqui Loriol insists she and her husband will fight the loss of their 80-year-old home in Riviera Beach.
    "This is a very [racially] mixed area that's also very stable," she said. "But no one seems to care ... Riviera Beach needs economic redevelopment. But there's got to be another way."
    In the Kelo ruling, a divided Supreme Court held that private development offering jobs and increased tax revenues constituted a public use of property, but the court held that state legislatures can draft eminent-domain statutes to their satisfaction.
    Dana Berliner, senior lawyer with the Institute for Justice, which represented homeowners in the Kelo case, said "pie in the sky" expectations like those expressed by Mr. Brown are routine in all these cases.
    "They always think economic redevelopment will bring more joy than what is there now," she said. "Once someone can be replaced so something more expensive can go where they were, every home and business in the country is subject to taking by someone else."
    Last week, the Riviera Beach City Council tapped the New Jersey-based Viking Inlet Harbor Properties LLC to oversee the mammoth 400-acre redevelopment project.
    "More than 2,000 homes could be eligible for confiscation," said H. Adams Weaver, a local lawyer who is assisting protesting homeowners.
Viking spokesman Peter Frederiksen said the plan "is to create a working waterfront," adding that the project could take 15 years and that "we would only use condemnation as a last resort."
    Viking has said it will pay at least the assessed values of homes and businesses it buys.
    Other plans for the project include creation of a basin for megayachts with high-end housing, retail and office space, a multilevel garage for boats, a 96,000-square-foot aquarium and a manmade lagoon.
    Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach wants to highlight its waterfront.
    "We have the best beach and the most attractive redevelopment property anywhere in the United States," he said.
    Mr. Frederiksen said people with yachts need a place to keep and service them. "And we want to develop a charter school for development of marine trades."
    Mr. Brown and others said this could be one of the biggest eminent-domain actions ever. A report in the Palm Beach Post said it is the biggest since 1954, when 5,000 residents of Washington were displaced for eventual development of the Southwest D.C. waterfront, L'Enfant Plaza, and the less-than-successful Waterside Mall.
    The fact that Riviera Beach is so financially downtrodden may seem ironic because as Mr. Brown notes "it sits right across the inlet from Palm Beach," one of the nation's wealthiest areas.
    "Palm Beach County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, and we have the second-highest rate of poverty in the county," the mayor said.