Droughns Show Folly Of DUI Law

By: Bob Dyer
Beacon Journal staff writer

Akron Beacon Journal Ohio.com
Friday, May 12, 2006

Well, the world is now safe from a drunken maniac named Reuben Droughns.

You probably followed the case. Avoiding it was almost impossible. When a Cleveland Brown is charged with something, every media outlet in Northeast Ohio is on the story like a bad rash.

The typical "drunk driving" case gets no publicity. Which is really too bad. Otherwise, you'd realize how often our justice system has been tied up with these ridiculous cases since the state caved in to federal blackmail three years ago and reduced the blood-alcohol limit to .08 percent.

First, let me offer a disclaimer, because it is simply not possible to criticize any aspect of the drunken-driving fight without being bombarded by angry missives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving: No, I have never lost a friend or relative to a drunken driver. No, I would not like to lose a friend or relative to a drunken driver, and I pray I never do. It's a horrifying thought.

But MADD would have us believe that anyone who thinks the legal limit is too low is a heartless idiot who wants to drive around drunk with impunity. And that is precisely how we got to the land of Reuben Droughns.

To review: Droughns was found not guilty this week by a jury after being stopped last fall just south of Strongsville. The trooper smelled the remnants of the 2 ½ mixed drinks Droughns had consumed while dancing with his wife at a Halloween party, and demanded a breath test.

Droughns blew exactly .08. The jury scoffed. And the jury didn't even get to hear that the testing machine had a .02 percentage point margin of error - which means Droughns could have been a mere .06.

Sure, that also means that he could have been 0.10. But that certainly didn't seem to be the case. On his walk to the patrol car, Droughns stopped briefly to bend over at the waist and tie a loose shoelace. Never wavered, never wobbled.

This man was in complete control of his car. We know that because the trooper tracked him for two miles.

Then why was he stopped? The trooper said Droughns was speeding. But that charge was dropped.

So here's what I want to know: How much money did Medina County spend on this travesty? How many hours did the prosecutor put in? The judge? The trooper? The eight men and women who were dragged from their jobs to sit in judgment of a man who clearly was not a menace to society?

I don't know how much it cost, but I do know this: I want every penny to be yanked away from cases like this and devoted to cases like this:

Todd Manley of Hudson has been convicted of DUI 19 times. Nineteen. The most recent came after he lost control of his car and plowed into a teenage girl and her mother, who were in their own driveway.

Now, wouldn't you think that after, say...oh, I don't know...maybe THE FIRST 10 convictions that somebody would have figured out that this guy has a real problem? What kind of society would let him back behind the wheel nine more times?

Sure, Manley is a superstar, but lots of others are in his league: More than 15,000 Ohio drivers have at least five DUI's.

Throwing them in jail for three days or 10 days or 90 days isn't working. They need a program like the one in Milwaukee County, Wis., which has cut the recidivism rate of repeat offenders by 48 percent. It features intensive probation supervision. Sure, that costs more, but wouldn't we prefer something that actually works?

The people in that program have serious problems. They are threats to us all. Reuben Droughns was not. Nor is the secretary who has two glasses of wine at a retirement dinner and gets a DUI because she has a burned-out taillight.

The median blood-alcohol content in fatal crashes is a staggering 0.16.

Truth be told, Droughns would have been a bigger threat had he been talking on his cell phone.