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Registry of DUI offenders?

December 10, 2007 |  4:32 pm

An Arizona county attorney has a new idea way of combating drunk driving, and it seems almost inspired by Megan's Law. From The New York Times:

A conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol is something many people try to conceal, even from their families. But now the bleary-eyed, disheveled and generally miserable visages of convicted drunken drivers here, captured in their mug shots, are available to the entire world via a Web site.

The hall of shame is even worse for drunken drivers convicted of a felony. A select few will find their faces plastered on billboards around Phoenix with the banner headline: Drive drunk, see your mug shot here. [...]

The purposes of the billboards and the Web site, Mr. Thomas has said, are to inform the public about drunken-driving laws, and to serve as a deterrent.

There's a key difference here, though. Megan's Law isn't (just) about deterrence by public shame. It's meant as a tool to protect children and others against sex offenders. But publishing a database of unflattering photos doesn't really help potential victims of drunk driving — unless you're a passenger in that driver's car. Then again, drunk drivers do tend to be repeat offenders, so perhaps these shame tactics will have some deterrent effect in the long run.

Embarrassment is one thing — but if this catches on outside Arizona, it could turn out to be a danger to those listed. That's what just happened with Megan's law, according to today's L.A. Times:

Convicted rapist Michael A. Dodele had been free just 35 days when sheriff's deputies found him dead last month in his aging, tan mobile home, his chest and left side punctured with stab wounds. [...]

Prosecutors said they have investigated the possibility that the slaying of Dodele, 67, stemmed from his having been listed on the state's Megan's Law database of sex offenders. If so, his death may be the first in the state to result from such a listing, experts said.

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