Arizona DUI Offenders See Names and Mug Shots Go Online
By: Mike Stetzer
Back in the summer, we detailed how the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office had taken the action of posting the mug shots of DUI suspects who were on the run.
In a similar light but with his own twist, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has created a website to post the names, mug shots and blood alcohol content (BAC) levels of people who have been arrested in Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Arizona.
Thomas has described STOPDUIAZ.com as a means to show that DUI is routinely committed by typically law-abiding citizens and to thus educate people on the possible consequences of drinking and driving.
While Total DUI detailed the idea of shock probation last week, Thomas' website operates under the idea that posting the names, mug shots and BACs of other people will cause other people to not drive after drinking out of a fear of such shame.
Technically speaking, a shame punishment involves a convicted criminal being subject to embarrassment as a sentence.
With that in mind, Thomas said that any shame people feel from the website is a byproduct and not the intent of his campaign, which will also delve into billboards, television and radio.
While costing roughly $750,000, the campaign is funded in part by assets seized from criminals in other crimes, with the rest taken care of by the Arizona DUI Abatement Fund.
So how does Thomas acquire all of this information? Typically, the municipal courts from the cities mentioned above forward information from DUI convictions to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which then includes the information on the website.
The website has also not yet caught on in Phoenix, which decided that it did not have the resources to send out the information of nearly 7,000 DUI offenders to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Worries about Shaming in Arizona DUI Cases
Thomas has described this program as a new means to tackle DUI and encourage better behavior; however, its methods have raised concerns with some.
The Arizona America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said that posting people's names and mug shots will serve as added punishment to DUI penalties that were actually levied out by a judge.
The group also questioned whether shaming will lead to better behavior as a person who may be drunk and ready to drive may not be in the right frame of find to be thinking about right versus wrong. In other words, the website will not make the roads safer, at least according to these opponents.
Shaming as a form of punishment has also been criticized by Florida State University criminal law professor Dan Markel, who called the process "dehumanizing" and a "poor reflection on society."
Markel asserted in a story in The Arizona Republic that shaming essentially subjects people to public ridicule and scorn, and goes against the basic standards of human decency and dignity.
Wrapping Up the Arizona Shaming Debate
Stopduiaz.com typically posts an offender's name and mug shot for no more than three months.
While the website has drawn support from organizations like MADD and criticism from others like the ACLU, it is clear that more has to be done to prevent drunk driving in the state.
The Governor's Office of Highway Safety reported that there were 585 drunk driving fatalities in the state last year. On average, more than 11 people every week were killed in Arizona drunk driving accidents in 2006.