Drinking and driving is illegal so that fewer people die every year, which is a social good. Are DWI laws discriminatory towards alcoholics, who have a higher tolerance for high levels of alcohol consumption? The answer’s no, but that didn’t stop one Texas man from making the argument in court recently.
The Austin American-Statesman identifies the man as Ralph Alfred Friesenhahn, who the paper says argued practiced drunks should be a “protected class of alcoholics”—protected, presumably, from the state’s DWI laws, which specify, like every other state in the country, that you can’t be behind the wheel with more than 0.08 blood-alcohol concentration.
It won’t surprise you that Friesenhahn himself is a practiced drinker-and-driver, having racked up his fourth conviction for DWI in 2016. The discrimination argument arose in Friesenhahn’s challenge of that conviction, a challenge that was rejected by an appeals court on Friday. If you’re up to read some riveting DWI legal writing, you can read the opinion here. Here’s one bit:
In essence, appellant does not argue that members of his defined class of alcoholics are treated differently than other DWI defendants under the statutes. Instead, he argues that they should be treated differently. Appellant’s argument—complaining about the 0.08 alcohol concentration standard being applied to alcoholics in the same manner that it is applied to offenders who are not alcoholics—challenges the failure of the DWI statutory scheme to provide different treatment of defendants who are alcoholics and, according to appellant, “maintain normal functioning” with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 because of “a significantly higher tolerance to alcohol.” In fact, he asserts in his brief that alcoholics “are grouped together like the average DWI defendant, but should not be due to their involuntary illness.” This “deserving of different treatment” argument does not demonstrate that similarly situated persons are treated differently and thus, fails to establish an equal-protection violation
Friesenhahn’s latest DWI was a nasty one, and, of course, not his first rodeo. Here’s the American-Statesman:
Friesenhahn was arrested after a single-car rollover accident along a rural Comal County road south of New Braunfels. Blood tests later indicated that he had an alcohol concentration of 0.29 — more than 3½ times the legal limit.
Trial records show that Friesenhahn also was convicted for driving while intoxicated in Victoria County in 1985 and Bexar County in 1990 and 1998, McCrary said.
Keep the plug in the jug, if you can. Definitely don’t drive if you can’t.