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When “Reporting” Just Isn’t Enough

I’m taking a quick break from writing the stories for this week’s issue to tell you why I’m rejecting a story, even though it’s mind-boggling in its implication.

The story’s lead (or, as they say in the news biz, “lede”) paragraph: “The driver of a Department of Transportation snow plow was charged Monday with driving while intoxicated when he struck two vehicles while clearing snow in Morris County [N.J.], police said.”

NJ-DOT photo of a snow plow — presumably not the one involved in the incident.

The “amusing” part, which is why the story was in contention for True in the first place: witnesses say on January 8th, the state Department of Transportation plow hit a parked car. The driver got out and looked at the damage, jumped back in his truck, and then immediately plowed into another car. Pequannock Township Police responded and arrested him. They report his blood-alcohol level was .36%! “Legally drunk” for most drivers is a .08% BAL; for a commercial vehicle operator in New Jersey, it’s half that, so he was allegedly 9X the legal limit.

But that’s still not the mind-bogging part. It’s this: the arrest is the 36-year-old Roger S. Attieh’s fourth drunk-driving arrest! He was convicted in 2002 (and had his license suspended for six months), convicted again in 2007 (and had his license suspended for two years), and the third charge, from December 14, is still pending. All the cases are in New Jersey, so it’s not like they can’t see records from other states. Yet they not only employ someone as a driver who has this record, but let him drive again less than a month after his third arrest?!

Slap … my … forehead.

Despite the obvious questions here, the only comment the reporter makes in the story about this glaring absurdity is that the NJ-DOT “hasn’t yet responded to questions about the DOT’s hiring and employment policies” — and the article hasn’t been updated since its January 9 publication. They simply moved on.

This is why news organizations need commentators, not just reporters. Since news organizations have been falling down on this job pretty consistently for years, I’m proud that This is True has been offering news commentary — and, by extension, commentary on The Human Condition — since 1994. Indeed, that’s completely what it’s “about.” If you don’t already have a subscription, get one and see what you’ve been missing: basic subscriptions are free.

So why didn’t I just make this a regular This is True story? Because I just can’t say all of this in 150 words.

Law Clarification

According to a nice summary by Findlaw, the Federal Highway Administration drug and alcohol rules seem to be the basis for the noted New Jersey alcohol limits, and are based on the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991, and apply to anyone with a commercial driver’s license. Interestingly, the rules even apply to a supervisor who merely assigns drivers to operate such vehicles.

It is that federal law that dictates that the alcohol limit for CDL-based drivers is 0.04 percent. Additionally, they cannot drive such a vehicle within four hours after using any amount of alcohol.

Further, when a violation has occurred, “Follow-up tests are unannounced and at least 6 tests must be conducted in the first 12 months after a driver returns to duty. Follow-up testing may be extended for up to 60 months following return to duty.” (emphasis added) It’s unclear to me whether that means a conviction, or a “mere” arrest — again, the driver in question was arrested for DUI in December. It is unknown if NJ-DOT did any testing on this driver after that arrest.

Also, Findlaw notes, “Drivers who have engaged in alcohol misuse cannot return to safety-sensitive duties until they have been evaluated by a substance abuse professional and complied with any treatment recommendations to assist them with an alcohol problem. To further safeguard transportation safety, drivers who have any alcohol concentration (defined as 0.02 or greater) when tested just before, during or just after performing safety-sensitive functions must also be removed from performing such duties for 24 hours.”

A CDL is required for any vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds or more. A commercial snow plow, such as the one pictured, typically weighs around 60,000 pounds, and thus clearly requires such a license.

Story Source: Drunk Snow Plow Driver Slams Into 2 Cars, Cops Say, which is based on the police blotter item here.

- - -

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34 Responses to When “Reporting” Just Isn’t Enough

  1. Charlie, Rutherford, NJ January 28, 2018 at 5:13 pm #

    Thanks for calling this story to my attention — and I missed it despite living less than 15 miles from Pequannock Twp. Never mind that in my congested part of the world, that’s 6 towns away, it’s still close enough that the story should have caught my attention. I wonder if our new governor, who’s already launching a probe into mismanagement at NJ Transit, will take a look at NJDOT as well. Then again, he might not have seen this story either….

    I’d raise hell if it happened near me, too. -rc

  2. Art, Washington January 28, 2018 at 5:21 pm #

    Drive drunk lose your licence. No appeal.

  3. Fred, N.J. January 28, 2018 at 5:21 pm #

    The sad part? Here in NJ, this hardly qualifies as news.

    • Paul, N.J. January 29, 2018 at 8:15 am #

      As Fred said, here in NJ this isn’t even news. I’ve read about similar things involving state/local employees who get caught DUI both on and off the job, but continue to have a job involving driving. If nothing else, if I remember correctly, once actually convicted of the DUI from December, he’ll lose his license for ten years.

      Let’s hope. -rc

  4. Craig, Missouri January 28, 2018 at 5:22 pm #

    Oh yeah, I have a really good idea to fix this. Let’s cut the amount it takes to call someone drunk in half. That way you can get more tickets to ignore. That idea is being seriously considered in many states now. I am firmly against drunk driving, but changing the limit, when we ignore people who routinely are many times over the limit, does nothing.

    Yep: why make the law tougher when they don’t bother to enforce the existing, more lenient laws? -rc

    • bill, minneapolis January 29, 2018 at 2:55 am #

      Making the law tougher when the problem is with people way over the law you don’t enforce the present ones is the same method for gun laws.

  5. Jason, Indiana January 28, 2018 at 5:53 pm #

    I wonder if they have any 8 or 12 hour rule? In my place of business as well as at a place I volunteer we have to be dry for a minimum of 8 hours (day job) or 12 hours (volunteer location) before going on duty. Granted 8 or 12 hours will probably not get a .36 down to a legal (.08 or .04). Sadly this person is probably a frequent drinker and can function close to “normal” at a high BAL. Their body has probably built up a tolerance.

  6. Deborah, Florida January 28, 2018 at 6:24 pm #

    I say ZERO TOLERANCE for drunk drivers.

    • TC, Missouri January 29, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

      Call me a bleeding heart, but I don’t agree with a blunt statement like “zero tolerance for drunk drivers”.

      First, the definition: what is drunk? Some are suggesting that the current .08% blood alcohol level be lowered to .05 or .04. I don’t think someone who has had one drink is necessarily impaired to drive. And I haven’t seen studies to support that. Not that economics rule, but saying that people out to dinner can’t have a glass of wine will be hard on the restaurant industry and those they employ.

      Second, is it a one time thing (we’ve all made mistakes) or is it ongoing? There’s a difference between someone who makes a mistake (assuming they don’t kill anyone) and someone who is doing it over and over again.

      Third, are there things we can do to stop repeat offenders from driving? i.e. they can’t start their cars without breathing in to a breathalyzer (and yes, they could get a friend to do it, but let’s work hard to stigmatize that). Can we offer subsidized taxi rides (as many cities do on New Year’s Eve)?

      Fourth, how do we stop them aside from throwing them in jail for $40,000 or more a year? In jail, they can’t work; they can’t support their kids; they can’t pay taxes. And if they are out of jail, and we take away their licenses, will they still drive if they need to drive to get to work? Yeppers. I’m betting they will.

      So rather than “zero tolerance”, let’s see how we can work to change the problem. YES drunk driving is dangerous and shouldn’t happen. And it pisses me off when people get out over and over again after being arrested and then they keep driving and eventually they murder someone (and at that point deservedly go to jail).

      But I think of the strides we’ve made since I was a kid many many years ago. Drunk driving is much more frowned upon than it was back then. Designated driver programs are common. Deaths from drunk drivers have decreased by quite a bit: https://www.responsibility.org/get-the-facts/research/statistics/drunk-driving-fatalities/ “Since 1982, drunk driving fatalities on our nation’s roadways have decreased 51%, while total traffic fatalities have declined nearly 20%. Among persons under 21, drunk driving fatalities have decreased 80%.”

      So things are getting better. Education, diversion programs, breathalyzers, etc.

      Yes, it’s horrible when a drunk driver kills someone. It’s horrible when a driver distracted by texting kills someone. I just don’t think zero tolerance is the way to go.

      I didn’t comment on that idea since I was interested in someone else’s take on it — so thanks! As for highway deaths decreasing by 51%, I have to wonder what part of the decrease is due to the crackdown on DUIs, and how much is due to much safer modern cars. -rc

      • Sean, Toronto January 29, 2018 at 8:17 pm #

        We’ve all made mistakes? Sure we have — for example, I’m sure there was a point as a small child when I added 2 and 2 and came up with 5. I wore “leather” ties at some point in the ’80s. And I turned down a really good job because my wife at the time didn’t want to move out of the big city we lived in.

        Those were all mistakes. Driving drunk is *not* a mistake, and it drives me around the bend when I see it positioned that way. Driving drunk is a choice, and a lousy one. Driving drunk is taking a loaded gun and waving it around in public with your finger on the trigger while doing a jig blindfolded. It’s not a guarantee that you’re going to trip over a chair, causing you to stumble, pull the trigger, and fire the gun. But that is an entirely foreseeable and preventable outcome.

        So, yes, zero tolerance for drunk drivers. A driver’s license is a privilege, not a right — drive drunk, and you should lose the privilege to drive at all.

        But how do you save people who make “mistakes” from suffering those consequences? Simple: by adding a safety device standard to every car to protect people from themselves and each other. We did it with seat belts. We did it with airbags. We did it with daytime running lights. It’s long past time we did it with ignition interlock devices too.

        • Roberto Manuel, Kyle TX January 30, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

          There are ignition interlock devices now. The first ones were hastily taken out when drivers were hurt trying to get away from criminals, and I don’t know how responsive the current ones are, but I posit a drunk is more likely to be involved in a dangerous/stupid situation than a sober person would.

          I believe the construct of “driver’s license is a privilege, not a right” is false in our country — I live in Texas, where driving is an absolute necessity — and should be false every where.

          In this case, there’s a typical failure of management, whereas the supervisor doesn’t know, doesn’t care, can’t be bothered with the condition of their workers. Much more common than people usually believe.

          That said, I know from long ago experience driving drunk is not a mistake, but an act of volition in full conscience, taken with the full knowledge that there are going to be no consequences, or the confidence that a loophole or an oblivious manager will allow to continue doing it.

          California at the very least makes it very clear that “driving is a privilege, not a right” — I remember that well since that’s where I was first licensed. No idea how many other states have that encoded in. -rc.

          • Jim, Michigan February 5, 2018 at 4:27 am #

            “There are ignition interlock devices now. The first ones were hastily taken out when drivers were hurt trying to get away from criminals,”

            Cool … Don’t get drunk, particularly when your only escape is driving. Harsh as that sounds, at least the consequences fall on someone who could have prevented the problem by not getting drunk. (Or by at least not doing so in a place they might have to leave quickly.)

            “I believe the construct of “driver’s license is a privilege, not a right” is false in our country — I live in Texas, where driving is an absolute necessity — and should be false every where.”

            It is pretty hard to get by without driving in Michigan too. I’ve done it in other states, but not here. Not being able to drive does suck for those who are blind, or have had an epileptic seizure. And those aren’t usually things they did by choice.

            I’m hopeful that by the time I’m too old to drive, self-driving cars will have been long perfected. (They sure ain’t there yet! …says the guy who lives on a dirt road!) -rc

        • Jim, Worth, IL February 4, 2018 at 5:01 pm #

          I fully disagree with Sean on forcing ignition interlock devices on the general public. That is simply punishing the majority for the sins of the minority. Yes, mandatory ignition interlocks punish the majority as they will add to the cost of the vehicle.

          I believe in wearing seat belts, but, disagree with seat belt laws. I believe in wearing a motorcycle helmet, but, disagree with mandatory helmet laws.

          Daytime running lights were one of the worst idea put out by the “let’s make everybody totally safe” crowd. Why? Because shortly before DRL’s became all the rage, motorcyclists were forced to keep their headlights on at all times so they were “more visible” to other drivers. Now with DRL’s, everyone has headlights on and the motorcycle headlights just blend in with all the other lights on and near the road.

  7. Harry, Dixon IL January 29, 2018 at 6:23 am #

    New Jersey is more interested in taking guns away from honest people who cause no harm than doing something that would save lives.

    • Lenore, Hoboken, NJ January 29, 2018 at 6:04 pm #

      I live in NJ and this is the first I’ve heard of that. Where do you get that from?

      I did wonder about that: he thinks N.J. is worse than Illinois on that score? -rc

  8. Marty, Odessa TX January 29, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

    I don’t consider it commentary to ask why a someone convicted and/or currently charged with DUI is allowed to work as a driver. To me, that is what the reporter *should* be digging into. Is it state law, in the labor contract, or supervisory negligence? And what is it costing the taxpayers in claims? I would think (there I go being logical again) that a dump truck/snow plow would require a commercial license (has in any state I’ve lived), and is therefore subject to DOT regulations for substance/alcohol regulations.

    It is indeed the reporter’s job to ask questions, and apparently this one did (ref: NJ-DOT “hasn’t yet responded to questions about the DOT’s hiring and employment policies”). But the best the reporter can do (or, at least, is “supposed” to do) is let others address the question — to include the quotes of others in response to his questions, such as asking the spokesdroid about their “hiring and employment policies.” A commentator doesn’t ask others to address such questions, he does that himself, as is done here. Expressing opinion, pointing out omissions, and drawing conclusions is the commentary part. -rc

    • Jim, Michigan February 5, 2018 at 4:36 am #

      It would still have been appropriate for a reporter to provide the same findlaw summary that you did, so that people would understand that the unanswered questions were about compliance with existing law by the NJ-DOT itself, instead of just “something went wrong, why didn’t you predict it?”

  9. Mike, NJ January 29, 2018 at 6:11 pm #

    All, curb your outrage for NJDOT. The source story does *NOT* say how long he’s been employed as a NJDOT driver, if any of the offenses happened while he was on-duty or if NJDOT periodically rechecks the driving record of their drivers.

    To properly evaluate NJDOT’s role/responsibility on this we need to know:
    1) was he was hired *before* any of these offenses occurred?
    2) did all the offenses happen when he was off-duty (i.e. in his own vehicle)?
    3) does NJDOT periodically recheck the driving records of their drivers for new offenses?

    If the answers to those questions are yes, yes & no, then *WHY* blame NJDOT at all?

    Many companies that employ drivers may do random drug & alcohol testing of their drivers but I don’t think they periodically recheck the driving records of their drivers for new offenses.

    Of course if either answer to questions 1 & 2 are no or the answer to #3 is yes, then NJDOT *IS* fully to blame for keeping him employed.

    While my guess is that this is the first DUI while on duty, I think DOT is to blame either way: if the first two convictions happened before he was employed there, they certainly should have picked it up from his driving record when he applied for the driving job. If he was already employed there, they certainly should have picked it up from his driving record, because then he’d have been operating state vehicles with a revoked license! Note that the prior offenses weren’t in the police blotter report, which means the newspaper found them — which means they’re easy to research, even if there isn’t a conviction yet (as with the most recent, less than a month before the current one). As for #3, it’s the DOT’s job to know that their drivers are qualified, and not racking up ongoing criminal offenses! If they’re not doing that then yes: they deserve blame for that, too. -rc

    • Tom B January 30, 2018 at 10:58 pm #

      Every January, the Federal DOT requires everyone with a CDL to fill out a report listing any accidents they’ve been in and any violations they’ve received, whether in a CMV or a private vehicle. Employers are on the ball about these reports, because they are liable for fires if they aren’t done. And if the employee lies on them, getting fired will be the least of his problems.

  10. Larry Canton, OH January 29, 2018 at 7:54 pm #

    DUI is a perplexing problem. If you suspend licenses the offenders generally continue to drive. People enable them giving them their car to drive. All too often privilege to continue to drive but only back and forth to work is abused also. I don’t believe the problem is less now than in the past, rather more. I sat on a jury for an OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence) and the defense lawyer closing statement was basically this: As a juror you have to determine guilt beyond a shadow of doubt and my client refused the breathalyzer so you cannot determine beyond a shadow of doubt that he was drunk. Then he added a statement that went along the lines that if any of you get a DUI call me I’ll get you off. DUI defense is a business that for in the vicinity of $9000 and a suspension for 1 year with work privileges is almost guaranteed — with no followup on any of the conditions. I have no easy solution. I just know I have heard of many repeat offenders killing or inuring someone else. One about 20 years ago in OH was a 17 time offender that killed a woman. 17 times and still driving drunk! Put the original defending lawyer in jail when a person gets the repeat offense maybe.

    Too many employers are also drinkers so they turn the blind eye to infractions from their employees.

  11. Bruce; Pocatello January 29, 2018 at 8:01 pm #

    Randy, I’m not sure where you’re getting your weight figures from, but I’m thinking that 30 tons is kind of much for the vehicle pictured. I asked Google how much dump trucks weigh and, yes found a Wikipedia article featuring a very large four-axle 8×8 truck that was about that heavy. The one featured in your article looks to have only two axles, though.

    I googled it. They’re not just dump trucks: add sand, deicer, and that huge blade on the front and the weight really adds up. But I’ll be happy to hear from an operator of such a truck with authoritative info. -rc

    • Jason, Indiana January 30, 2018 at 3:21 am #

      50 to 70,000 pounds is in the range for a plow. I checked with a friend that is a DOT supervisor for a northeastern state and he agrees with that weight for a highway plow. Airfield plows that I work with are 56k unloaded. Add in sand/de-icing material, fuel, and operator you can easily get over 60k. The 12′ plow on the front weights in a 3 tons alone.

  12. Sylvain in Beloeil, QC, Canada January 30, 2018 at 1:32 am #

    First, in Québec and Ontario (jurisdictions that I know of), the allowable BAL for an on-duty commercial driver is ZERO. Period.

    Second, as far as I know, any employer must keep their employee records up to date and request driving records every 6 months. It is an employee’s responsibility (and legal obligation) to inform the employer of any arrest relating to their driver’s licence if employed as a driver of any size commercial vehicle. And that goes for both sides of the border.

    Also, as a truck driver myself, I have to know my weights. That 60 000-pound figure sounds about right for a tandem-axle dump truck. A single-axle dump truck such as you pictured would weigh in the 40 000-45 000 pound range when leaving the yard, depending on the presence of a side wing or not.

    Considering all this, I put a large part of the blame on NJDOT for not doing their job.

  13. Russell, Beijing February 2, 2018 at 10:04 pm #

    It is ironic that there are calls for zero tolerance in this blog, when Randy is something of a zealot against it. I wonder if he can clarify where he feels things can be left to the administrator’s discretion and where consequences are required. It is not hard to find outliers on both sides. It seems to me if one is strongly against the potential injustice of zero tolerance excesses then there must be some cases which may be handled too leniently.

    Here, we don’t know why this guy wasn’t rejected: personal influence with someone in the town, administrative inertia and apathy, or maybe some unstated legitimate reason. Zero tolerance solves this problem, at the cost of getting children suspended from school for Lego guns.

    I agree with Randy’s reaction to this: airing this type of case is the right way to try to steer administrators away from potential abuse. But I also think it is important to see how this relates to the idea of zero tolerance.

    • David B, Maryland February 3, 2018 at 5:48 am #

      In general, I, too, am very against zero tolerance policies. Especially in a school. Children WILL make mistakes. Add to that, different families and different cultures can have very different opinions on what constitutes right and wrong behavior. It takes time, trial, and error for children to understand what is considered acceptable in the school.

      However, the potential consequences of drunk driving are far worse than the consequences of cheating on a grade school test. As such, zero tolerance for drunk driving makes a lot more sense.

      I’ve said since the beginning that the penalties should fit the actual crime. Bring a gun to school? ABSOLUTELY that should be punished severely. Draw a stick figure of a gun? Not the same thing, should not be punished the same way in the name of “Zero Tolerance”. Similarly, drunk driving should be punished severely. Drinking a Pepsi while driving gets the same penalty because it’s “look-alike alcohol”? Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Because it is — yet that’s how ZT is practiced in schools. -rc

  14. Mi, Queensland, Aus February 3, 2018 at 1:37 am #

    To me the best incentive not to drive is the automatic seizure and crushing of almost any vehicle driven by a person who has a cancelled license and is caught driving with a blood alcohol level, or drug level, above zero unless that level is caused by a medical condition.

    The crushing would need a judges okay as on rare occasions there are truly mitigating circumstances, medical emergencies where there are no ambulances available for example.

    Where the vehicle belongs to a friend or employer they should have to pay a very large fine, plus the towing and storage costs, which in most cases will ensure they never let that person drive their vehicles again. If they do the vehicle should be crushed.

    Where the drunk driver is a partner/shareholder in the company the car gets crushed.

    Where it is leased the vehicle is crushed if the lease commenced after the license was cancelled. If not, returned to the leasing company but the lease must be paid in full.

    Almost zero tolerance I know but the cost to the community requires something more than the stupidity that the courts currently dish out.

    Locally a couple of years back a judge told a local woman with a very long list of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol offenses, a long list of driving when disqualified, and an equally long list of unpaid fines, that she needed to smarten up or she would go to jail before further cancelling her license. My belief is the obliviot judge needed to smarten up because the woman knew that she could keep on doing all of it without any consequences, probably until she dies or kills someone.

    A couple of weeks ago a similar driver in NSW killed a family of four. The only good thing is he also killed himself.

    PS Larry Canton, OH. My late father-in-law, a retired judge, always said that “Lawyer is the Olde English spelling of LIAR”.

    I don’t quite understand crushing the car. Why not sell it and use the proceeds to fund the courts, police, or victims? -rc

    • Mi, Queensland, Aus February 4, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

      In Qld the policy is to crush. Yes, selling would be better but for some reason that is what is done here. Then again Qld is Australia’s version of Florida. Many Qlders believe daylight saving would fade the curtains and stop cows from having milk.

      I had never heard that about Queensland. Good to have that perspective! -rc

  15. Jeff in Georgia February 3, 2018 at 12:03 pm #

    As a minor aside, a CDL is not always a requirement to drive a vehicle over the road, at least not in my state. Several exemptions (for instance, agricultural) allow driving with just the applicable state license.

    The weight rating is GVWR, meaning not what the vehicle actually may weigh on any particular day, but the maximum that it may weigh when fully loaded.

  16. Kay, Japan February 3, 2018 at 8:16 pm #

    When I was a kid (in the U.S.) I was hit by a car… in front of my school… trying to cross the street to go to school.

    I was very fortunate, thanks to it being the dead of winter I was in heavy clothes with a heavy backpack. Everything in that backpack was broken but my back wasn’t.

    The guy who hit me was going over 30 mph and was late to work. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He had a suspended license… from drunk driving. I don’t know for certain what happened to him, but I was told he was going to jail. He was clearly someone who had made a series of bad decisions.

    Someone pointed out that “zero tolerance” for drunk driving is bad — because of what happened to me, I agree. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but I agree.

    If he had had help, some other way to get to work, a carpool or a taxi or whatever, what happened to me that day wouldn’t have happened. In the end, I was all right, but that was pretty much dumb luck. It could have been a lot worse.

    I live in Japan now and the infrastructure here is very different. People go drinking and get totally blasted on a regular basis — but even tiny villages have a taxi service that will come and get you in the dead of night. People are taught that drinking is fine, but driving (or doing much of anything) after is not. The infrastructure and assistance exist… and it makes a difference. Yes, there are people with drinking problems here, as there are everywhere, but there are ways to get help and deal with things.

    The idea of some guy who has serious drinking problems driving a snow plow, of all the ungodly things, is terrifying and I often worry about the infrastructure of the U.S. and the attitude of “do it yourself” being taken too far. Maybe I’ve been here too long, but I see a lot of benefit to the “it takes a village” attitude I’ve seen outside the U.S. — it’s something America’s lost in the cultural evolutionary process.

    Very interesting perspective that few would be able to provide. Thanks. -rc

  17. Michael, Phoenix February 4, 2018 at 2:02 pm #

    I disagree, Randy. There is far too much opinion and not enough news in media today. Celebrities and reporters are no more qualified to interpret and opine on a story than the average reader (in many cases, less so) but they have exaggerated influence due to their pulpit — a position that is far too often misused or even abused.

    It’s not until a piece comes on covering a discipline one has expertise in that we realize how little a reporter knows about the subject yet we swallow the rest of their stories without question.

    I agree with your argument. My point is, reporters should do exactly that: report (and shouldn’t pontificate, just as you say), but we also need intelligent, thoughtful commentary to help put things in perspective, and point out that there are sometimes-unseen ramifications to the facts presented. Isn’t that part of why you read TRUE? -rc

  18. Robin, U.K. February 4, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

    I first wrote this about 40 years ago: The main difference between “The West” and the USSR is that we have that lowliest of occupations, the cub reporter, bored out of his mind, sitting at the back of every Magistrates’ Court.

    He it is that is the true defender of our freedoms; for the Magistrate knows he is there, and that, if they put a foot wrong, this can be the headline splashed across the next day’s paper.

    Thanks again for your endeavours.

    Insightful indeed. -rc

    • Jim, Michigan February 5, 2018 at 5:03 am #

      “we have that lowliest of occupations, the cub reporter, bored out of his mind, sitting at the back of every Magistrates’ Court.”

      Have you stopped in to look at many trials?

      In the US, most (but not all) are public, but it is pretty rare for a reporter to actually be there unless that particular case has already had so much coverage that “fair trial” will be hard.

      I served on the jury for a case where the charges included attempted homicide, and one witness was a sympathetic child who had been shot in her own bed. There was a reporter on call for when we issued a verdict, but there generally weren’t any during the trial itself. There were times when we were sent into the jury room while lawyers argued about whether or not we would be allowed to see certain evidence. If that didn’t rate a watching reporter, it is hard to imagine that judges assume their typical decisions will be reviewed.

  19. John, SC February 17, 2018 at 7:12 am #

    In my opinion, those in positions of authority see a drunk driver in court and say, “That could be me.”

    What would happen if we made the penalties real? If you are driving drunk, cause an accident, and somebody dies from it that is first degree murder. If there are injuries then that is battery, attempted murder, assault of a high and aggravated nature, etc.

    Taking the drivers license, suspended sentences, etc. are not getting the job done.

    I’m interested in seeing a counter-argument to this, because on the face of it, it seems like a very reasonable idea. -rc

    • Jeff in Georgia February 19, 2018 at 5:11 am #

      Around here, if you’re driving under the influence and kill someone, it’s Vehicular Homicide. A little harsher penalty than losing your license. Though you won’t face the death penalty, you will risk substantial prison time.

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