Post updated June 19th with more information from a newly-published Salt Lake Tribune report.
Now it's getting out of hand. We have sex offender registries all over the country, but there is some rationale for that measure, since parents do have a legitimate interest in knowing if a sex offender, particularly a pedophile, lives in the neighborhood?
But do parents - or, for that matter, the rest of us - really have a compelling interest to know if a DUI offender lives in the neighborhood? Apparently Brandon Hatch thinks so. Hatch told the Davis County Council of Governments he proposes to start a DUI registry on the Internet. Speaking for the Davis Helps campaign, Hatch explained that anyone who has been convicted twice of a DUI will go on a website to be launched in the fall of 2009. And his excuse: "We have to do something. DUIs are going up. Crashes are going up", said Hatch. He also reminded the group that there were 1,700 DUI arrests in Davis County in 2008. Media stories published in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune.
Some publicly disagree. According to University of Utah criminal law professor Daniel Medwed, "Registries and shaming punishments are becoming increasingly popular across the nation, but it's unclear whether or not they have the deterring effect." Medwed also raised concerns that stigmatizing DUI offenders could only marginalize them more and feed into the drinking and driving problem.
Salt Lake City civil-rights attorney Brian Barnard also questions whether public shaming would address underlying issues, and doesn't think registries of child molesters and drunken drivers accomplish the same goals. There's an argument, albeit questionable, Barnard said, that a sex-offender list can alert a neighbor into knowing someone shouldn't be left alone with an individual -- "that makes sense, maybe. But is there a similar benefit in publicly telling everyone so-and-so has a DUI?" As with other crimes, DUI charges and convictions are public records, but Barnard said there could be constitutional challenges to a DUI registry.
Davis Helps will participate in local parades and Fourth of July and fireworks celebrations. A billboard near Interstate 15 also will play a part in awareness of the program. As for Brandon Hatch, he's associated with Davis Behavioral Health located in Clearfield, Utah. They are a private, non-profit corporation providing behavioral health services to residents of Davis County.
Questions remaining to be answered:
-- Will this be limited to Davis County offenders, or will it be statewide? According to the Tribune, it would initially be for the county only.
-- What's the compelling public safety interest in knowing the home addresses of DUI offenders?
-- How will this measure alone reduce DUIs?
-- How much will it cost, and who will pay for it?
The TotalDUI website reveals that similar "shaming" measures against DUI offenders are being tried elsewhere, and New Mexico now has a DWI registry. But TotalDUI also suggests that there is no evidence that the public humiliation of DUI suspects is in any way effective at deterring drunk drivers or reducing the number of people who drive while intoxicated.
Update: On June 25th, the Ogden Standard-Examiner weighed in editorially on this idea, and found it wanting. First, they don't understand how Brandon Hatch could be willing to discuss this proposal with public officials, but not with the public. But in the final analysis, the Standard prefers such lists be under some official oversight.
Conclusion: Another feelgood initiative which is absolutely meaningless. Another idealist who wants to grow government based on a pie-in-the-sky assumption rather than on a demonstrable public benefit.