Last month, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez announced an initiative that will put volunteer monitors in courtrooms to police DUIs and report findings on social media to indicate whether these monitors, with no or minimal legal training, believe, in their lay opinion, that offenders were let off too easily. Governor Martinez said this is a way to hold offenders and judges accountable. Others believe is is an intimidation tactic.
The volunteers will attend DUI hearings and report on how the courts are handling drunk driving. They will then send details regarding the sentences to state officials, who will identify repeat DUI offenders and judges in tweets and Facebook posts.
The program, spearheaded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is part of the Governor’s executive initiative to combat DUIs. Many believe that these public shaming tactics harken back to the “Scarlett Letter” days of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
In any indication of what this “initiative” is really all about, MADD was given a two-year and $800,000 contract to place monitors in courtrooms throughout New Mexico. Specifically, volunteers will monitor courtrooms in Dona Ana, San Juan, Rio Arriba, Bernalillo, and McKinley Counties. The volunteers involved in this money grab will track details about DWI outcomes, which will then be posted on social media websites for public knowledge. Neither the offenders nor their attorneys, or court personnel, are given the chance to provide input into this one-sided process or to explain the law. Rather, it is based upon the ignorance of many who participate in social media.
Many commentators are concerned that allowing social media to act at the sentencing judge raises questions of fairness and constitutionality and smacks of intimidation tactics. They argue that only a trained jurist, who weighs all the evidence, pro and con, and who understands the law, is in a position to pass judgment. Not every case calls for the maximum penalty, even if MADD is allowed to sit in the courtroom “earning” its generous grants.
A number of other states nationwide have implemented similar programs by using social media to publicize crimes by repeat offenders. However, such programs have drawn criticism from privacy advocates, who believe the programs are unethical. Other opponents argued that the program puts undue pressure on judges for harsher punishments, regardless of the facts of the cases. The ACLU of New Mexico is reviewing the program.
If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.
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