Punishing the Innocent

A person under the age of 21 who attends a party to serve as Designated Driver can be arrested in many states for possession of alcohol or even underage drinking. Laws permitting this are counter-productive and may inadvertently encourage drunk driving.

A legislator in Montana has proposed an amendment to the state's underage drinking law to prohibit police from arresting non-drinking persons under the age of 21 simply because they are in the presence of drinkers.

The legislator, who is an alcohol abstainer, opposes punishing people for crimes they don't commit. That seems reasonable . But not to some activists.

One "alcohol prevention specialist" objected that the proposed law would make it hard for police to prove who was drinking and who wasn't when a gathering is raided. His solution is simple: Let's contine to define all of these present, including non-drinking Designated Drivers, as guilty. That makes enforcement much easier.

Ignoring guilt or innocence certainly would make law enforcement easier. Adolf Hitler would have agreed, Joseph Stalin would have agrees, and Saddam Hussein would agree. But who would want to live in such a police state?

Unfortunately, no cost seems too high to many activists as they pursue their alcohol prohibition utopia.


  • Young lawmaker wants to change underage drinking law. Helena, MT:
  • Associated Press, January 14, 2003 and other reports.