Extra-judicial punishment?

Jacob Sullum (of the often excellent Reason Magazine) makes note of a prosecutor in Arizona who places DUI offenders’ names, mug shots and BAC levels online. Sullum concludes that the prosecutor is “imposing extrajudicial punishment, based on his unilateral conclusion that the penalties prescribed by law for DUI offenses provide an inadequate deterrent.”

Publicizing records that are, by nature, public is normally fine by me. But the prosecutor seems to have created, in a sense, a DUI offender registry. Appearance on sex offender registries is a matter determined by law, not the whim of prosecutors. Also, Mothers Against Drunk Driving won’t endorse the idea:

“Some parts of the Web site are good because they are informational and trying to provide the victim’s perspective,” said Misty Moyse, the spokeswoman for the group. However, she said, “M.A.D.D. would not want to be involved in calling out offenders. We are interested in research- and science-based activities proven to stop drunk driving.”

(crossposted at catallaxy.net)


  • The Scarlet Letter approach to punishment has never sat well with me, and I am not soft on crime. This reminds me of the laws requiring publicity for released sex offenders, which result in such great moments as drive-by shootings of the wrong house (New Jersey, I think). The claim that the public is protected by such measures is specious, while the harm done, even to an offender who has served his sentence, is enormous. If we really think the driver will drive drunk again, take away his license. Or if you think the sex offender will re-offend, keep him in jail or make him undergo chemical castration. But these public-humiliation measures do little more than satisfy suburban busybodies.

  • “Or if you think the sex offender will re-offend, keep him in jail or make him undergo chemical castration.”

    Yes, but that second option is prevented by the ridiculous redefining of “cruel and unusual” the courts have committed (basically to “stuff we don’t like” – if the punishment is the standard punishment prescribed by law for a certain crime, it is, by definition, not “unusual”, so it cannot possibly be “cruel AND unusual”).

    The first option is what SHOULD be done, but the government won’t seem to do it (there’s support for it, or these “scarlet letter” laws wouldn’t be popular), so such scarlet letter approaches are, very unfortunately, the next best thing (which is not to say they are necessarily good).

  • Deoxy,

    I too have often wondered why the courts decided that the authors of that phrase did not understand the difference between ‘and’ and ‘or’.