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Texas legislature considering new DWI consequence

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There are many criminal offenses to avoid for any number of reasons including the potential for substantial fines, prison time and damage to one's reputation. Specifically, sex crimes are associated with a particularly heavy consequence; that of being forever listed on a dreaded sex offender registry. For a few Texas lawmakers, the concept of the registry should be extended to a few particular forms of drunk driving convictions as well.

The Texas House Criminal Justice Committee is currently considering a registry for convicted drunk drivers. The registry, which would involve a searchable database, would include the individual's name, address and birthday as well as include a photo. Potential offenses eligible for such a registry include DWI, DWI with a child passenger, intoxication assault, and intoxication manslaughter.

Some question whether such a proposal truly fits the crime. While sex offender registries are often accepted as necessary mechanisms of public safety, alerting parents, schools and neighborhoods to potential risks, it's unclear how a DWI registry would serve the same purpose.

Instead, the proposed DWI registry seems to be more a public shaming tactic and possibly an effort at deterring drunk driving behavior. Yet, whether that is enough a reason to potentially hurt an individual's ability to get a job, keep a job or rent an apartment is not yet clear.

Driving under the influence is a serious offense with substantial potential consequences. Anyone charged with such a crime should take the accusation seriously. Whether adding another consequence to the mix is necessary is a question answered differently by many.

Source: Dallas Observer, "The Legislature's Considering Creating a Public Drunk Driver Registry. Should They?", Eric Nicholson, March 19, 2013.

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