Celebrities and DUIs: Should the Stakes Be Higher?

On both celebrity news sites and prime time news, it is easy to find the latest crimes committed by the elite of Hollywood. Stars that are followed closely by Americans everywhere are spending time in nightclubs and then getting behind the wheel. While this behavior is certainly illegal and puts lives at risk, just what type of impact does it have on the general population?

Too often, we place celebrities on the proverbial pedestal, believing they should be held to a higher standard than everyone else. When they make a mistake, the fall is certain. When that mistake is a DUI, the aftermath can be both criminal and influential. The celebrity left on the pedestal can give the wrong impression regarding DUI, especially where young people are concerned.

News reports often show these celebrities receiving a slap on the wrist while they are escorted home in luxury. Fines are never a hardship and jail sentences are short if they are handed down at all. With such a flippant approach to drinking and driving, it is no wonder the activity is not taken seriously.

Lawmakers are considering this activity as a serious risk and are working with auto manufacturers and other industry professionals to change the outlook for DUIs. Nissan is already working on technology that is similar to the ignition interlock device designed to detect alcohol in the body of the individual attempting to drive the car.

In the state of New Mexico, lawmakers have required the installation of talking urinals in a number of alcohol-serving establishments. The urinals provide public service announcements. Some individuals seeking to change the outlook for DUIs in this country wonder if such announcements should be required of those celebrities who receive a DUI.

There are some who are questioning the power of such initiatives to really make a difference in drunk driving instances. Law enforcement continues to work to try and keep inebriated individuals off the road by setting up sobriety checkpoints, which are proven to reduce the number of incidents on the road.

In the case of celebrities who continue to receive a citation for a DUI, why are they in a position to be able to receive a second, third, fourth citation and so on? When the public views this type of treatment for something that is so life-threatening, why would they change their own behavior? Besides, isn’t funny to be caught by the police when you’re drunk?

Part of the problem still stems from our inability to understand the impact alcohol has on our ability and capacity. Instead of assuming one drink is enough to ensure we shouldn’t get behind the wheel, we set our own threshold and abide by what we believe is right. In doing so, we are much more likely to get behind the wheel with too much alcohol in our systems.

Should celebrities be used as an example when they receive a DUI? Abiding by the letter of the law would be a good first step. The media will continue to report on it; it is up to law enforcement to see that the punishment fits the crime.