On this morning’s At Issue, Tom Hauser interviewed Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert on Tom’s DWI conviction in 1981. During the interview, Rep. Seifert was asked about the bill Tom had sponsored.

Hauser asked specifically about the bill Tom had sponsored, saying that Emmer’s bill simply made certain that a person’s license couldn’t be revoked until they were convicted of drunk driving. Hauser then noted that the bill had bipartisan support.

Rep. Seifert’s reply was stunning. In his own words, Rep. Seifert said that just because a bill has bipartisan support doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

I replayed Rep. Seifert’s response to make sure I didn’t hear him wrong. I didn’t. Think about this: Rep. Seifert is arguing that people arrested on drunk driving charges aren’t entitled to the presumption of innocence, that their driving privileges should be revoked without conviction.

Let me be clear about this: Even though I strongly support Tom, if Tom had said that, I wouldn’t hesitate to correct him on a mistake of that fundamental importance.

This isn’t just a mere technicality. This is one of the cornerstones of our legal system,important enough to be included in the Bill of Rights.

I’m not suggesting that Rep. Seifert favors abandoning the Constitution. I’m suggesting that, in this instance, he foolishly said something that he should’ve thought through first. In his zeal to attack Tom, Rep. Seifert put his foot in his mouth instead.

Walter Scott Hudson spoke of the importance of “principled governance” rather than outcome-based governance. Mitch Berg’s post questions Rep. Seifert’s logic this way:

Drunk driving is an emotional issue – made all the more so by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the rest of the drunk driving lobby. It’s understandable; anyone who’s lost a loved one to a drunk driver is justifiably motivated to seek change. But the .08 blood alcohol level limit is a ludicrious waste of resources, and the resources spent on hammering on first-time, only-time offenders with low levels of intoxication are largely a complete waste.

Question: Does saying the above mean I “support” or am “soft on” drunk drivers and drunk driving?

If you said “yes”, how hard to you have to waterboard logic to get to that answer?

It’s ludicrous to treat attempts to make the system fairer and more rational as “sympathy for drunk drivers”. Almost as ludicrous as assuming two mistakes made a generation ago are defining traits about a late-fortysomething guy’s judgment.

Saying that someone should have a drunk driving conviction hanging over their heads for the rest of their life after they’ve proven that they’ve put that behavior into their past isn’t reasonable, in my opinion. What’s worse is saying that we should abandon one of the cornerstones of our judicial system because it’s an emotional issue.

That’s the position Rep. Seifert put himself in in making that ill-advised remark. Let’s hope he realizes his mistake and admits that he’s wrong for saying that.

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11 Responses to “Seifert: In His Own Words”

  • King says:

    By analogy, then, should a person charged with homicide have to turn in his handgun (with its concealed and carry permit) while awaiting trial? How about attempted homicide? Aggravated assault? Or does the presumption of innocence apply here too?

    We have a right to carry guns. We don’t have a right to a driver’s license. That is considered a privilege.

  • walter hanson says:

    Gary:

    I have a silly question to ask since you are a big supporter of Emmer. Isn’t there truth in the comment which you attacked?

    TARP was a bi-partisan bill and I don’t think you will agree that was a good piece of law?

    McCain-Feingold was a bi-partisan bill and I don’t think that was good law.

    On a state level I believe it was a bi-partisan bill to raise taxes on cigarettes even though smokers pay extra fees to the tobacco companies which are paying to compenstate the state for extra health care costs. Was banning smoking from bars a bi-partisan bill? The gas tax increase which created extra mass transit funding instead of focusing on roads was bi-partisan.

    So attacking Seifert for that comment I think was wrong.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • Gary Gross says:

    King, If the gun was used in the commission of the crime, the gun must be surrendered as evidence. The person shouldn’t be required to turn in his permit, though. Isn’t that a different criteria?

    The last I checked, a drivers license isn’t EVIDENCE. Different rules apply because of the rules of evidence.

    I’d also argue that it’s one thing to take a drivers license away if the person has a history of drunk driving. Since it doesn’t say whether the bill applies only to repeat offenders or to all people arrested, I’d be reluctant to say we should pull a person’s license.

    Walter, I don’t disagree that there are lousy bills that get bipartisan support. I’m just opposed to this bipartisan bill because of the presumption of innocence requirement.

  • R-Five says:

    I’m inclined to dismiss Seifert’s pithy answer as simply unresponsive, no good answer coming immediately to mind. It happens. Few of us are as quick on the draw as say, a Michael Medved.

    I think both Emmer and Seifert made some good points here. And some will be unhappy with either the current law or proposed reforms.

  • kb says:

    Gary, perhaps we just have different views of the seriousness of drunk driving. I think someone who has consented to testing for DUI by the fact that they asked for a license, and then refused the test, has surrendered their privilege to drive. So too someone who tests above the limit.

    Making the issue the instrument as evidence conflates the issue. We revoke the RIGHT of gun ownership on a judge’s order for surrender of those guns at arraignment, pre-trial. Not just the gun used but any other, since the person is a threat to re-offend. Given that driving is not a constitutionally protected right but a privilege of using taxpayer funded roads, how unreasonable is it to revoke the privilege pre-trial?

    As your for-instance, Google “Jim Leyritz DUI”. Would the Emmer bill have put this man back on the road?

  • Alan Shilepsky says:

    I agree that this topic is overemotionalized, and that .08 bad policy compared to .1–the DWI people killing people on the highways are likely blowing a lot higher than .08, or even .1.

    That said, we do make provisions for constraining suspected offenders while waiting for ajudication. There are lots of people sitting in jail awaiting trial–heck, that’s a main purpose of jails. And they are not proved guilty yet. Want to release the guy caught with blood on his hands?

    Another “Constitutional violation”–People on temporary restraining orders–not to get within 1000 feet, etc. Do you get a jury trial for that? (I don’t know.) Can’t an order be issued and later examined further judicially?

    Anyway, temporary withholding of driving privileges (you’d say right, I suppose?) may be very appropriate if the person blew .15 or .3. They will still get their trial–they just have to stay off the road in the meantime because of a very good “probable cause.” And having your license yanked temporarily sure beats sitting in the cooler waiting for your DWI case to come up. Don’t you think?

  • John Anderson says:

    I am shocked that you Emmer “Kool-Aid” drinkers fail to understand that this is an issue. The DFL will have crying families on ad after ad this Fall. We just had numerous people killed this past week by drunk drivers. If someone gets pulled over, blows a .20 with beer cans everywhere, you think they should quickly get bailed out and handed their driver’s license back immediately.

    Since he is so forthcoming, can you confirm 100% that these are his only DWI’s? Anything from other states?

  • Gary Gross says:

    John, If the DFL tries this, they’ll be met with “This is old news. Tom doesn’t excuse his behavior. It was wrong then. It’s still wrong now.” People actually have been known to have a little forgiveness from time to time.

    Perhaps you should learn a little about that.

  • LadyLogician says:

    So then do we not allow second chances anymore? I agree that someone with a recent DUI should be held under scrutiny, but when the offense is as old as these are….

    There are thousands of people in the same boat – that made a youthful mistake but have since cleaned up their respective acts. Does that disqualify them from future elective office?

    I hate to put it this way but in this circumstances it fits best – let he (or she) without sin cast the first stone…..

    LL

  • Jim Knoblach says:

    The Bill of Rights does not include the right to a drivers license.
    In getting your drivers license, you have agreed to give it up if you blow a .08 or more or refuse a breathalyzer (or other blood alcohol) test. There is a civil process where you can rapidly appeal this loss of license separate from a criminal trial for breaking the DWI law if you choose.
    If people don’t lose their license until they are convicted months (or years) later, you are letting drunk drivers continue to drive, endangering people for months, which is why this has been an important part of DWI enforcement for years.
    The constitutionality of this “implied consent” law has been litigated many times and been upheld repeatedly.
    The Emmer bill proposing to eliminate this “implied consent” law was heavily opposed by law enforcement and would be a huge issue in the general election campaign whether or not Emmer had any previous DWIs.

  • Steve Hansmann/East Central Minnesota says:

    As a former deputy sheriff and intoxilyzer operator for almost eight years, (I ran just over 1,000 breath tests), I have to clarify a few things. First, the .08 limit is not a waste of resources. You have to work very hard, and drink a great deal, to get to .08. Example; when I was being trained on the MN Model 5000 at the BCA, barring religious or health concerns, you were required to get intoxicated in a controlled setting and have your partner test you over a pre-set time period to test the efficacy of the intoxilyzer. I drank seven brandy sevens and a beer in 41 minutes, spurred on by BCA techs, almost puked, and never scored above .083, and that was just briefly, and then I began to decline. You burn off a beer, mixed drink, shot, or glass of wine per hour. Theoretically you could drink one drink per hour all night and NEVER get a D.U.I. People who argue against the .08 limit are usually, quite frankly, drunks who’ve gotten a D.U.I. And consistent testing shows EVERYONE with measurable impairment at .05.
    Secondly, driving while intoxicated, especially more than once, is a symptom of addiction and continued irresponsible behavior. Again, Emmer felt especially strong about allowing offenders to keep their license because I’m sure he was sorely inconvenienced when his license was yanked. Again, because in my experience he probably has a problem with alcohol. Bipartinship based on personal biases, addiction, and ignorance is worthless. And juding by the venom, concrete thinking, and vindictiveness of Emmer’s expressed beliefs, I’ll bet he never learned a thing from his court-ordered AA attendance.

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