August 8, 2011, when the stocks plunged dramatically, marked the most severe decline since the fall of 2008. Economists discussed the possibility of yet another recession, which would hurt even worse because of the nation's weak starting point, CNNMoney reported on August 10, 2011. Readers may be asking what relevance this has to Massachusetts OUI/DUI/drunk driving cases, and the answer is in the following: While drunk drivers come from every walk of life, studies also show that, in addition to various other factors, drunk drivers are more likely to be unemployed (or working class). This post will touch upon the relationship between unemployment and problem drinking and the ramifications for Massachusetts operating under the influence cases.
Certain theories of alcoholism and problem drinking focus on stress levels and socio-environmental factors. Under such theories, drinking problems develop as mechanisms for coping with stressful circumstances, such as unemployment and financial strain. Researchers have had difficulty, however, in determining the causal relationship between unemployment and alcohol abuse. In other words, it seems to be unclear whether unemployment leads to alcohol abuse or whether alcohol abuse leads to unemployment. If the former is more accurate and unemployment creates an increase in problem drinking, then we would expect to see more Massachusetts OUI arrests and prosecutions if we are to be thrown into another financial crisis.
Massachusetts drunk-driving arrests have decreased in the past five years, the Boston Herald reported on July 20, 2011. However, that article indicated that last year there were 14,834 OUI arrests, down from 17,804 OUI arrests in 2008 and 15,850 in 2006. This is worth noting because 2008 was the height of the economic recession, and according to these statistics, it was also a high point in OUI arrests. Obviously, on the other hand, that there were more arrests does not necessarily mean that there was more drunk driving in 2008. For instance, it could mean that there were simply more police patrols for drunk driving.
As mentioned above, it is possible that unemployment may be a cause of "problem drinking." This raises another important OUI issue. It is known that a large majority of repeat OUI offenders are "problem drinkers." Here in Massachusetts, repeat OUI/DUI/DWI/drunk driving offenders are subject to mandatory minimum sentences, and judges are forced to take a broad-brush approach without consideration of the defendant's situation or individual traits. Anyone facing a mandatory minimum sentence should be aware that the quality of one's defense attorney will be critical.
While the link between financial crises and OUI arrests and prosecutions may be tenuous, it is always important to consider the effects of the current economic, social and political backdrop. This is largely because developments in all areas of the law, including OUI/DUI/DWI law, do not happen in a vacuum and because courts, police, prosecutors, and lawmakers all tend to take the temperature of the day.