Do the police have an obligation to protect the intoxicated from injury due to their own unpredictable behaviors?
In an interesting incident stemming from a DUI arrest in Colorado, two intoxicated passengers were commanded to leave the scene of a DUI arrest. The two passengers followed the police order without dispute.
The police arrested the driver for drunk driving after he reportedly failed field sobriety tests. Of course, the purpose of arrest is to protect the intoxicated driver from self-injury and to mitigate consequential risks to other drivers.
But what about protecting the lives of the two drunk passengers who were left to navigate their ways home?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 1,200 intoxicated pedestrian deaths occurred in 2009. 36% of all adult pedestrian deaths involve intoxicated pedestrians. Should the police have protected the pedestrians in this Colorado case?
Reports indicate that the police maintain the two passengers were known to have been drinking, but appeared to be sober enough to take care of themselves. About an hour later, however, one of the two intoxicated pedestrians ran into traffic and was hit by an oncoming car, causing a multi-car accident.
Fortunately for the pedestrian in this case, he survived the crash. But he did suffer severe injuries, including over twenty broken bones, having a leg amputated and spending a month in a coma. He argues that the accident was the result of police and city negligence and is suing for his injuries.
By criminalizing DUI and focusing on that arrest, did the responding officers ignore the obvious risk that the impaired pedestrians faced without getting a ride home?
The argument for focusing on the driver is the risk to the driving public. The pedestrian, however, was ultimately involved in a multi-car crash in which the pedestrian was horribly injured and others could have been hurt or killed as well.
How do you think that the police should have handled the situation? Do you think the accident victim has a solid case against the police and the city of Colorado Springs?
The Gazette: “Man stranded by DUI arrest sues police, city over injuries,” Daniel Chacon, 11 Apr. 2011