Saturday, July 09, 2005

Nanny State Nazis Emerge Victorious

I really couldn't believe this story when I read it in today's Altoona Mirror (story link goes to first online printing I found):

Beer drinker loses appeal over lost driver's license
By PETER JACKSON The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A state appellate court has rejected an appeal from a Lebanon man whose driver's license was revoked by the state after he told doctors he drank more than a six-pack of beer a day.

A three-judge Commonwealth Court panel said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was justified in recalling the license of Keith Emerich in May 2004 based on the judgment of hospital doctors who treated him for an irregular heartbeat several months earlier.

Roughly three (or none) of you will remember when we first mentioned this story right here on The New Skeptic, nearly a whole year ago. Though I occasionally thought about the story, I had no doubt whatsoever that the courts would see through this baloney and restore Mr. Emerich's license. Really, the only pondering I had done was whether or not the courts would allow Mr. Emerich to collect damages from PennDOT for the asinine way they treated him and the inconveniences and embarrassment they caused.

It appears I was wrong.

But the panel overturned the trial judge's order that PennDOT issue Emerich a restricted license requiring an ignition-interlock device that would prevent him from drinking and driving. The panel said the judge exceeded his authority and that PennDOT alone decides whether such devices should be required.

So let's get this straight, shall we? Mr. Emerich sits at home and drinks alcohol. Alcohol -- you know, that stuff that the Government of Pennsylvania controls absolutely, fixes prices, and derives disgusting revenue from because of their monopolistic stake in the market. So Mr. Emerich is basically being a good citizen, buying the socialist State-controlled alcohol, and DRINKING IT AT HOME WHERE HE WILL NOT BE DRIVING A CAR! But, following a confidential appointment with his doctor, wherein he mentioned that he does enjoy beer at night, the so-called doctor called up PennDOT, who in return revoked his license. And after all that, they still won't grant him one of those interlock systems (embarrassing and unwarranted as that would be) for him to prove he is able to drive when he needs to.

The so-called law apparently states that the burden is now on Mr. Emerich to prove that he is competent to drive. Never mind his holding of a steady job, his clean driving record, his clear understanding of his habits, likes, and dislikes (concerning his drinking) and his voluntary reduction of his drinking (much to the chagrin of the state's coffers, mind you). Never mind that for a regular adult male it takes about two beers in an hour to even approach the legal limit in Pennsylvania, so that six in an entire evening when he doesn't plan on leaving his house isn't a problem. Forgetting all that, apparently Mr. Emerich needs to convince the courts and PennDOT that he is able to drive.

What utter, worthless crap.

I understand and respect the fact that driving is a privilege. I fail to see, however, that Mr. Emerich abused this privilege. All we are doing is giving the state more and more power over smaller and smaller things. What's next? If people have a tendency to be in a bad mood they lose their licenses, for fear of road rage? Cell phones are already on their way out; stereos will surely follow. I can even see some so-called lawyer arguing that, since conservatives hate the environment, they don't deserve to drive at all. This will be followed by only whites allowed to drive, since blacks get in too many accidents. Blondes are ruled out, because, well, they are blondes. Eventually only the immediate family of Slick Ed Rendell will be granted licenses (and his chauffeur, of course -- with the lack of traffic on the roads, he can drive as fast as he wants, the laws be damned!).

I, for one, and going to go home and have a six pack of Yuengling and pass out on my bed, a hazard to all the drivers on the roads somehow.


At 9:43 PM, July 09, 2005 , Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

The problem here is two-fold, as I see it. First, the issue is directly tracable to the law in Pennsylvania (according to the article, only one of six states with such a law) that requires doctors to report a condition that they believe will impair a person's ability to drive a car.

Base on the article, it is difficult to tell how much of the doctors' opinion was based on his drinking and how much was based upon his having been treated for an irregular heart beat (which I understand is fairly common and treatable). Nonetheless, the facts are less than complete on that score.

Second, and probably more important in terms of the result, is the standard of review that any appellate court uses to review issues of FACT, as opposed to issues of law.

Apparently the trial court, presumably after testimony of experts, exhibits, etc. found as a matter of FACT that this fellow was impaired. Once such a finding of fact is made in a trial court, an appellate court can only reverse such a finding if it is "clearly erroneus," which means essentially, that no person in his or right mind could come to such a conclusion. Appellate courts almost never go there.

Having said all that, I think the guy got hosed, big time.


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