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Sobriety Checkpoints and Alcohol's Toll

December 18, 1988

Three cheers for the U.S. Supreme Court, and an "are you kidding me?" for Richard Tuthill.

Four years after he was arrested at an Anaheim sobriety checkpoint with a blood alcohol of .12, convicted of driving under the influence and appealed his case on the grounds of an "invasion of privacy," the U.S. Supreme Court has let his conviction stand. The message is clear: Sobriety checkpoints conducted within the California attorney general's guidelines are legal.

But look at the rest of the message hidden in this article (Dec. 8). Tuthill's public defender, Sharon Petrosine, is quoted as saying that a .12 blood alcohol level is "borderline."

Baloney. Most people, particularly a 17-year-old, are impaired as low as .05. Everyone is impaired at a .10. Three states have lowered the presumptive level to .08 and the American College of Emergency Physicians has issued a public statement recently calling for a nationwide presumptive level of .08.

"To me, I wasn't drunk. I know my limit, and I don't have a drinking problem," said the now 21-year-old Tuthill. Of course he doesn't have a drinking problem. I'm the one who has the problem. It's with people like Tuthill who drink (even while under age), get behind the wheel of a 3,000-pound car and drive on the same highway as my wife and 5-year-old son.

So even after this unemployed high school dropout with a 2-year-old son is convicted, and his legal appeal (all at taxpayers' expense) is denied, he still doesn't like the whole thing and hopes the judge will go lenient on him.

I hope they throw the book at him and all the other fools who play "American Roulette" with a loaded car and a loaded brain.

Tuthill's publicly paid lawyer describes him as "a really nice kid--and a perfect client." Terrific. Tell that to the families of 25,000 Americans killed every year by people like Tuthill.

I hope the judge who imposes sentence on Tuthill seriously considers sending him to the autopsy of some poor soul killed by a drunk driver. Maybe this will help modify his logic.

But the best has been saved for last. What does Tuthill want to be when, and if, he grows up? A deputy sheriff. Give me a break.

WILLIAM CAVENAUGH

San Juan Capistrano

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