MADD, the Interlock Industry, and the future of DUI/DWI offenses

By Patrick Mahaney
(Revised 02/06/2015)

I have the advantage after nearly forty (40) years professional life in criminal justice of seeing both sides of the equation involving DUI enforcement and DUI defense. In the first part of my adult life, I was a state trooper and saw the early stages of the "war on drunk driving" or "war on drunk drivers" (take your pick)...in the early 1980s, the concern really was "drunk driving" and I have no disagreement with the concept that drunks ought not be driving on the public highways. I have no qualms whatever about arresting drunks (or substantially impaired persons) for driving a motor vehicle on a public highway. Drunk driving is both dangerous and irresponsible.

MADD was established in 1980 to argue for the rights of victims and sought some needed reforms in our nation’s traffic laws. It was probably needed at the time, but times changed and changed quickly. MADD evolved in just a few years from a citizen support group into a very slick public relations entity and highly profitable private organization with no public or private oversight or accountability, yet receives millions of dollars every year in revenue by promoting electronic monitoring devices for the after-market installation on motor vehicles, with this nation’s law enforcement officers and the judiciary serving as the enforcement mechanism for these devices. Basically, with the advent of mandatory ignition interlock laws across the United States, MADD has ‘co-opted’ the nation’s judiciary into serving as the enforcement mechanism for a national private industry – the interlock industry.

After its inception in the early 1980s, MADD became increasing strident in promotion of alcohol counter-measures and became increasingly adept in seeking out politicians looking for an easy news headline. Every politician running for Governor, Attorney General, or district attorney seemingly became part of the MADD bandwagon. Statute after statute was passed and enacted into law, often with contradictory results. MADD quickly realized there was a tremendous sum of money to be made in the DUI racket.

MADD is no longer a "support group" but has evolved into a highly profitable money-making business. A tax-free money making business! Over time, MADD 'sold out' to the interlock industry and became the de facto political action arm and very vocal public relations front for the interlock industry. As of 2015, the interlock industry is poised to earn literally millions and millions of dollars annually with the present statutory scheme now in place in every state, but can easily double or triple the industry’s income by pushing for a national .05% agenda and "interlock for all" on first offense. 

As a nation we are at a point where the "war on drunk driving" is just about over. The government won and the drunks lost. But there is far more money to be made by all – the evidentiary breath test instrument companies, the PBT industry, and the interlock companies (often one in the same), the probation services support staff, the towing and recovery industry, and the various municipal and state courts that need the cash income from convicting "drunk drivers" - although the defendants are no longer "drunks" but a respectable citizen who had, at most, two or three beers at a social event or two glasses of champagne at a wedding reception, and then is stopped for an innocuous traffic violation (or maybe no violation at all) and made to blow into a hand-held PBT, then placed into custody and charged with DUI/DWI. That is the challenge we as DUI/DWI criminal defense lawyers are facing today – we are defending citizens from a spurious crime that is no crime at all, but a politically generated, heavy-handed assault on the basic rights of our citizens, all driven by the economic self-interest of MADD and the interlock industry.

MADD learned early-on to scam the IRS Code, both as a non-paying, tax exempt entity and as a ‘pass-through’ organization primarily focused on industry advertising and political funding. Under the IRS Code, if a tax-paying entity, such as an interlock company, contributes to a 501(c)(3) "non-profit, educational" entity, the entire contribution is off-set for tax liability. If SmartStart, as example, gave $1 million annually to MADD, the full $1 million is deducted from the corporation’s yearly tax liability. [Or it could be $10 million - no one except MADD and SmartStart know for sure. We do know that MADD received $17 million in 2012 from "private" (unnamed and unlisted) entities.)] For the interlock business, that basically means MADD is the highly visible advertising arm for the interlock industry, and the nation’s tax-payers are paying for it in the form of lost tax revenue.  

The real question - the answer that is not readily available - is exactly who are the "private contributors" (the descriptive term used on the 2012 IRS return) that gave $17 million dollars to MADD. Exactly 50% of MADD's total income of $34.9 million in 2012 was from "private contributors" - and I don't think it was the public. I strongly suspect that it was Draeger, the nation's leading manufacturers of fuel cells (used in both SmartStart and the Draeger models) and SmartStart interlock and maybe one or two more industry giants.

Do the math - even in a low arrest state like Alabama, where only 20,000 DUI cases are made annually, under the new 2014 DUI law, 75% or 15,000 convictions will require interlock but another several thousand can "elect" (the word used in the new DUI statute) to install interlock to avoid a 6 month driver license suspension. If the interlock industry has its' way, it will soon be interlock for all - every conviction will require interlock....then move forward a few years, and the NTSB/NHTSA federal bureaucrats, supported by MADD and the interlock industry, will push via federal highway construction dollars to a national .05% standard by the end of this decade. Such federal mandate to enforce the current .08% presumptive standard has previously been upheld in federal court as being well within the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution to withhold money from non-compliant states, or to award “incentives” to states that adopt the federal guidelines. Again, the ‘carrot or the stick’ approach – adopt the MADD program of .05% national standard for a DUI/DWI offense and require interlock for all, or forfeit your state’s highway dollars. The federal statute is already in place and will need only a few Congressional tweaks to enforce such move from .08% to .05%. [See, Title 23 U.S.C section 164.] Very few state legislatures have the political fortitude to withstand the simultaneous pull of “free money” under the section 164 incentives or the sting of forfeiting millions of dollars each year from the state’s roadbuilding programs for non-compliance. It’s pretty easy to see the outcome of that contest. By lowering the present .08% per se level for DUI/DWI offenses to a much lower .05% level, the probable outcome for the interlock industry will double or triple - or maybe quadruple - in total interlock devices required if this nation goes to a national .05% standard and the federal road money requires interlock for all (currently required only for second offense convictions). Such result would be a tremendous money maker for the interlock industry and the MADD team would see a steady, and hugely increasing stream of revenue. 

Patrick Mahaney
Law Office of Patrick Mahaney
8191 Seaton Place
Montgomery, Alabama 36116
(334) 277-3974
www.mahaneylaw.com