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Opinion: Let's do a rethink on driving-related punishment

A writer in a recent national op-ed article makes some interesting points concerning punishment meted out to American drivers for on-the-road infractions. As a brief preface to spotlighting the essentials of that piece, we note the penalties that are commonly meted out to Texas drivers convicted of drunk driving.

Those are many and collectively high-priced. The basket of legal slaps in a given case potentially includes jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, related court costs and fees, license suspension, jacked-up insurance rates, ignition interlock installation, an annually imposed surcharge and more.

That's obviously a lot to deal with, right? And it is especially a knock-down challenge for any individual who is already stressed by formidable financial challenges and limited earning capacity.

Now, back to that op-ed piece. Its central theme is this: American justice is, well, anything but just when it imposes the same criminal law outcome on a pauper and a billionaire.

And that is what it routinely does when it fails to consider the resources readily at hand -- or not -- for any given offender. Ten grand out of pocket is akin to a quickly forgotten mosquito bite for a person who make one hundred times that amount in a year. For an individual with a minimum-wage job who is struggling to make ends meet, it is an entirely different proposition.

And that is unfair, assets the article's author.

It is hard to disagree with that thesis and the writer's comment that, "Equity requires punishment that is equally felt."

It is also difficult to argue with hard reality, though, which flatly underscores that some select individuals are hit especially hard following their conviction on criminal offenses -- unfairness notwithstanding.

The central goal of an empathetic and knowledgeable defense attorney is to advocate aggressively on behalf of individuals who sorely need proven legal help to promote their interests and best-case outcomes. The American legal system is not uniformly fair, but the odds of a more just outcome can be materially enhanced in a given case when a seasoned legal defender stands resolutely beside a client.

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