The Sober Truth about Alcohol and Crime

open container drinking driving

Statistics in the information age can sometimes be overwhelming. Pick any issue and you can find page after page giving you the statistics you want. One of the most alarming statistics available is the role alcohol plays in crime and traffic deaths, both here in Spokane and nationwide.


Numbers don’t lie.

Let’s review some basics. Depending on the reporting agency, here are some numbers to consider.

• 67% of the country admits to drinking alcohol
• 31% of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol
• 30% – 40% of crime involves alcohol

Straining at gnats

As a note, “alcohol involvement” means any alcohol above 0.0 BAC.

Technically that could mean any teetotaler who spilled a little too much Mexican vanilla in their orange smoothie before work would show up as having alcohol in their system. That caveat alone begins to skew these statistics since actual impairment isn’t measured.

But let’s look at these statistics at face value. If 31% of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol, then that means 69% of traffic fatalities don’t involve alcohol. Or put another way, over two thirds of all traffic fatalities involve sober driving; statistically far worse than the alcohol fueled accidents. Yet surprisingly, that 31% statistic can rev up a group of angry citizens to demand an end to any tolerance for drinking and driving.

Crime doesn’t pay—statistically

Let’s look at another statistic; 30%-40% of all crime is alcohol fueled. Technically, depending on the level of alcohol in their system, ranging from 0.01% BAC to 1.0% or higher, this group has impaired judgment of some sort. However, the 60%-70% who are committing crime while sober know exactly what they are doing. I don’t know about you, but someone who is completely lucid who intends on hurting me is a lot scarier than the stumbling drunk who is tilting at windmills. In fact, in some jurisdictions, intoxication may make it more difficult to prove intent.

What does it all mean?

Certainly, irresponsible drinking can, and will cause problems for most people, but society’s obsession with attempting to demonize alcohol back to the days of the 18th Amendment does little to correct the problems of society. Since alcohol involvement includes anything above 0.0% BAC, traffic fatalities, accidents, and crime wouldn’t see a significant dip if alcohol were removed from the equation.

By demonizing alcohol and those who imbibe, the moral police are able to target a group of individuals that aren’t protected by hate crime legislation. Drunk drivers and anyone who might get angry after a few drinks are designated as morally impaired. They are the prime suspects by default in any conflict or accident in which they are involved.

And the real answer is . . .

When we quit trying to disproportionately designate alcohol as the culprit in accidents and crime we may be able to focus more on the real issues and not be detracted by a less relevant point. Unfortunately, we have made it easy to overlook the humanity of the alcoholic or even the active social drinker by blaming them for the ills that exist in society.

Criminal defense lawyers shouldn’t have to defend the morality of their client based on their BAC. That concept is archaic as any other prejudice we have faced over the centuries.

This post was submitted by a guest writer. This may or may not reflect the ideas or opinions of the attorneys of Action Legal Group.

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