First time DUI offenders in Davidson County are often assigned to pick up litter as part of their probation requirements following conviction, but some offenders receive credit for picking up litter even if they do not work on a clean-up detail.
The “Shaming Law,” as it was dubbed in 2006 when it took effect, requires first time DUI offenders to work three eight-hour shifts picking up litter along public highways, interstates and playgrounds wearing bright colored vests that say “I Drink and Drive” on the back.
The law is meant to shame the offender into not wanting to drink and drive again.
Assigning the litter pick-up is at the discretion of the judge who sentences the offender.
In Davidson County, around 2,800 offenders have gone through the program. Countless others have received credit for picking up litter on days they did not actually work on a litter pick-up crew.
An iReport 2 Network member asked News 2 to find out why the offender can get credit for work they did not do.
The program is operated by the Davidson County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Daron Hall said on days where the weather is inclement, he will cancel the litter pick-up and give credit to offenders who report as required.
“We don't want our staff, or a person, out picking up litter on the interstate or the highways in the rain,” he said. “One of the things we decided was if you are going to show up and we, for whatever reason, don't go forward with picking up that day, that is not your responsibility, therefore you deserve credit for showing up.”
Sheriff Hall said even on days where the weather is not a concern, the litter pick-up can be dangerous.
“In January, we had an officer who was performing this function in uniform out on the highway with inmates working and the vehicle she was driving was hit by an individual,” he said. “She has been out of work ever since and she ran this program for us.”
Sheriff Hall said the practice of giving credit to offenders for reporting for court ordered dates even if the proceeding is cancelled is common practice in the Davidson County courts and probation system.
“I think that is the right policy to have,” he said. “The law is silent on what do you do.”
Phaedra Marriott-Olsen is a survivor of a drunk driving related crash. She is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.
Since her accident, Marriott-Olsen has become an advocate for effective drunk driving related laws.
She is a program specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Tennessee.
“We work every single day dealing with victims of this crime,” she said. “I, myself, as a victim can no longer walk because of someone else's choice to drink and get behind the wheel of a car.”
She continued, “There has been a sentence and we need to enforce that no matter what sentence the judge hands down.”
Marriott-Olsen is not in agreement with the “Shaming Law,” however.
“From MADD's stand point, there is really no proof, no research, no evidence that says if you pick up trash on the side of the road you are going to be able to not re-offend,” she said.
Marriott-Olsen told Nashville's News 2 that judges should rely mostly on punishments that have researched proof that cut down on DUI offenders re-offending, such as the state's interlock requirement.
“It is proven that if you have an ignition interlock for six months on your vehicle, deaths will go down, DUI offenses will go down and it is going to be a safer environment for Tennessee,” she said.
This year, it became law that all first time DUI offenders are required to have the ignition interlock device on their vehicles as a requirement for obtaining a restricted driver license.
Sheriff Hall has been a long time and vocal critic of the “Shaming Law” as well.
“Administratively, it's a nightmare,” he said. “The pressing thing is it is an unfunded mandate because we do not get money to pay for the program.”
The sheriff also said the program is not an effective deterrent for DUI offenders.
“We need to do what we need to do and arrest their addiction,” he said. “Picking up litter has never proven that it has helped reduce the addiction.”
He continued, “We might have cleaner highways, but we have more people at risk by doing that.”
In addition to the three eight-hour shifts of picking up litter, the offender spends at least 48 hours in jail, pays fines of up to $1,500 and are subject to other probation requirements.
Other counties Nashville's News 2 checked with do not operate a litter program, including Williamson and Rutherford counties.
Sentencing an offender to litter pick-up is at the discretion of the sentencing judge.