Counteracting MADD’s Undue Influence on Individual DWI Cases

To its credit, the national advocacy organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving has contributed to a significant decline over the past forty years in the incidence of fatal drunk-driving accidents. Drunk driving deaths have fallen by as much as half over that period. Good for MADD, and good for the American public.

Yet MADD's influence can, unfortunately, extend to unfairly affecting the outcome of individual DWI cases in MADD's home state Texas and elsewhere as they have strong political ties that interfere in the courts and legislature. MADD actively seeks to influence local DWI prosecutions and convictions through a large and sophisticated network of court monitors. Judges, prosecutors, and jurors all know about MADD, the mission of which is to influence those decision-makers.

If you face a Texas DWI charge, then the Texas DWI Specialist attorney whom you retain to fight the charge must be prepared to counteract MADD's undue influence. Don't let a large, wealthy, and sophisticated national advocacy organization help to convict you of DWI crimes you did not commit or to face punishment that you do not deserve. You deserve to have your case decided on its individual merits and demerits. You shouldn't unfairly and unjustly suffer a DWI conviction just so that MADD can make its point.

Learn about MADD so that you don't become a victim of its undue influence. Retain premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy to counteract MADD's undue influence and beat your DWI charge.

MADD's Founding

MADD began in 1980 when divorced real estate agent and mother Candace Lightner lost her thirteen-year-old daughter in a motor vehicle accident caused by a hit-and-run drunk driver. Although she had no experience or education in advocacy, Candy Lightner promptly started MADD, funding it out of her own savings. She was so successful that within four years, President Reagan had appointed her to a national commission on drunk driving. One journal summary indicates that the national organization MADD now has six-hundred state organizations, chapters, and action teams in all fifty states, with three million worldwide members and supporters.

Yet because of differences in the direction MADD has since then taken, the organization no longer mentions Candy Lightner on its webpage story, referring instead only to a nameless “mom” who started the organization around her kitchen table. MADD has been spectacularly successful but not without disagreements over its goals and methods. MADD has cracks in its foundational mission. The Texas DWI Specialist attorney whom you retain to defend your DWI charge needs to know the undue influence of MADD on individual DWI cases and know how to effectively counteract that influence.

A Change in MADD's Mission

The nonprofit transparency site Guidestar reports that MADD is an IRS Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization formed on September 5, 1980. Although Candy Lightner lived in California when she formed MADD, MADD's national corporate office is now located in Irving, Texas. Guidestar indicates that MADD's original mission, recorded in its Articles of Incorporation, was to “aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the families of such victims and to increase public awareness of the problem of drinking and drugged driving.” But Guidestar further reports that MADD's mission has since then changed. Its mission is now “to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking.”

It's a subtle change, but MADD has broadened its goal beyond fighting impaired driving. MADD now wants alcohol and drugs off the road entirely. That's why, in part, MADD no longer mentions Candy Lightner in its webpage story. Since leaving MADD, Candy Lightner has worked as a lobbyist for the liquor industry, saying that they, too, are victims of impaired driving. MADD isn't always fair and balanced in its advocacy. MADD has its own financial, political, and ideological goals that have nothing to do with your personal stake in a DWI charge. The Texas DWI Specialist attorney whom you retain to defend you must help you preserve and pursue your right to fair treatment in resolution of your DWI charge, notwithstanding MADD's distinct mission.

MADD Funding

MADD's funding is substantial, another disagreement founder Candy Lightner came to have with the organization that she founded. Don't underestimate MADD's power and influence. It's been around for a good while, wielding substantial influence. MADD's 2019 IRS Form 990 Information Return shows that MADD received nearly $22 million in annual contributions that year, down from millions more in prior years. In 2019, MADD further earned over $9 million in program service revenue. MADD gets paid for a lot of programs. Its Victim Impact Panels are a prime example, where courts require DWI defendants to pay MADD to find victims before whom the defendant must sit to hear their stories. MADD's 2019 revenue was thus more than $32 million.

MADD's funding is substantial enough to handsomely compensate a large executive team. MADD employs at least eight full-time executives, each earning over $100,000 annually, with its chief financial officer earning over a quarter of a million dollars annually from MADD and related organizations. MADD also pays enormous fees to other organizations for public awareness and online fundraising, including nearly $1 million annually to the marketing firm Merkle Inc. Indeed, MADD's 2019 IRS Form 990 Information Return shows that in that year, MADD spent $1,611,086 on marketing firms to net $4,354,182 in proceeds. MADD's 2019 IRS Form 990 Information Return shows that it holds over $20 million in assets. MADD is a large, sophisticated, and wealthy advocacy organization that pays its executive team well to pursue its distinct mission.

MADD's Original Means

MADD's primary method of fighting drunk and drugged driving was once public awareness. MADD initially played a significant role in making drivers more aware of the impairing effects of excessive amounts of alcohol. MADD's public awareness campaigns continue, closely connected with its fundraising. MADD's Guidestar profile claims, for instance, that in 2019 MADD provided nearly 200,000 students with information on alcohol and drug use. Yet, with the public now generally quite well aware of drunk-driving concerns, MADD's means are no longer primarily public awareness campaigns. MADD has shifted its strategic initiatives in other directions, often more directly affecting local DWI prosecutions.

MADD's Legislative Influence

MADD has also wielded large influence over legislators enacting DWI laws. That influence isn't incidental. Lobbying legislators, along with public-awareness campaigns and ensuring local enforcement crackdowns, are instead the reasons MADD first came to exist. MADD seeks political influence to carry out its mission to deter drunk driving. MADD's 2019 IRS Form 990 Information Return shows that it spent over $200,000 on direct lobbying expenses and significant additional amounts on grassroots lobbying that year. MADD's lobbying played a role in lowering blood-alcohol limits from .10 to the current .08. MADD continues to be successful in lobbying. For example, MADD's Guidestar profile indicates that MADD has contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of state legislatures, currently thirty-five, enacting legislation requiring ignition interlock devices for all drunk-driving offenders. MADD continues to pursue drunk driving laws affecting DWI cases and outcomes.

MADD's Current Initiatives

As indicated above, MADD has clearly shifted its current goals and strategies away from public awareness campaigns, given the saturation of the public consciousness with that now-obvious message. MADD's Guidestar profile instead discloses that MADD currently strategizes to support high-visibility law enforcement. MADD, in other words, is working with local police and prosecutors, not just sharing awareness campaigns for the public. MADD's webpage on its law enforcement initiatives includes things like promoting sobriety checkpoints, Saturation Saturdays, and impaired driving crackdowns. MADD also promotes legislation to require ignition interlocks for all drunk drivers and develop more breathalyzer technology. MADD is currently into technological and procedural solutions more so than public awareness campaigns. And that new emphasis creates new risks for individuals charged in DWI cases.

MADD's Court Advocacy

Indeed, those whom prosecutors charge in DWI cases need to recognize that MADD doesn't just advocate to the public and legislators. MADD also advocates in individual cases within the court system. It does so by recruiting volunteers to serve as court monitors. MADD's volunteer handbook indicates that its Court Monitoring Program “enlists and trains court monitors to observe and document what happens in the courtroom during drunk driving case proceedings. Court monitors track results and identify inconsistencies on how drunk driving cases are handled and resolved.” Tracking results to find inconsistencies in DWI enforcement, though, is only the first step that MADD expects its volunteers to take. MADD then admits in its volunteer handbook that it “shares this information with law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and, if necessary, the media, to help ensure appropriate actions.”

Indeed, MADD's webpage for its controversial court-monitoring program admits that MADD “sends hundreds of volunteers ... into courtrooms to ensure drunk driving cases are prosecuted and sentenced as serious crimes.” As MADD claims in its Guidestar profile, “Even when laws are passed, they are not always enforced. We need court monitors to help see if the system is failing us.” MADD is, in other words, in the business of influencing the outcome of individual cases. That influence is what should frighten or concern every DWI defendant. That influence is also why you need to retain a Texas DWI Specialist defense attorney to defend your DWI case.

The Problem with Court Advocacy

MADD's advocacy to influence the outcome of specific DWI cases locally is problematic because each case has distinct facts and circumstances. While MADD's recruiting of “court monitors” to “share information” may sound relatively harmless, the goal is clearly to have each outcome fit MADD's box. Yet judges and juries should decide specific cases on their individual facts, not on broad public policy, to fit hypothetical categories or patterns, or in response to public demands and outcries. Each case has its own unique circumstances. Trial in the media isn't a fair trial.

Trial by a national advocacy organization like MADD, intent on raising funds and improving its numbers, also isn't a fair trial. MADD volunteers have their own experiences and agendas. They don't have the training, ethics, and responsibilities of a judge or prosecutor. MADD advocates also have their own biases. They are often the relatives of victims killed by drunk drivers. Law, though, commits judges and juries not to exercise biases. Jury selection would ensure that no person who had a family member killed by a drunk driver would serve on a DWI defendant's jury. Your Texas DWI Specialist defense attorney must be ready to counteract MADD's court advocacy.

MADD Targets

The point is that MADD doesn't only target legislators for lobbying influence and the public for its awareness campaigns. MADD also targets judges and prosecutors. As one Texas media story quoted MADD's president, from a MADD national press release, “MADD puts monitors in courtrooms to make sure prosecutors and judges know that we are watching.” MADD's press release made clear that MADD expects judges and prosecutors to respond to its pressure to increase DWI conviction rates uniformly from state to state and county to county.

One could even say that MADD wants to send a message with your DWI case. MADD's president, quoted in the same MADD press release, continued, “Every case is an opportunity for them to send the message to the offender—and the public—that drunk driving will not be excused or tolerated.” Yet, justice in individual cases isn't about sending messages to the public. Justice is instead about fitting any punishment, restitution, and rehabilitation to any crime that the defendant actually committed, as the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt. MADD puts a finger firmly on the victim's side of the scales of justice, when those scales are supposed to balance.

MADD Stumbles

MADD doesn't always get its advocacy right. MADD officers and volunteers are human. They sometimes exaggerate their purported facts to compel an unreasonable conclusion. In some instances, MADD representatives have misrepresented facts and statistics to further its mission. Not too long ago, for example, MADD-Canada's CEO, opposing proposed reforms of marijuana laws, made the extraordinary public claim that “Cannabis presence is the leading cause of fatalities on our roadways.” One finds zero statistical support for that far-overblown claim. Many studies indicate instead that excessive speed, driver inattention, and even texting while driving cause far more fatal accidents than drugged driving causes. The effect of increasing marijuana use on fatal accidents is still largely uncertain. MADD stumbles sometimes, which one could expect. Those advocacy errors are another reason MADD should have no influence over your individual DWI case.

MADD Criticism

No sound person would question the value of MADD's mission to deter drunk driving. Yet, a valuable mission doesn't insulate an organization from fair criticism. The mission doesn't always validate the means. Good organizations go awry when using nefarious means to achieve their laudable ends. Taking a cause too far can also corrupt the cause. MADD has thus come under criticism for moving from a remarkably successful advocate against impaired driving to a stance of outright prohibition.

Indeed, reports indicate that MADD fired its founder Candy Lightner five years after she started the organization because she declined to move beyond its original mission to fight all intoxicated driving, whether intoxication meant impairment or not. Ms. Lightner has since then publicly criticized MADD for its prohibitionist stances. The hospitality industry and beverage industries have come under MADD's attack, while MADD's founder Candy Lightner has defended those industries. MADD has also received criticism for receiving court-imposed fees for its Victim Impact Panels that studies suggest have no positive effect on DWI recidivism. MADD also receives criticism for its insatiable fundraising and its use of junk science to promote its goals. No advocacy organization is perfect. All can bend their means to achieve distorted goals. MADD is no exception.

Achieving Goals, Outliving Usefulness

MADD may have simply outlived its usefulness, as critics also contend. Fair commentators generally credit MADD with a significant role in dramatically reducing drunk-driving deaths, from the time of its 1980 founding into the 1990s. That decline in drunk-driving deaths continues, as MADD's Guidestar profile touts. MADD contributed to that decline largely by raising public awareness of the hazards of driving while impaired. That message, though, has certainly reached the public's consciousness. Consider the large number and clear visibility of public-service announcements and advertisements from alcohol producers, celebrities, and government agencies, among many others. The remaining problem, then, isn't public awareness. Alcohol-related crash deaths are now largely the result of hardcore drinkers who are impervious to awareness campaigns. Yet, the criticism is that MADD marches on, pushing for prohibition or abstinence rather than against impaired driving.

The MADD Concern in Individual DWI Cases

The problem in individual DWI cases isn't that MADD has advocated effectively. The problem is that MADD's influence can distort individual cases involving innocent DWI defendants or defendants who face overreaching DWI charges. The problem with MADD's influence is that it distorts individual cases. The problem that MADD creates with excessive and unsupported advocacy is that it puts ordinary people at risk of wrongful conviction and excessive punishment. Although the individual cases are hard to confidently identify, little question exists that MADD sometimes wrongly influences prosecutors to pursue DWI charges they otherwise wouldn't have. Some degree of prosecutorial discretion is critical to the just functioning of the criminal justice system. Prosecutors often decline to pursue potential criminal charges, whether for lack of reliable evidence, serious questions over the defendant's involvement and responsibility, the probable or obvious violation of constitutional rights, or other sound reasons. When prosecutors admit to DWI defense lawyers that they wouldn't have charged the doubtful or deficient DWI crime but for MADD breathing down their neck, you know that the advocacy sometimes creates a problem.

Addressing the MADD Concern

A defendant facing a DWI charge advocated by MADD representatives faces an uphill climb. But that DWI defendant is not without a defense. Texas DWI Specialist defense attorneys know how to counteract MADD's influence, with judges, prosecutors, and jurors. That advocacy begins with a laser focus on the facts of the individual case. Judges and juries try cases, not causes. Your Texas DWI Specialist attorney should aggressively develop the facts of your case. That work involves not only discovering the prosecution's evidence but also gathering your own evidence in exoneration or mitigation of the DWI charge. That work also includes challenging unlawful stops and arrests without probable cause, and unlawful searches and seizures, while filing well-supported motions to suppress illegally gained evidence. A prosecutor cannot win a case, even one backed by MADD advocates, without evidence.

Preventing MADD Influence

Texas criminal procedures also provide protections against undue outside influence, such as the influence of MADD advocates on an unsupported DWI charge. Jury voir dire under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 35 permits your Texas DWI Specialist defense attorney to inquire of each juror as to any membership in, relationship with, or sympathy for the MADD organization. Those jurors get drawn off the jury peremptorily. Judges must also instruct jurors not to follow public commentary and media reporting on the individual case in which those jurors sit. Texas judges also generally permit defense counsel to interview jurors after a verdict to explore for outside influence. Know your Texas DWI rights including your defense attorney's right to root bias out of the system. Retain premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy for your DWI defense in any case in which you have a concern over MADD influence.

Texas DWI Specialist Attorney Available

If you face a DWI prosecution pushed forward by MADD representatives, or if you suspect that MADD has influenced the prosecutor to pursue and even exaggerate your DWI charges, then you need to retain a premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney to counteract MADD's undue influence. Do not underestimate the severe collateral consequences of a DWI conviction. Retain premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy to help you strategize how to counteract and nullify MADD's influence. Attorney Murphy unquestionably has the high professional standing and special skills to address undue public influence. Indeed, other lawyers voted attorney Doug Murphy Best Lawyers in America's 2021 Lawyer of the Year. Attorney Murphy is also one of only two Texas lawyers holding both Criminal Law Certification and DWI Board Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 today for premier DWI representation.

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