There’s No Escaping The Law, Especially Here
I love meeting people from outside the area who have come here to assert their skills in this modern industrial era, especially those who take to the task as a great new adventure and who also enjoy meeting new people. In restaurants and pubs in Towanda, Wyalusing, Tunkhannock, and Montrose, I have had the opportunity to hear and share stories with a number of good-natured people, who love to compare the lifestyles of which they are most accustomed to the way we live here in the Endless Mountains.
The conversations can begin with a simple shared joke or something on the television screen, but, inadvertently, contrasts between living here or there come to light. I’ve been told by people from the south and Midwest that we have no right to think of ourselves as “rednecks,” which was a little disheartening because I know that many of us harbor a certain pride in our homespun solutions to life’s challenges, like pulling a mower behind a Jeep when the tractor breaks down or fixing a roof leak with a tarp, some dumbbells, several chunks of firewood, and two pair of horseshoes and the stakes.
“You don’t even come close,” said a good old boy from Kentucky, who insisted that we are much more cultured than we want to believe. I wasn’t sure whether I should have been offended or should have taken his remark, in all of its sincerity, as a compliment.
Some of the more serious conversations in which I have taken part, however, concern the fact that Pennsylvania has a law for almost every aspect of life, and a handful of those who have come here seeking work aren’t big fans of that actuality. I don’t want to suggest that these people have come to us from lawless lands, and many Pennsylvanians grumble about a legal system that is governed by an abundance of often duplicitous or seemingly vague statutes. But not agreeing with every law on the books is not the same as thumbing our noses at the commonwealth’s legal system. And that’s where some of the conversations I’ve had with out-of-state workers have gone awry.
There is a prevailing belief among some of those who intend to return to their home states when their services are no longer required here that any trouble they have gotten themselves into in Pennsylvania will be left behind like dust on a dirt road. A primary example concerns infractions incurred as the result of a DUI arrest.
In the course of editing police and magisterial judge reports, I too often encounter stories about guys who refuse to cooperate with authorities when it comes to the testing that determines the blood alcohol count (BAC), or the level of alcohol in the blood stream. More than a few influx workers have said to arresting officers that they “do not recognize” Pennsylvania’s DUI laws and that the results of such testing will not hold up in their respective states.
Not so, according to law enforcement officials and District Attorney Dan Barrett, the latter of who noted that DUI arrests in Bradford County have doubled in the past two years. Dan encouraged me to look into the Interstate Drivers License Compact, an agreement between 45 states to share information about DUI convictions that ensures that actions taken against a drunk driver in Pennsylvania will not only be shared with the driver’s home state but that any infractions imposed on an out-of-state driver in Pennsylvania will carry into the driver’s home state when they return there.
“If their driving privileges are suspended in Pennsylvania, it doesn’t matter where their license is from,” Dan told me. “A DUI conviction is reciprocal to the state that they are from.” In other words, you cannot click your heals three times and return to Kansas with a clean record.
(Unfortunately, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan are “non-compact” states and do not share information nor impose driving restrictions imposed by “compact” states.)
In Pennsylvania, refusal to consent to a blood test results in an automatic one-year suspension of one’s license and a charge of high-rate DUI, even though the defendant’s BAC might not have been high enough to qualify for that designation. Failure to cooperate is also noted on one’s permanent driving record and could make subsequent arrests more complicated than necessary. If you get caught driving while your license is revoked, you can expect to do jail time.
Nothing stands closer to the truth than the fact that if you never drink and drive, you should never be pulled over for a DUI. But to refuse to cooperate simply makes no sense, given these facts. Dan Barrett also suggested that a perhaps unintended folly of the system is that the men and women who find themselves in this situation are probably not thinking clearly and may be somewhat belligerent if they are indeed drunk.
“The decision (as to whether or not to cooperate) is made while they are intoxicated,” Barrett noted. “They’re going to be sadder but wiser for that decision.”
The bottom line is that, no matter where you are from or what the laws are like there, out-of-state workers are subject to the same recourse for their actions as I would be if I were in Texas or Oklahoma. Our laws are your laws now too.