The mayor, who has made it his mission to change the habits of his fellow New Yorkers in regard to everything from graffiti to jaywalking, is betting that the courts will uphold his new tactic, as the Supreme Court has done in the case of seizure of assets from drug traffickers. But it is not clear yet whether the judiciary will be willing to balance rights in the same way in the case of drunken driving, which is a less serious offense. And make no mistake, the measures are draconian: "Seizing a vehicle can be a real hardship for a spouse who needs to go to work or a child who needs to go to school," says Cohen. Moreover, the seizure can stick with only a preponderance of the evidence to back it up (because it is a civil action), and not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that under the mayor's policy, a motorist could be acquitted of drunken driving in criminal court but still lose his car. How's that for being tough on crime?
If this is February, it must be crackdown-on-drunken-drivers month. Three motorists arrested on charges of drunken driving had their cars seized on the spot by the NYPD on Monday, Day 1 of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's new 'zero-tolerance' approach to DWI. "This is obviously an approach that will play to the bleachers," says TIME writer Adam Cohen. But since New York often seems to be governed from the bleachers, it may not be inappropriate.