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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 8, 2010

The best reality show in town

By Lee Cataluna

I know a guy who looks forward to Wednesdays because that's the day the Honolulu Police Department posts the pictures of all the people arrested for driving under the influence in the past week.

"I love the DUI mug shots," he says.

For whatever reason, the online gallery of photos is undeniably compelling. It is raw emotion, from alcohol-fueled giddiness to self-hating despair; the most real reality show out there.

Some of the photos show the fresh, terrified faces of people arrested for "zero tolerance," which means being under the legal drinking age of 21 with any measurable blood alcohol content.

Then there are the ones who look like they have a standing appointment for their weekly DUI mug shot. They have an attitude of boredom, like movie stars weary of, but used to, photo-hungry paparazzi. Go ahead and take my picture. Just let me get back to the party. There's a notation of habitual violation affixed to those photos, though in copspeak, it's OVUII ("operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant) rather than the more commonly used DUI.

Concerns have been raised about what publishing arrest photos can do to a person's reputation. Since the photo gallery went online two months ago, even people from outside Hawai'i have weighed in on the matter, going on about how a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Yes, yes, of course, but the photos are available to the public anyway, and why should the cast of "Lost" be the only ones to get a pop of publicity with their DUI mug shots?

This week, one of the shots was particularly dramatic. An officer's blue latex gloved hand appears in the shot, holding up the man's head so the camera could catch his facial features. The guy was so far gone he couldn't keep his eyes open, couldn't hold his own head up. And he was behind the wheel, allegedly. So scary.

Don't waste time trying to look for that one. It's gone. The photos are up for only a day and are not archived for future retrieval on the HPD Web site, though anything that goes online has the potential of existing forever if someone decides to download and keep a file. DUI convictions, however, live on in perpetuity in searchable online court records.

The photo gallery is meant as a deterrent . Some of the sad and sorry faces on the Web site sure look deterred, at least in the moment. Take a look at the HPD Web site one of these Wednesdays. The images are compelling, compelling enough to maybe make a person call a cab.