Archive for September, 2005

MADD Continues Staffing DUI Roadblocks

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

A few weeks ago I posted a story about Mothers Against Drunk Driving assisting Delaware law enforcement in manning DUI sobriety checkpoints (and, in Tennessee, even setting up their own roadblocks).  The practice appears to be spreading.  The following is from a recent San Diego County Sheriff news release:

SANTEE.  The Santee Sheriff's Traffic Division is turning up the heat on drunk drivers this weekend.  Those who choose to drink and drive may find themselves cooling off in a jail cell.

In cooperation with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), the Santee Sheriff's deputies will be conducting a DUI sobriety checkpoint on Friday, September 13th, at an undisclosed location within the city limits….

Sheriff's deputies, senior volunteers, reserves and representatives of MADD staff DUI Sobriety Checkpoints.

When did you start "cooling off in a jail cell" for drinking and driving (which is not illegal)?  And when did MADD begin staffing roadblocks? 

I've posted in the past about the ineffectiveness (and unconstitutionality) of DUI roadblocks.  So how effective are these Sherrif/MADD joint efforts?  Well, the same news release reports that the  preceding effort resulted in 1169 drivers encountered at the roadblock, of which 556 were waived through, 613 were stopped, 50 were asked to step out for further investigation….and only 1 was arrested for DUI

However, local government coffers were fattened with 27 citations and 10 impounded vehicles — an apparently growing reason behind roadblocks supposedly set up to find drunk drivers.

 

 

(Thanks to Jeanne M. Pruett, President of Responsibility in DUI Laws, Inc.)

PinterestRedditDiggShare

Forced Blood Draws Justified

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

I’ve commented in recent posts about the spreading practice of cops forcefully jamming syringes into DUI suspects on the sides of our highways.  Now consider a devious legal maneuver to justify the practice in the following news story:

DUI Suspect Appeals Police Use Of Forced Blood Test

PALM BAY, Fla. Sept 23 – A man accused of driving drunk in Brevard County is appealing police use of a forced blood test. Tony Isley refused a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop in Palm Bay. So police got a search warrant on the spot to take a sample of his blood.

Currently, the only forced blood tests happen when there’s a crash with injuries. Prosecutors said there was nothing in current law that would not allow forced blood tests, even if officers had to restrain the suspect. "The alcohol is actually the property being used to commit the DUI," said prosecutor Samantha Barrett.

If the appeals court upholds the method, it could be used all over Florida. Currently Indiana, Missouri and Texas use it, and the method has withstood appeals.

For those of you who think it’s devious DUI defense lawyers who think up the "technicalities" and "loopholes", how about a search warrant to seize blood as "property" used to commit a crime?  And what kind of rubber-stamp "search warrant" is issued by radio or phone in minutes to any cop on a highway who wants one?

PinterestRedditDiggShare

The Hazards of Being a Defense Attorney

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

My recent post “How Can you Defend Drunk Drivers?” received considerable response, most of it surprisingly positive.  I’d like to add a thought from DUI defense attorney Walter Fey of Reno, Nevada:

…you will become a target for those who have no voice other than the one they use to utter shrill insults and condemnations.  Goes with the suit.  

I have found that one argument that really shuts them down, or at least calms them and permits a more reasoned discussion of what I do, is this:  I am responsible for putting more abusers of drugs and alcohol into treatment programs than anyone they may know or be acquainted with. Win or lose, one of my first steps is to recommend or order rehabilitation as a condition of my representation.  Ask the attacker how many folks he got to go to AA this week–see if they have any answer.

Of course, things could always be worse, as evidenced by the following recent news article from the Los Angeles Times:

MOSCOW.  A Canadian lawyer for jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was expelled from Russia on Friday after a post-midnight visit to his hotel by plainclothes police….

Prosecutors also said Friday that they had moved to disbar at least eight of Khodorkovsky’s Russian lawyers for what they called foot-dragging in representing the 42-year-old businessman in his appeal….

Law enforcement officers descended on the luxury hotel room of Robert Amsterdam shortly after 1:00am and ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours.

Imagine if MADD had chapters in Russia….

PinterestRedditDiggShare

Dieting Can Raise Breathalyzer Test Results

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

I’ve written in the past about how most so-called "breathalyzers" do not measure alcohol:  they actually measure the presence of the methyl group in compounds.  One of those compounds is ethyl alcohol (aka ethanol), and the machine simply assumes that the detected compound is ethyl alcohol. 

Problem:  there are thousands of compounds containing the methyl group — of which over one hundred have been found on the human breath.  Breathing gasoline or paint fumes, for example, or merely absorbing the fumes through the skin, can create false breath test results for days.  And I’ve recently posted that the problem is particularly acute when the suspect happens to be a diabetic, as diabetics often have high levels of acetone in their breath — a compound which contains the methyl group. 

However, you do not need to be a diabetic to have high levels of acetone:  scientific research has established that acetone can exist in perfectly normal individuals at  levels sufficient to cause false high breath-alcohol test readings.  "Excretion of Low-Molecular Weight Volatile Substances in Human Breath:  Focus on Endogenous Ethanol", 9 Journal of Analytical Toxicology 246 (1985). 

Fasting or radical dieting, such as with the Atkins diet, can also cause significantly elevated acetone.  Studies have concluded that fasting, for example, can increase acetone in the body sufficient to obtain breathalyzer readings of .06% (this is cumulative — that is, the .06% will be added by the machine to any levels actaully caused by alcohol or other compounds).   "The Likelihood of Acetone Interference in Breath Alcohol Measurement", 3  Alcohol, Drugs and Driving 1 (1987).  And low-carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins, have long been associated with high levels of acetone production.

Of course, for many years law enforcement denied that any such problem existed, just as they denied that "mouth alcohol" and radio frequency interference caused false test results — until manufacturers started adding acetone detectors, mouth alcohol detectors and RFI detectors to their machines (none of which, unfortunately, have proven reliable.) 

How reliable are breathalyzers?  "Close enough for government work".  As I’ve recently posted, there seems to be a growing trend toward letting officers draw blood themselves at the scene of arrest.  Given the reassurances about these machines so often expressed publicly by law enforcement, one has to wonder why they are turning to the involved process of hypodermic needles, preservatives, anticoagulents, refrigeration and delayed laboratory analysis….

PinterestRedditDiggShare

The Easy Frame

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

In most cases, whether a driver was intoxicated or not is largely a matter of the officer's word (particularly if there is no corroborating breath or blood test because, according to the officer, the driver "refused" to cooperate). For whatever reason (quotas, politics, performance evaluations, etc.), setting up a DUI arrest is a fairly simple matter; few will take the accused's word over that of an officer. Doesn't happen? Let's take a look at the last few days….

Edmonton, Ont., Sept. 21 — New details emerged Tuesday in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inquiry into an Edmonton Police Service attempt to arrest a newspaper columnist over articles that criticized the police.

On November 18, 2004, several officers were involved in a stake-out of the Overtime Bar in a failed attempt to arrest Edmonton Sun writer Kerry Diotte and police oversight commission chairman Martin Ignasiak. Yesterday's disciplinary hearing focused on the head of the traffic section, Sergeant Bill Newton, who is charged with abusing his authority.

According to testimony….Newton ordered Sergeant Randy Schreiner to access confidential police databases to gather information on Diotte. The database produced a descriptions and details of Diotte's automobile and home. Diotte has no history of drunk-driving.

Using the database information, Newton ordered officers to be on the lookout for Diotte's BMW convertible during a "Target All Drunk Drivers" operation meeting on November 18. Sergeant Glen Hayden then informed Newton that he had seen Diotte at the Overtime Bar on two occasions. Around 6pm that evening, Hayden went to the Overtime, saw Diotte's BMW and called in undercover surveillance from two officers who were part of a squad designed to target a list of 100 "aggressive drivers."

The undercover officers identified Diotte and Ignasiak inside the bar as "Target One" and "Target Two" according to witnesses. Around 8:45pm an "informant" at the bar called officer Darren Smith, who placed a lookout bulletin on Diotte. Diotte, whom witnesses say was not drunk, took a cab home.

Hayden drove to Diotte's home to verify whether he was there or not. "It was true that we found that vehicle in a bar lot and the potential for serious harm or death was there," Hayden testified, maintaining that he did nothing wrong. An Edmonton Police disciplinary hearing has dropped charges against Hayden.

Thank God that can't happen here in the United States…

Middletown, Conn, Sept. 15. The mayor of Middletown was arrested for drunken driving, by her own police department…. Thornton was taken into custody last night, near her home on Timber Ridge Road. A Middletown police officer says he saw the mayor driving on Westfield Street in an erratic manner, weaving from side to side, crossing the center line, and failing to stop at a stop sign. That Middletown officer says the mayor was given a sobriety test at the scene, and she failed it. The mayor was also given a breathalyzer test, but officers had to take her to Portland, to the police department there, because the equipment at Middletown was not working.

Middletown, Conn, Sept. 21 — A Superior Court judge dismissed drunken driving charges against Mayor Domenique Thornton Wednesday after blood-alcohol tests showed she was not under the influence of alcohol when she was stopped by police last week. Thornton was taken into custody on Sept. 14. Police said she had been driving erratically, had an odor of alcohol on her breath, and failed a field sobriety test. But a breath test put her blood-alcohol level at .018, well below the state's legal limit of .08, and a urine test confirmed those results.

Middletown, Conn, Sept 22: ……Sebastian Giuliano, the mayor?s Republican contender in the upcoming election, said democratic elected officials "should have known better" when they called the arrest an "abuse of police powers" and "dirty politics." Giuliano excused the mayor?s comments against the police department as "an emotional response," but he added: "It?s unfortunate that she attacked her own police department."

MADD Director Janice Heggie Margolis defended the police Wednesday. Margolis said Mothers Against Drunk Driving fully supports Off. Glenn Morron, who made the arrest. Morron received a MADD award in 2001, she said, for "officers who go above and beyond the call of duty" in apprehending drunk drivers. Margolis cautioned that even small doses of alcohol, such as the mayor?s one glass of wine, may affect driving safety.

(Thanks to Richard Diamond and William Maze.)

PinterestRedditDiggShare