Archive for April, 2008

Do DUI Roadblocks Work? (Part II)

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

As I discussed in a recent post, the fatalities statistics used by MADD and government agencies to justify DUI checkpoints are flawed. In fact, the statistics can be viewed as indicating quite the opposite.

Well, all right, so checkpoints may not reduce fatalities — but, according to MADD, they certainly result in more DUI arrests.

Wrong again. The simple fact is that checkpoints are largely wastes of police resources and taxpayer money — not to mention unjustified invasions of privacy. In fact, in the United States Supreme Court decision (Michigan v. Sitz) upholding their constitutionality, a dissenting justice pointed out the “the findings of the trial court, based on an extensive record and affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals, indicate that the net effect of sobriety checkpoints on traffic safety is infinitesimal and possibly negative”. (Emphasis added)

This is confirmed by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies, which conclude that “the number of DWI arrests made by the roving patrol program was nearly three times the average number of DWI arrests made by the checkpoint programs”.

Then why do we have DUI roadblocks? Consider the following news story:


Chester County officials said recent recommendations from the national headquarters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been implemented by area police departments for years. Among the recommendations are an increased focus on prevention tactics such as sobriety checkpoints.

“We work with MADD and will continue to work with them to reduce the incidents of drunken driving in Pennsylvania,” (DOT spokesperson Jenny) Robinson said….

“I’ve read that police are less than enthusiastic about DUI checkpoints because they don’t make as many arrests,” (MADD official Bryce) Templeton said….

Richard Harkness, superintendent of the Tredyffrin Police Department, said checkpoints keep drivers aware that police are on the lookout for drunken drivers. He said there usually aren’t many DUI arrests at checkpoints, but they help educate the public.

“There should be as many DUI roadblocks as economically feasible,” Harkness said.

So…Roadblocks are invasive, don’t reduce fatalities and don’t produce more arrests — but we should have lots more of them. Why? To educate us.


New MADD Strategy: Shut Down the Lawyers

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

The latest weapon in MADD’s "War on Drunk Driving":

Senate Measure Would Ban Lawyers

from DUI Advertising

Nashville, TN.  AP, April 22 — Defense attorneys would be banned from advertising their expertise with drunken driving cases under a bill advancing in the Senate.

Sen. Rosalind Kurita, a Clarksville Democrat, successfully added the provision to a bill that would create an online registry of repeat DUI offenders in Tennessee.

Kurita says officials have a hard enough time convicting drunken drivers without lawyers advertising their expertise in the field and offering discounts to DUI defendants…

In another article appearing hours later, Senator Kurita explained her reasoning:  "Kurita said she pushed for the amendment because she was tired of suspected DUI offenders not being convicted."

Imagine that:  A citizen accused of a crime who is not convicted.  Intolerable!  There oughta be a law against that.

Another rational solution to the drunk driving problem…

(Thanks to David O’Shea.)


The Sacred Breathalyzer

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I’ve written repeatedly in the past about the inaccuracy and unreliability of the various breath machines used to estimate blood alcohol concentrations.  See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work (and Why They Don’t), Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol and Breathalyzer Inaccuracy: Testing During the Absorptive State.  I’ve also pointed out how our laws now ignore scientific truth and presume that the blood-alcohol level at the time of testing was the same as when driving, say, three hours earlier.  See How to Overcome Scientific Facts: Pass a Law.  And I’ve written about how our laws now presume guilt based upon a reading over .08% from one of these machines — how these devices have become judge, jury and executioner.  See Whatever happened to the Presumption of Innocence?.

Well, at least a citizen accused of drunk driving can call his own expert from the local university to testify as to alcohol metabolism and the probable true levels of alcohol in the accused, right? 

That may now be disappearing, too….

Supreme Court Strikes Blow

to ‘Two-Beer Defence’

Toronto, April 17 — The Supreme Court of Canada dealt a blow Thursday to the so-called “two-beer defence” – used by individuals accused of impaired driving – in which defence toxicology experts use their own measurements to try to refute a breathalyzer reading taken by police.

A 7-2 majority said Thursday that allowing defence experts to estimate the amount of alcohol an accused person had in his or her system when arrested is an unreliable exercise that depends on too many variables.

“To admit such a defence would obviously fly in the face,” of Parliament’s desire to bring drinking and driving under control, Madam Justice Louise Charron said, writing on behalf of three other majority judges…

In a testy rebuke to the majority, Madam Justice Marie Deschamps said: “I find it highly troubling and offensive for a court to impeach an expert’s credibility by dismissing post-offence testing, without an indication that the testing conditions were inadequate, on the basis that it does not adequately replicate the conditions at the time of interception.

“Testing conditions are in the domain of experts, not of the courts,” she said, writing on behalf of Mr. Justice Ian Binnie. “Courts need evidence in order to question the weight of expert testimony…”

Defence toxicologists typically administer specific amounts of alcohol to the subject and measure the rate at which their body absorbs the alcohol. Their evidence ultimately covers a range of possible blood alcohol concentrations, taking into account the amount of alcohol consumed, the pattern of drinking, and the accused’s age, height, weight and gender…

Amazing.   Let me repeat the reasoning of the Court:

“To admit such a defence would obviously fly in the face,” of Parliament’s desire to bring drinking and driving under control, Madam Justice Louise Charron said, writing on behalf of three other majority judges…

In other words, the defendant is not permitted to question the Breathlayzer results — because it interferes with efforts to combat drunk driving.  Think about that.

In view of past decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, and the political influence of MADD, how long do you think it will be before we follow the Canadians?


The Latest DUI SuperCop…

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

I’ve posted repeatedly in the past about the dangers of MADD’s so-called "DUI SuperCop" awards, encouraging police to make greater numbers of arrests — legal or otherwise.  See, e.g., How to be a DUI Super CopSupercops..and Supercons and Another DUI SuperCop.  In yesterday’s news, the latest example: 

Cop with Most DUI Arrests Charged with

Misconduct, Other Felonies

Chicago, IL.  April 15 – A Chicago cop once honored for arresting more drunk drivers than any other Illinois officer faces felony charges for allegedly filing a bogus police report on one of his arrests.

John Haleas, 37, is charged with four counts of official misconduct, two counts of obstruction of justice, and four counts of perjury in a grand jury indictment dated April 9.

Haleas was honored three times by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists as the police officer with the most DUI busts in Illinois. But last October, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dropped about 50 DUI cases in which Haleas had been the arresting officer — and said as many as 500 cases could be in jeopardy…

According to the indictment, Haleas falsely reported that (the arrestee) failed a field sobriety test. Haleas allegedly wrote false traffic citations, the indictment states, and lied about (him) taking the “one leg stand” test, the “walk and turn” test, and the finger-to-nose test. In fact, Haleas “did not administer any field sobriety tests,” the indictment states.

I wonder how many of those record-breaking arrests by this DUI "SuperCop" were also based upon false evidence?  And how many other cops, hungry for the promotions that these awards bring, are also taking shortcuts?


Are DUI Sobriety Checkpoints Effective?

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

For many years now, MADD has focused much of its considerable manpower (over 600 chapters), resources (revenues of over $51 million a year) and political influence on the proliferation of DUI roadblocks (or, to use the politically correct phrase, “sobriety checkpoints”). To justify this invasion of our privacy, we have been repeatedly assured that “checkpoints” are extremely effective in reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities — and these assurances have been accompanied by statistics. Let’s take a closer look at these "statistics"….

According to MADD’s own website, 40 states have checkpoints and 10 do not. Well, it would be interesting to compare the states with the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities with the list of states not using checkpoints: If MADD is correct, the states with the highest fatality rates will be the no-roadblock states. Fortunately, another section of MADD’s website provides such statistics for each of the states. The 5 states with the highest alcohol-related fatality rates:

North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina

According to MADD, all 5 states should be non-checkpoint states. In fact, however, 4 of these states use checkpoints; only Rhode Island does not. Well, what about the 5 states with the lowest fatality percentages? They are:

New York

If MADD is correct about the effectiveness of checkpoints, these should all be checkpoint states. But as with the previous list, only 4 of the states permit the use of sobriety checkpoints; Iowa does not. As with the previous list, the percentage is what one would expect from pure random incidence: 20% of the states (10 of 50) do not have checkpoints — and 20% of the states on each list (1 of 5) do not use checkpoints. There appears to be no correlation between fatality rates and the use of checkpoints.

Let’s take a look at another set of statistics: the effect of the proliferation of checkpoints on the national rate of alcohol-related fatalities. If checkpoints are effective, we would expect to find that alcohol-related fatalities will have declined since their widespread acceptance in recent years .

Again, the statistics do not support this. To use MADD’s own numbers: Since 1982, the number of fatalities nationwide from alcohol-related crashes has declined every year — until about 1993, when it dropped to 17,908. Perhaps coincidentally, this was the year after the United States Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints were not unconstitutional. In the 10 years since then, sobriety checkpoints have gained widespead acceptance — but the number of fatalities have levelled off, vacilating between 17,908 and 17,013. Far from supporting MADD’s position, one could even argue that this proves sobriety checkpoints have actually halted the steady decline in alcohol-related deaths. This would probably be incorrect — but indicative of how statistics can be used to serve a desired objective.