Archive for July, 2008

Law Trumps Science…in Drunk Driving

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

It is an unfortunate fact that law and politics repeatedly trump science when it comes to prosecuting citizens accused of drunk driving…..  

In People v. Bransford, to cite one notable example, the California Supreme Court was confronted with a defendant who was challenging his DUI conviction on the grounds that he was not permitted to offer scientific evidence to the jury. Specifically, he was not permitted to offer the testimony of recognized experts that the breath machine’s computer was programmed to assume that there were 2100 parts of alcohol in his blood for every 1 part it measured in his breath. He was also prevented by the trial judge from offering further evidence that this 2100:1 ratio was only an average — and that the actual ratio varied widely from person to person, and within one person from moment to moment. (If, for example, a suspect’s ratio had been 1500:1 at the time he blew a .10% on the machine, his true blood-alcohol would have actually been .07% — that is, he would have been innocent.)

The Supreme Court of California affirmed the conviction, however, ruling that such scientific facts are irrelevant: the law was recently re-written in a way that concerned the amount of alcohol in the blood ”as measured on the breath”. In a display of either twisted logic or ignorance of the scientific facts involved, the Court simply said that the crime consisted of the amount of alcohol in the blood — but only as measured on the breath. In other words, although the crime is having .08% alcohol in the blood, you can’t offer evidence about the amount of alcohol actually in the blood!

An amazing decision. More interesting, perhaps, is language in the opinion — an opinion which gives us a window into the justices’ minds. In what must have been a complete failure to appreciate the significance of what they were writing, the Court justified its ruling in a rather frank — and incredible — admission of its hidden agenda:

It will increase the likelihood of convicting such a driver, because the prosecution need not prove actual impairment…Adjudication of such criminal charges will also require fewer legal resources, because fewer legal issues will arise. And individuals prosecuted under such a statute will be less likely to contest the charges.  People v. Bransford, 8 Cal.4th 894 (1994).

In other words, preventing an accused from defending himself with scientific truth serves justice by making it easier to get convictions!

Are all judges oblivious to the truth? Not entirely. One judge, Justice Joyce Kennard, dissented from the majority opinion. Recognizing the truth, she wrote in a separate opinion:

The majority…has on its own created the new crime of driving with alcohol in one’s breath.


The Great Cookie Caper

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I posted a few days ago about a typical "rush to judgment" in today's hysterical drunk driving environment (Anatomy of a Lynching).  Here, the latest example – complete with initial disavowals by MADD, later reluctantly withdrawn:

Man Accused of Taking Drug-Laced Cookies to Cops

Fort Worth, TX.  AP, July 8 -  A man accused of delivering baskets of drug-laced cookies to as many as a dozen police departments, causing several officers to become sick, was arrested Tuesday.

Christian V. Phillips, 18, of Watauga, was arrested Tuesday morning after allegedly taking cookies to the Lake Worth police station, where officers had been tipped off that someone was falsely claiming to deliver treats on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said Lake Worth Police Chief Brett McGuire.

"Our officers took a good whiff and thought they smelled like marijuana," McGuire said, adding that preliminary tests instead detected traces of LSD…

In nearby Fort Worth, at least three officers got sick after eating some cookies and candy after a basket was delivered to that police station Monday night, authorities said.

Lake Worth investigators found that Phillips had a list of about two dozen North Texas departments, with 13 checked off.

Blue Mound police tipped off Lake Worth after receiving a call from MADD that no one was delivering cookies on its behalf.

For the next few days a lynch-mob mentality permeated the media:

Man Accused of Delivering Drug-Laced Cookies

to Police Stations Across Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas, TX.  July 10 -  Police officers in Blue Mound didn't think much of the cookies dropped off at their station Monday night – until they got a whiff of them.

Overpowering the chocolate chips was the pungent smell of marijuana, police said.

"It reeked of it," said Lt. Thomas Cain, a Blue Mound police spokesman. "It wasn't hard to tell. Anyone that's been around marijuana before would have known".

The next day:

"Tainted" Cop Cookies Deemed Safe

Lake Worth, TX.  AP, July 11 -  A teenager jailed on accusations that he delivered drug-laced cookies to a dozen police stations was released Thursday after tests showed no drugs in goodies taken to two departments.

Blue Mound and Lake Worth police said tests by the Tarrant County medical examiner showed there were no controlled substances in cookies delivered this week by Christian V. Phillips, 18, who had been jailed in Lake Worth on $75,000 bond on a charge of tampering with a consumer product.

Phillips walked quickly out of the jail without commenting while accompanied by his father, who then drove away with his son.

Phillips' attorney said his client was performing community-service work when he delivered goodies for Mothers Against Drunk Driving to about a dozen stations in the past couple of weeks. Only two stations had any treats left over to be tested for drugs.

"I'm really upset that this thing has gotten to this point, that this kid has gotten convicted in the media before any evidence was collected," said the attorney, L. Patrick Davis.


More News from the Front…

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Apparently, the MADDness isn’t limited to the U.S….

Richmond Hill Man Charged with Drunk Driving on Lawn Mower

Toronto, Canada.  July 11  -  A Richmond Hill man faces a drunk driving charge after York Regional Police caught him riding a lawn mower on the sidewalk Sunday allegedly drinking a beer…

Police took the opportunity to remind residents any motorized vehicle including ATVs, scooters and jet skis are all subject to the impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code.


The DUI Double Standard

Monday, July 7th, 2008

So what happens when a cop drives drunk?

Ex-Cop Charged with DUI

San Jose, CA.  July 4  -  More than three months after San Jose police failed to test a former cop for intoxication or cite her after a serious multi-car accident, the state attorney general has charged Sandra Woodall with felony drunken driving.

Woodall, 39, now an investigator with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, is expected in court Thursday.

The charge raises a larger and so far unanswered question: Did police officers at the scene of the March 25 nighttime collision intentionally do an incomplete job while trying to protect Woodall from criminal charges?

Soon after realizing one of their own was involved, both police and the district attorney’s office agreed to ask the state prosecutor to look into the case, realizing there was a potential conflict of interest.

And there were private worries by officials about whether Woodall was given favorable treatment by fellow cops.

Woodall’s husband, Jason, is a sergeant in the department; her father-in-law is Jack Woodall, a former lieutenant in the police department and also a district attorney’s investigator.

Officers did not conduct either a field sobriety test or take Woodall’s blood, although they had a statement from a witness who claimed to have overheard Woodall talking about drinking. In car-crash cases, it is common practice to ask for a blood sample if there is probable cause that the driver may be intoxicated…

The Escalade drove over the median and hit an oncoming 1995 Volkswagen Jetta. The Jetta hit a parked car and the Escalade ended up partially on the sidewalk. All three drivers – including Woodall – complained of minor injuries and were taken to a local hospital, police said.

The case might simply have disappeared had not an outraged victim called top police officials to complain that nothing was being done.

“Who will guard the guardians?”


0.00% = DUI Prosecution

Friday, July 4th, 2008

According to police, prosecutors and MADD those breathalyzers are deadly accurate…unless it contradicts a cop’s opinion.

Sober, and Now Outraged as Well

DUI Case Was Dropped, But Driver Wants to Sue

Bredenton, FL.  July 3  -  If there is a lucky four-digit lottery number in DUI cases, it is this: a 0.000 on the blood-alcohol breath test.

 Gary Shuchat hit quadruple zeros, but that was not enough to win his freedom after a traffic stop in May.

A Manatee County sheriff’s deputy said Shuchat failed field sobriety tests, even though Shuchat showed no obvious signs of impairment. He was not slurring words. His eyes were fine. There was no odor of alcohol.

Authorities got a urine sample from Shuchat, which came back clean a few weeks ago. No drugs. No alcohol. A state prosecutor dropped the case…

Shuchat, 54, an executive at a lumber company in Canada, will not let his arrest slide as a mere inconvenience or a story to tell about American police. He wants to sue the Sheriff’s Office, calling his arrest in Bradenton a terrifying experience…

"This was the most degrading and dehumanizing thing I have ever been through," Shuchat said. "This was crazy. I was not drunk."

Apparently, Canadians don’t fully appreciate our uniquely American "War on Drunk Driving".

(See Field Sobriety Tests: Designed for Failure? and DUI Eye Test a Fraud?)

(Thanks to David Baker)