Archive for August, 2008

Blood Draws in the Back Seat by the Dashboard Light

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

A few years ago, citizens suspected of DUI were given a choice to submit to either breath, blood or urine testing for alcohol concentration.  In the hysteria of MADD's "War on Drunk Driving", however, things have changed.  Today, citizens (supposedly presumed innocent) are being told they must submit to a blood test — and, if they refuse, are being forcefully restrained by a blood technician (referred to as a phlebotomist).   See my post Taking Blood by Force.

Why?  Well, cops are aware that breathalyzers are relatively inaccurate and unreliable, and take time to set up, administer and keep records.  But they still preferred breath testing because they didn't have to find a phlebotomist to draw the blood sample, usually requiring a trip to a hospital.

The solution: draw the blood sample yourself.  Cops are throwing suspects across the  hoods of cars or pinning them down in back seats and forcefully jamming needles into screaming citizens suspected of having a .08% blood-alcohol level.  And this is a growing practice across our country.  See, for example, Forced Blood Draws by Cops in Back SeatForced Blood Draws by Cops Spreading and Catheter Forced Up Penis After DUI Arrest.

Judges, of course, are generally cowed by MADD and the political consequences of appearing "soft on drunk driving" at the next election.  But once in awhile, some judge remembers why he's wearing black robes….


Judge: Troopers' DUI  Blood Tests Unconstitutional

Collecting sample in squad car with flashlight called inadequate
 

Tucson, AZ.  Aug. 30  -  A Pima County Superior Court judge tossed out blood-alcohol evidence in an alleged drunken driving case, saying the state's method of field blood draws is unconstitutional.

"Romantic though it may sound, phlebotomy in the back seat by the dashboard lights is, in this humble trial judge's opinion, unconstitutional," Judge Richard S. Fields wrote in his opinion, issued Wednesday…
 
Chief Criminal Deputy County Attorney David Berkman said prosecutors will dismiss Noceo's DUI charges and appeal Fields' ruling.  "It's just Judge Fields' opinion," Berkman said Friday. "It doesn't change anything."
 
Noceo's blood was drawn as he sat in the dimly lit back seat of a DPS cruiser, with one officer holding a flashlight, Fields wrote in his ruling. The officer drawing the blood noted he wore gloves, but didn't indicate whether he washed his hands beforehand.
 
The former director of University Medical Center's emergency medicine unit, Dr. Kenneth Iverson, testified in an evidentiary hearing that blood draws by law enforcement officers are "degraded medicine," Fields wrote.
 
"Lack of medical oversight and self-correction were noted as criticisms of the program," Fields wrote. "Dr. Iverson noted that the law enforcement phlebotomists failed to follow protocols which themselves were drafted without medical input."
 
Blood draws "carried out in roadside situations with poor lighting and in less than sanitary conditions" subject suspects to "an unreasonable risk of infection and injury," Fields wrote.
 
The state police agency's failure to ensure procedures are being followed, Fields wrote, violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
 
Fields said law enforcement agencies have alternatives such as using breath testers or having medical providers draw blood. "The goal of obtaining evidence cannot be allowed to wholly trump the goals of medical safety and human dignity if the intrusion is to pass Fourth Amendment muster," Fields wrote. 
 
 
Try to imagine yourself, an American citizen, stopped late at night on a highway with alcohol on your breath, thrown in the dark back seat of a police car, pinned down and struggling while a cop keeps trying to find your vein with a needle…
 
 
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You Knew It Would Happen…

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Well, I suppose it was a logical inevitability.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving has pressured legislators into passing Draconian laws, intimidated judges into ignoring due process, and now…..



MADD Volunteers Hit Road for DUI Enforcement

Pilot Program Launches Labor Day Weekend in Florida

Manatee County, Fla.  Aug 27   -  In a "first in the nation" pilot program developed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Manatee County Sheriff, Brad Steube, announced in a press conference earlier this week, that his sheriff’s department was partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In a unique program that puts specially trained MADD observers on the road to observe traffic and report potential drunk drivers, MADD and the Sheriff’s office are committed to saving lives and preventing injuries.

 "MADD’s Traffic Observation Program, or T.O.P., is the first such MADD program in the nation," stated MADD Volunteer Leader, LaVonne Bower, who is managing the program in Manatee County. "Teams of two will be on the road observing traffic to report signs of possible impaired driving to the Sheriff’s department. Our observers have received specialized training that includes classroom instruction and a minimum of six hours of ride-a-long training with certified DUI officers. They will observe all traffic laws and will make no effort to stop or interact with the subject vehicles," continued Bower…


Sound ridiculous, maybe illegal, even a little frightening?  Well, contrary to the "first in the nation" claim, MADD has been doing this kind of thing for some time now.  See, for example, my previous posts MADD Helping Police at DUI Roadblocks  and…Are you ready?… MADD Roadblocks , where MADD actually set up their own sobriety checkpoints (pissing off the local prosecutor in the process).

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Alcoholics and Breathalyzers

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

It may not surprise you to find out that alcoholics arrested for DUI will generally have higher blood-alcohol readings. It may surprise you, however, to learn that individuals having the disease of alcoholism will generally have higher blood-alcohol readings because they are alcoholics…..

That’s right. It’s because the physiology of alcoholics is different in some important respects. One of those is that their bodies produce more acetaldehyde — far more. Acetaldehyde? That’s a compound produced in the liver in small amounts as a by-product in the metabolism of alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol in the lungs has been found to metabolize there as well as in the liver — and to produce acetaldehyde there.

The amount of acetaldehyde produced in the lungs (to then be breathed into the breathalyzer) varies from person to person. “Origin of Breath Acetaldehyde During Ethanol Oxidation: Effect of Long-Term Cigarette Smoking”, 100 Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine 908. But in a study focusing on alcoholics, researchers discovered that the amount of acetaldehyde in the breath and blood of alcoholics was 5 to 55 times higher than that in nonalcoholics. “Elevated Blood Acetaldehyde in Alcoholics and Accelerated Ethanol Elimination”, 13 (Supp 1) Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 119.

End result: since breathalyzers can’t tell the difference between alcohol and acetaldehyde (see earlier post, “Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol”), alcoholics will usually have falsely higher blood-alcohol readings.

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Why Is MADD Pushing Ignition Interlock Devices?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

As has been widely reported in the nation's media, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been aggressively pushing state and federal legislators to require ignition interlock devices (IIDs) to be installed in vehicles.  MADD's President has even publicly stated that IIDs will "eliminate drunk driving once and for all". 

Of course, automobile manufacturers have jumped enthusiastically on this.  Nissan, Saab, Volvo, Chrysler and Toyota have already designed IIDs — both as optional equipment and as possible standard equipment for all of their models.  See All U.S. Cars to Have Ignition Interlock Devices? and New MADD Goal: All Cars Equipped with Breathlayzers.

So why is MADD so enthusiastically pushing for the adoption of these unreliable, dangerous and expensive gizmos?  

Take a look at MADD's 2005 Annual Report.   On their list of "Corporate Donors", six corporations are listed as "Platinum Corporate Donors" — that is, donors of $100,000 or more.  The first is a telemarketing company, DialAmerica Marketing.  Of the remaining five, three are carmakers planning IIDs in their models:  Nissan North America, Daimler Chrysler Corporation  and General Motors Companies (makers of Saab).  See The Truth About Ignition Interlock Devices.

Follow the money.

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The Drinking Age Debate: MADD vs College Deans

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

The debate over the minimum drinking age has continued for decades, with the recent focus being on whether it makes sense to send American youth to fight and perhaps die in foreign countries – but not to drink alcohol.  Our generals have expressed strong views on the subject.  See  MADD vs USMC.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving, ever vigilant in its Prohibitionist goals (see MADD and the New Prohibition), has fought hard (and successfully) against exposing our troops to the evils of alcohol. 

A second front, long simmering, has now errupted: the drinking age for college students.  MADD, whose  "Mission Statement" was amended a few years ago from preventing drunk driving to including preventing underage drinking, is adamantly against lowering the age to 18.  But, as with their run-in with our military leaders, this powerful group has suddenly been confronted with a another formidable enemy.


College Presidents Seek Debate on Drinking Age

Associated Press, Aug. 18  - College presidents from about 100 of the nation’s best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are already facing sharp criticism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

"It’s very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD…

 The statement the presidents have signed avoids calling explicitly for a younger drinking age. Rather, it seeks "an informed and dispassionate debate" over the issue and the federal highway law that made 21 the de facto national drinking age by denying money to any state that bucks the trend.

But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn’t working, citing a "culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking," and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they "are told they are not mature enough to have a beer." Furthermore, "by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law."..

Duke President Richard Brodhead declined an interview request. But he wrote in a statement on the Amethyst Initiative’s Web site that the 21-year-old drinking age "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks." It also prevents school officials "from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice."

(Chuck) Hurley, (CEO) of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

"They’re waving the white flag," he said.


(Thanks to Susan Sullivan and Lance Maxon.)

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