Archive for November, 2008

Why Do Police Refuse to Use Videotapes?

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Some police agencies around the country use videotapes as part of their drunk driving investigations.  The vast majority, however, do not — despite their low cost, ease of use and invaluable evidence as to driving patterns, physical symptoms, slurred speech, poor balance, incriminating statements and performance on "field sobriety tests".

Why don't they use them?  And why, when they do, do they so often get lost or erased?  See my post Why Do Police Erase Videotapes?

Local Attorney Says All D.U.I. Arrests Should Be Videotaped

KUTV News, Utah.  Oct. 23 (article originally published by - Many Utah police departments videotape suspected drunk drivers.  The Highway Patrol has most of the dashboard cameras in Utah.  Attorney Jason Schatz wants to see more videotaping for the sake of his clients.

 “It’s only fair to those people if the technology is available”, he says.  Schatz defends suspected drunk drivers and says often, police video is valuable evidence in court, challenging officers’ written reports.  

 “You look at the police report and you’d think this person was falling down drunk, then you see the tape and you say ‘Wait a minute, that doesn’t look the way it was described on paper”. 

Schatz says he wants Utah to adopt mandatory videotaping like the State of South Carolina.  He hopes to find a local lawmaker who will take the issue to Capitol Hill.

Schatz has compiled videotapes shot during sobriety test of several clients.  Some of the tapes conflict with what the officer wrote down in the report.  Often Schatz says, cases are dropped when the jury or the prosecutor see the tape.
Sim Gill, chief prosecutor for Salt Lake City disagrees, saying videotape “does not make or break d.u.i. cases”.  Gil says he’s not opposed to mandatory taping of d.u.i. stops, but says he’d rather see state monies spent on what he considers “more pressing needs” like funding the domestic violence shelters, and providing medical help for mentally ill people who are in prison.

Forgive my cynicism, but I'm naturally suspicious of prosecutors who say they would rather spend money on charitable causes than on more trustworthy evidence.


News From the Front…

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Well, I’ve posted on drunk driving arrests involving horses, lawn mowers, wheelchairs, walking a bicycle – even playing with a foot-high toy bike, so maybe this will come as no surprise….

Zamboni Driver Charged with Drunk Driving

Kingsville, Ont.  Nov 1  -  A 34-year-old woman from Kingsville, Ont., has been charged with impaired driving — on a Zamboni.

Provincial police say an off-duty officer spotted the woman driving erratically on the ice resurfacer at Kingsville Arena on Thursday night.  The driver was missing major spots on the ice and bumping into the boards. 

Maybe it’s a trend.  See my post two years ago, DUI on Ice, where a New Jersey judge threw out a Zamboni case, ruling that "four-ton ice rink-grooming machines aren’t motor vehicles because they aren’t useable on highways and can’t carry passengers".  Don’t you just hate it when some common sense judge takes all the fun out of MADD’s hysteria?



What Are Breathalyzer Manufacturers Hiding?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I’ve posted repeatedly in the past about the continuing refusal of the manufacturers of various breath-testing machines to devulge the secret software used to run them.  The readings of these devices are, of course, critical:  tens of thousands of citizens continue to be accused and convicted based based upon them.

What are they hiding?

The courts in a number of states have ruled that the defense has a right to know whether the code — critical to the accuracy of the machines’ readings — is reliable and accurate. See  Judge Orders Secrets of Breath Machine Revealed, Judge: Divulge Breathalyzer Code…or Else Secret Breathalyzer Still Secret, Second Manufacturer Must Reveal Secrets. Yet, the corporations manufacturing these highly profitable machines refuse to comply.  In only once case, where the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the manufacturer of the Alcotest 7110 to turn over the code, experts found the software running the machine to be antiquated, unreliable and inaccurate.  See Secret Breathalyzer Software Finally Revealed.

Judge: Prosecutors Must Get DUI Breath-Test Software Code

Tucson, AZ.  Oct. 27  -  A judge ordered the Pima County Attorney’s Office to ask a leading manufacturer of alcohol breath-test machines to reveal its software code.
Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini noted Monday that Owensboro, Ky.-based CMI Inc. so far has refused to divulge its source code to defense attorneys, despite a previous order.
"Every lawyer in this room should be concerned about CMI’s unwillingness to follow the court’s order," Bernini said.
Bernini said CMI must hand over its source code in electronic form by Nov. 10…
Defense attorneys asked for – and Bernini ordered – the source code in electronic form so they can test its veracity.
"This information would be available with ease in an email," Bernini said Monday.
She noted that she even allowed extra time for CMI to give the code to lead defense attorney James Nesci.
"They had all the time in the world to comply with the order and/or suggest why the order was in error," Bernini said. "They have chosen not to do so."
Bernini set a Nov. 24 hearing for CMI President Toby Hall to explain why he and CMI shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for not following her order.
Deputy County Attorney Robin Schwartz told Bernini that she isn’t sure prosecutors can get CMI to divulge the source code either.
Defense attorneys in the 23 alleged drunken-driving cases before Bernini want the source code so they can check for accuracy of breath tests for alcohol.
"I don’t think CMI will ever turn over the source code," Nesci told Bernini.  "I think CMI is hiding something in the source code," Nesci said.
Nesci said the Intoxilyzer 8000, which is used by Tucson police, isn’t as effective as CMI claims it is and divulging the source code would prove it.
"If they’re found to be untruthful to the people who have spent millions of dollars for their equipment, they could be sued into oblivion," Nesci said.
Nesci said absent the source code, the defense wanted Bernini to dismiss the cases or suppress the breath-test evidence. 
What are they hiding?
(Thanks to James Nesci.)