Archive for April, 2010

The Blue Wall Continues

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

 Following up Monday’s "Who-will-guard-the-guardians?" story from New Jersey, this one from Chicago:


Judge Tosses Out Officer’s DUI Arrest
 
Chicago, IL.  April 27 – For more than two years, the families of two young men killed in a Thanksgiving Day collision with an off-duty Chicago police officer have fought to prove the officer was drunk and responsible for the deaths.

But Tuesday, a Cook County judge handed them their latest setback, saying the officer was arrested and detained without probable cause, a ruling the families fear guts the prosecution’s case. Several relatives of one victim erupted in anger at the decision, shouting obscenities and scuffling with court deputies, creating a scene that revealed the raw emotions behind the long and controversial case…

Circuit Judge Thomas Gainer ruled police had no probable cause to arrest off-duty Officer John Ardelean, 36. The judge harshly criticized police Lt. John Magruder, who ordered Ardelean arrested a few hours after the crash when he said he detected alcohol on his breath and noticed bloodshot eyes. None of the four police officers at the crash scene — or a responding Chicago Fire Department emergency medical technician — reported noticing any sign that Ardelean was drunk…

Gainer described Magruder’s comments as "ramblings" and said the court did not believe his testimony. The judge also disputed the possibility of a conspiracy among police officers to protect one of their own. Two of the officers at the scene knew Ardelean.

"Everything that happened on the street that morning happened in a very short period of time," Gainer wrote. "There was no time to formulate this conspiracy to protect the defendant."

A year ago Gainer was involved in another controversial ruling when he acquitted three Chicago police officers in an off-duty beating of several businessmen in a West Loop bar. Before becoming a judge in 2001, he was a Cook County prosecutor.

The case has been a legal roller coaster. Ardelean initially was charged with misdemeanor drunken driving, but by January 2008 the charges were upgraded to felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence. Prosecutors cited a video recording from a nightclub they said showed Ardelean drinking three beers and four shots in a little more than two hours. Shortly after that, his SUV slammed into the victims’ car at Damen and Oakdale avenues while traveling more than 60 mph, authorities said…

By May 2008 prosecutors told the families they were dropping the investigation because of insufficient evidence. But three months later, following pressure from the families and some politicians, the state’s attorney’s office reopened the probe after a video aired on TV showing a woman pouring a drink down Ardelean’s throat and the officer grabbing a beer as he left Martini Ranch, a River North bar. The next month, Ardelean was charged with two counts of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated DUI.

 
No comment necessary….
 

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The Thin Blue Line

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

 The latest from the "Who guards the guardians?" department:


N.J. Police Looks the Other Way After Fellow Trooper Drinks and Drives

Trenton, NJ.  April 25 — It had all the makings of a routine motor vehicle stop. Police officer Ronald Gorneau spotted a silver Toyota swerving and pulled it over. The driver, Sheila McKaig, admitted she had drunk "a lot" before getting behind the wheel, according to the incident report.

Then she told Gorneau she was a state trooper, and the stop in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County, was no longer routine. Instead of being charged, McKaig was driven to the township’s police station, where fellow troopers picked her up.

It was not an isolated incident.  In fact, it was the third time in three months in early 2008 that an off-duty McKraig was stopped by Hamilton police after drinking, according to a State Police document.  Each time no blood-alcohol test was given, no charges were filed and no ticket was written.  Today McKraig is still on the road as a state trooper, a position she has held for nine years.

All told, McKaig was stopped 10 times for various offenses over a 14-month period, but she has never received a traffic ticket in New Jersey, according to police records and a spokeswoman for the state judiciary.

Law enforcement experts call it "professional courtesy" when officers give fellow cops a pass they would not give the average driver. At the same time, however, New Jersey has been on a sustained crackdown on drunken driving. In 2008, police arrested 28,705 people for driving under the influence, and 154 people died in accidents involving at least one intoxicated person… 


Thanks to Gerry Rodman.
 

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The MADDness Continues….

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

In today’s I-don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry department:


Drunk Driving in Barbie Car Costs Man Licence

London, England.  April 20  –  A Briton caught drunk while driving a toy Barbie car, whose top speed is barely four miles per hour, has been banned from driving.

Forty-year-old Paul Hutton received a three-year ban as he had received another drink-drive ban within the past 10 years. He was pulled over by police when he was driving an electric Barbie car that moves slower than a mobility scooter close to his home in Essex, The Telegraph reported Tuesday.

"You have to be a contortionist to get in, and then you can’t get out. I was very surprised to get done for drink-driving but I was a twit to say the least. It is designed for three-to-five-year-olds. Originally it was a pink Barbie car but I put bigger wheels on it but it’s not fast," he said after the hearing at Colchester magistrates court.  

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Cops with Needles

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I’ve posted repeatedly in the past about a disturbing trend in DUI law enforcement: allowing cops to administer blood draws along the side of a road.  See, for example, Forced Blood Draws in Back Seats, Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood from You? and DUI Cops Now Armed with Guns, Batons and…Needles.  To be more graphic, the citizen pulled over and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving is forcefully restrained (picture pinned down across the hood of the police car) while the arresting cop pulls out his syringe and digs around in the arm trying to find a vein.  

This painful and medically dangerous procedure, which started in Texas, Idaho and Utah, is slowly spreading across the country like a plague…and should be in your neighborhood soon.


Missouri House Passes DUI Bill

St. Louis, MO.  April 15  –  The Missouri House passed a DUI bill Wednesday that includes a provision giving police in Missouri the power to extract blood samples from suspected drunk drivers without a warrant…

The bill passed 123-28 in the House.  Opponents said taking blood samples without a warrant is unconstitutional.
 

Let’s hope you aren’t ever suspected — rightly or wrongly — of having a .08% blood-alcohol level.  And let’s hope you don’t "flunk the attitude test", resulting in what cops jokingly call "field-administered punishment" — such as digging around with a hypodermic needle. 
 

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Judges Have “Different Role” in DUI Cases?

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Most of you out there probably thought that citizens accused of drunk driving were afforded the same constitutional rights as citizens accused of any other crime.  Included in this, presumably, is the right to have a fair and impartial judge hearing your case.

Wrong.  The "DUI Exception to the Constitution" applies to judges as well.

Consider the following excerpts from a website entitled "The Court’s Role in Reducing the Incidence of Impaired Driving: A Resource for General Jurisdiction Court Judges".   The site is maintained by The National Center for State Courts near Washington, D.C., which provides seminars, conferences, research and educational materials for judges nationwide.

 
"What is the role of the courts in DUI Cases?"

In DWI cases, courts can have a much broader role than in many other types of cases. Through its interaction with law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants, the public, and the press, the court establishes a tone toward DWI cases in the community. This is evident when the court addresses a defendant at sentencing to stress the severity of a DWI offense, invites school groups to attend DWI trials or dockets, or explains to law enforcement procedural shortcomings following unsuccessfully prosecuted cases. Judges, through their roles on the bench and in their personal lives, are leaders in the community and the attitudes they express are critical to shape public attitude toward DWI prevention and enforcement.  (Emphasis added.)


Hmm…So the judge’s role in DUI cases is "broader" - to "establish a tone toward DUI cases in the community", to "shape public attitude toward DWI prevention and enforcement", and to help the police get more convictions.  I guess high conviction rates, Draconian sentences and turning a blind eye to constitutional violations helps establish that tone. 

After 40 years of practice, I can still remember when judges were supposed to be fair and impartial — even in drunk driving cases.
 

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