Lasers to Detect Drunk Drivers?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

We all know about those red light cameras, speed cameras, and other automated traffic enforcement devices that inconveniently hover over the most convenient intersections. Well, there may soon be a new traffic device that will detect another “no no” on the streets; drunk driving.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, Polish researchers at the Military University of Technology in Warsaw have developed lasers that detect the presence of alcohol in passing vehicles.

The researchers used “stand-off” detection which identifies substances at a distance. This type of detection is traditionally used for identifying explosive and hazardous materials without getting close to them.

The researchers shot a laser into a vehicle’s windows and through the cabin. The cabin of the test vehicles were filled with an amount of alcohol vapors similar to the amount that a person with 0.10 blood alcohol content would exhale. The laser would then reflect off of a mirror located on the other side of the vehicle and back through the cabin of the vehicle to a photodetector.

The reflected light could then be analyzed by the researchers to determine how much of the original laser beam had been absorbed by the alcohol vapors in the cabin of the vehicle. This allowed the researchers to determine the amount of alcohol in the cabin.

If the device detects alcohol, rather than sending a citation to the driver of the vehicle as in the case of current traffic enforcement devices, an automated photo system would snap a picture of the vehicle and send it to law enforcement waiting down the road a ways. There, the officers could use a breathalyzer to determine if the driver was actually drunk.

In their study, the researchers acknowledged that “countermeasures” could distort the results such as driving with the windows down or driving with an air conditioner on.

Additionally, it is entirely possible that alcohol vapors located within the cabin of a vehicle are coming from drunk passengers or spilled alcohol.

Even if such was the case, would officers be able to stop the car to “check” if it is the driver who’s drunk?

If this device were to be used and operate in this manner, this would eventually be up to the courts to decide. But let’s hope it never gets to that point.

Officers need, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion that a driver is drunk to stop the vehicle on suspicion of DUI. The question becomes whether the information provided by the laser analysis gives the awaiting officers reasonable suspicion that the approaching driver is drunk.

I think not.

If it did, every single designated driver would be stopped because of their drunk passengers. Without other independent corroborating information observed by law enforcement, the reasonable suspicion is based solely on a device that cannot verify what the source of the alcohol is. And it goes without saying that alcohol can come from a number of sources other than a drunk driver.

Forget about the 4th Amendment. A device like this would give officers carte blanche to stop anyone whom the device detected as having some alcohol in the vehicle whether it’s coming from the driver or not.

Share

Report a Drunk Driver, Receive Reward

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Memorial Day provides weekend warriors the three-day weekend to remember those who died while serving our country. However, as the unofficial kick-off to summer, it also provides three full days to barbeque and indulge in some pre-summer drinks.

If you happen to be in Illinois, you could earn yourself a cool $100 for reporting a drunk driver. Or you could find yourself the target of a DUI investigation because someone else thought they could make an easy $100.

Chicago’s WBBM’s Steve Miller reported that, this Memorial Day weekend, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorist (AAIM) will be paying tipsters $100 for reporting a drunk driver in the state of Illinois.

“The tragic consequences are heartbreaking when somebody decides to get into a car and they think that they’re OK to drive. And they’re not,” said Rita Kreslin, the executive director of the AAIM. “We have paid out over $486,000. That’s 4,866 people that have been drinking and driving that have been removed from the roadways.”

She also said AAIM has taken some criticism for this approach, but “the majority of those people are probably the same people that would drink and drive and not think twice about it.”

Sorry Rita, not true.

I’m giving this approach flak because it creates the possibility of innocent people being stopped and investigated for drunk driving. How many people were reported who weren’t drunk? How many people will be stopped simply because it was a possibility that the tipster be paid $100? Unfortunately, I can’t answer these questions.

More importantly, how many of the tipsters actually know that a driver is drunk? This one, however, I can answer.

None.

Forget tipsters making completely false reports. Let’s say there is a reason for the tip. Tipsters will be reporting mistakes in driving, not drunk driving. And we all know there is a multitude of reasons why someone can make a mistake in driving other than intoxication. But that’s not going to matter, is it? With a $100 incentive, driving error equals drunk.

Fortunately, we’re all the way over here in California and about 1,700 miles away from AAIM’s incentivized witch-hunt. But it begs the question: Does the tip even give the officers the authority to pull someone over when they, themselves, saw nothing that would indicate a DUI?

Unfortunately, in California (…and the rest of the country) the answer is yes.

Recall my colleague, Lawrence Taylor’s post http://www.duiblog.com/2014/04/23/anonymous-tips-now-enough-to-stop-drivers-for-dui/

The United States Supreme Court recently held that an anonymous tip is sufficient to justify a police stop for the purpose of investigating a DUI even though there is no way to verify the truth or reliability of the anonymous tip.

So much for the 4th amendment and probable cause. And in Illinois, people actually get paid for their participation in the undermining the Constitution!

Share

Another Weapon in the “War on Drunk Driving”: Forced Catheterization

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Just how far are we as a free nation willing to go in MADD's jihad on drunk driving?  

Well, how about ramming a catheter up a male DUI suspect's penis to get a urine sample for alcohol analysis — even after he has already had a blood sample taken?


C.P. Man Seeking $11M in Catheterization Lawsuit

Hammond, IN.  May 12 – A Crown Point man is seeking at least $11 million in damages from Schererville, two of its police officers and the owners of Franciscan St. Margaret Mercy Health in a federal lawsuit in which he said he was subjected to a forced catheterization following a traffic stop.

William B. Clark, a former Schererville resident, is suing the town, police Officers Matthew Djukic and Damian Murks and Franciscan Alliance Inc., doing business as St. Margaret Mercy…

In the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court, Clark, 23, claims he was driving on U.S. 30 near the intersection of U.S. 41 in Schererville last May when he was stopped by Djukic. According to the lawsuit, Djukic allegedly observed the vehicle, which contained one other occupant, driving erratically and claimed he detected a moderate odor of alcohol in Clark's vehicle. Murks allegedly responded in a separate car.

The suit states that Djukic falsely claimed Clark's breath test results were 0.11, exceeding the legal limit of 0.08. The lawsuit also alleges the town failed to provide proof of the test result when a motion for discovery was filed in the criminal case against Clark, which is still pending.

According to his lawsuit, Clark submitted to a blood test at the Dyer hospital that showed his blood alcohol was below the legal limit. It states Djukic, however, became impatient with Clark's inability to urinate to provide a urine sample and made an effort to forcibly get the sample. The suit claims Djukic physically restrained Clark while hospital personnel inserted a catheter to extract the fluid.

The suit claims Murks either used inappropriate force against Clark or failed to take reasonable steps to protect him from being subjected to the use of such force.

The lawsuit states Clark allegedly "loudly moaned in pain" as the process began. It adds that the actions taken to obtain the sample were "painful, degrading and humiliating."…


An isolated incident?  Hardly.  See my previous posts:  Catheter Forced up Penis After DUI Arrest (Washington) and DUI Suspect Forced to Have Penis Catheterized (Utah), to name just two such incidents.   

What's next for citizens suspected of drunk driving?  Why not strap female DUI suspects down on a table and forcefully extract urine samples from them as well?
 

Share

California DWI – Driving While Addicted

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Believe it or not, it is a crime in California to drive while being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Lesser known California Vehicle Code section 23152(c) provides: “It is unlawful for any person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle.”

You may be asking yourself the same thing I did when I first read it. Huh?

The “huh?” was the reactionary expression of two other questions: What’s the purpose? And who is an addict?

In the 1965 case of People v. O’Neil, the California Supreme Court addressed both of these issues by looking at the legislative intent of 23152(c). The court determined that “when an individual has reached the point that his body reacts physically to the termination of drug administration, he has become ‘addicted’ within the meaning and purpose of [23152(c)]. Although physical dependency or the abstinence syndrome is but one of the characteristics of addiction, it is of crucial import in light of the purpose of [23152(c)] since it renders the individual a potential danger on the highway.”

While the court focused on the theory that an addict going through withdrawals can pose a risk to the roads, it said that a person need not be going through withdrawals to be arrested, charged, and convicted of California’s driving while addicted law.

“The prosecution need not prove that the individual was actually in a state of withdrawal while driving the vehicle. The prosecution’s burden is to show (1) that the defendant has become ‘emotionally dependent’ on the drug in the sense that he experiences a compulsive need to continue its use, (2) that he has developed a ‘tolerance’ to its effects and hence requires larger and more potent doses, and (3) that he has become ‘physically dependent’ so as to suffer withdrawal symptoms if he is deprived of his dosage.”

So let’s get this straight. You can be charged with a crime if you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol even if you’re not intoxicated or you’re not going through withdrawals. So then that begs the question: What’s the point?

Unfortunately, the California Supreme Court has yet to answer that question.

Fortunately, however, the law does not apply to those who are participating in a narcotic treatment program.

Well it’s nice to know that the law only protects those who are receiving treatment for their disease, but not those who aren’t.

Share

Does Presence of Marijuana in Blood Constitute Drunk Driving?

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

It is, of course, against the law to driver under the influence of marijuana (sometimes called "stoned driving"). In most cases, a blood sample will be drawn and analyzed to provide evidence of impariment. And as I've discussed in previous posts, there are nearly insurmountable problems law enforcement and prosecutors have with this.  See, for example, Identifying and Proving DUI Marijuana ("Stoned Driving"), Driving + Traces of Marijuana = DUI, How Accurate is Detection and Evidence of Drugged Driving? and DUI Marijuana: Does Marijuana Impair Driving?     

Quite simply, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to prove that the presence of given levels of marijuana in the blood proves that the suspect was impaired when driving.  First, there is very little agreement on how much marijuana it takes to impair a driver's physical and mental faculties.  Second, it is difficult to determine from blood tests what the active levels were at the time of driving. It is a scientific fact that inactive metabolites of marijuana remain in the bloodstream for weeks.  

But, of course, there is a simple solution — similar to one created a few years ago which made it easier to convict citizens accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol.  Fqced with difficulties in proving alcohol impairment, the various states simply passed so-called "per se" laws — laws which made having .08% of alcohol in the blood while driving a crime.  Impairment was no longer an issue to be proven; the crime was simply having the alcohol in your blood.  And the conviction rates increased dramatically.  

Today, a similar approach is being used by a growing number of states:  making the mere presence of marijuana in the blood while driving a crime — regardless of whether it had any effect.

Some courts, however, are beginning to have concerns about this "per se" approach:


Presence of THC Metabolite in Blood Does Not Prove Impaired Driving , Arizona Supreme Court Finds

Phoenix, AZ  – Arizonans who smoke marijuana can’t be charged with driving while impaired absent actual evidence they are affected by the drug, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The justices rejected arguments by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office that a motorist whose blood contains a slight amount of a certain metabolite of marijuana can be presumed to be driving illegally because he or she is impaired, saying medical evidence shows that’s not the case.

The ruling most immediately affects the 40,000-plus Arizonans who are legal medical marijuana users. It means they will not be effectively banned from driving, given how long the metabolite, carboxy-THC, remains in the blood.

It also provides legal protection against impaired-driving charges for anyone else who drives and has used marijuana in the last 30 days — legal or otherwise — as well as provides a shield for those who might be visiting from Washington or Colorado, where recreational use of the drug is legal.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Tuesday’s ruling will result in roads that are less safe. He said if courts will not accept carboxy-THC readings as evidence of impairment, then there is no way of knowing who is really “high” and who is not…


A breath of fresh air in the ongoing hysteria of MADD's "War on Drunk Driving"…
 

Share