Archive for February, 2005

DUI Double Standard Continues

Saturday, February 5th, 2005

I posted stories a few days ago about favorable treatment recently given to a prosecutor ("The Untouchables") and a DUI police officer ("The Untouchables – Sequel") arrested in separate incidents for drunk driving. To complete the law enforcement triangle, the Denver Post reports on the latest application of the double standard in DUI cases, this time for a judicial appointee who just got the same treatment (presumably not yet available to the general public):

JUDICIAL APPOINTEE GUILTY OF SPEEDING:

DUI CHARGES TOSSED

A man appointed to be a judge in Arapahoe County pleaded guilty in Denver on Thursday to speeding, while prosecutors dropped charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and careless driving.

If Vincent R. White, 41, had been convicted of the DUI charge, it would have been his second drinking-and-driving-related conviction in four years. White pleaded guilty in 2001 to driving while ability impaired in Arapahoe County.

In August, Gov. Bill Owens appointed White to fill a judicial vacancy on the Arapahoe County District Court. Dan Hopkins, Owens' spokesman, said White spoke in his job interview about his remorse over the conviction and his efforts to prevent others from drinking and driving.

In January, a Denver police officer stopped White on Park Avenue West for speeding, smelled alcohol and asked if White had been drinking. White, who felt the stop was the result of racial profiling, told the officer he had about a glass of wine and wouldn't take a sobriety test, said White's attorney, Craig Truman.

White is expected to be sworn in as a judge later this month. Hopkins said Owens believes the recent case "raises some concerns," but he said at this point the appointment cannot be rescinded.

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New Weapon Unveiled in War Against Drunk Driving

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

I've written a number of times about the inaccuracy and unreliability of breathalyzers (see, for example, "Breathalyzers — and Why They Don't Work", "Why Breathalyzers Don't Measure Alcohol", "Breathalyzers: Why Aren't They Warranted to Measure Alcohol?"). For those of you who still believe that these machines are accurate, consider the following news article:

MINNEAPOLIS (January 31, 2005) – Before he went to law school, Brian Eddy worked at a firm that often handled drunken-driving cases. He noticed that many of the clients snagged for driving under the influence made the same doleful observation: "I had no idea I was that drunk."It occurred to Eddy that there must be a way to quickly screen one's blood-alcohol level after a few drinks. He bounced the idea off a childhood friend, and the two ponied up $100 from their savings accounts to start a business. Before he knew it, Eddy was not only a budding lawyer but a budding entrepreneur.Fast-forward six years: Eddy is now the chief executive of Q3 Innovations, an Eagan, Minn., company that has successfully marketed the Alcohawk ABI digital breath alcohol screener to retailers Sharper Image and Target. He has even bigger retailers on his radar, including Best Buy, Circuit City and Radio Shack….

Eddy points out that….the U.S. Department of Transportation has cleared the device for use by law enforcement professionals, a market Q3 Innovations has yet to aggressively tap. [Emphasis added]"The reason people are skeptical is because there is a lot of junk on the market," Eddy said of the competition. "It's a perception that we have to overcome."

How accurate do you think this "budding" lawyer-entrepreneur's product is? Would you want to face arrest and prosecution for DUI because of its reading? And just how demanding could the Department of Transportation's standards be?

Note: Most states rely upon the U.S. Department of Transportation's list of approved breath testing instruments as the standard for admissibility as evidence in court. Young Brian Eddy's pocket-sized gizmo, available at any Target store, is legally good enough to sustain a criminal conviction for drunk driving.

As I commented in an earlier post, it's "close enough for government work".


(Thanks to Kathleen N. Carey of Phoenix, Arizona)

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Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood from You?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

In an effort to reduce costs in DUI cases, some law enforcement agencies — often with federal support — are circumventing the usual procedures of having a nurse or medical technician withdraw blood and simply having the arresting officer do it himself. From a recent news article:

OGDEN (January 30, 2005) – Some Utah Highway Patrol troopers are becoming medically certified to draw blood from motorists they suspect of driving while intoxicated.Without the medical certification, troopers now must either take a suspect to a hospital or call in a certified technician to stick a needle in the suspect’s arm and take a sample. Every time a trooper does that, it costs the Highway Patrol $50 or $60. Perry said that costs about $25,000 per year.

A Federal Highway Safety Administration grant provided the funds to hire the Utah School of Phlebotomy to teach troopers how to draw blood. Beth Anderson, president of the school, said the compressed four-session course certifies the troopers as phlebotomists, legally and medically able to safely take a blood sample. The course teaches troopers how to get used to the idea of sticking someone with a needle, which isn’t always that easy, she said. ‘’The thing is, you’ve got to get over that mental state of going in through some guy’s skin,'’ she said. ‘’Then you hold [the vein] so it doesn’t roll, and you’re in there.'’

Instruction also includes patient care, confidentiality, and what to watch for if the subject is about to collapse at the idea of being stuck with a needle. The troopers actually poke each other with the needles for practice in the classes – eight sticks per trooper at each of the four sessions. By the end, the dozen troopers in an early first class sported arms flecked with bruises and needle marks.

Confidentiality? Patient care? Honestly, now, would you want a police officer to use a hypodermic needle on you? Ignoring the pain, injury and infection aspects for the moment, bear in mind that: the blood must be taken from a vein, not an artery (which has a higher blood-alcohol concentration); the skin must be swabbed with an approved antiseptic (not isopropyl alcohol, which can raise the blood-alcohol concentration); the correct amount must be taken, with no contamination from the officer; it must be placed in a sterile and sealed vial; an approved preservative in the correct amount must be added and mixed in (to prevent fermentation, which increases BAC); an anti-coagulant (to prevent clotting, which increases BAC) must also be added, again in the correct amounts; etc….. But the bottom line is that it costs fifty bucks to do it with a truly qualified person. And, anyway, its "close enough for government work".

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