Monthly Archives: December 2005

What if the Cash Cow Goes Dry?

I’ve written in the past how DUI arrests have become an increasingly important source of revenue for local governments, providing incentive for making more arrests — whether justified or not.  (See “How to Make a Million in the DUI Business” and “DUI: Government’s Cash Cow”).  Reader response has included a fair number of those doubting that law enforcement is driven by the need to raise more money for the local coffers.

So what would happen if the local governments getting the fines and fees from DUIs didn’t get the money?  What if the money went instead to the county or state?  That shouldn’t affect the number of arrests, should it?

Cities lose out on DUI revenue

Money from criminal traffic cases now goes to the county. Tampa lost almost $1-million.

St. Petersburg Times, December 9.  The money stopped coming more than a year ago, but many Florida cities are just figuring it out.

Tens of millions of dollars in fines from DUI and criminal traffic cases that once went to cities and towns go to county clerks instead. It’s a result of 2004 legislation that put the state in charge of running Florida’s courts.

Now cities are struggling with the impact.

The cuts have surprised city leaders who believed the changes would not burden municipal budgets. Revenue from those fines has fallen 16 to 45 percent, cities report. Tampa lost $950,000 last year alone, according to the Florida League of Cities.

The significant losses have prompted some city officials to question whether expensive and time-consuming DUI patrols can continue as a high priority without revenue to pay for them.

“In theory, we are going to still enforce DUI laws, but it does send a message that maybe it’s not as important,” said Clearwater City Council member Bill Jonson….

MADD Influencing Jurors?

The Arizona Daily Star reports on a public display in Tucson erected by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  The display consists of a car crushed in a DUI-related accident, along with photos of drunk driving victims.  Members of MADD were handing out ribbons to wear. 

Nothing unusual there…..except that the display happened to be right outside the county courthouse, where two DUI trials were underway. 

"We weren't out soliciting anyone specifically", MADD member Theresa Babich explained to a reporter.

The War on Drunk Driving Continues

Noblesville, Ind., December 4 (article originally published by IndyStar) — When a sheriff's deputy warned Jennifer Marshall to take a sobriety test or face a trip to jail, her first thought was to call her lawyer. When the deputy thought she showed illegal resistance by refusing to drop her cell phone, he proclaimed "Taser time" — and dropped her with an electrical jolt from his stun gun….

After cooperating with a series of physical sobriety tests and giving inconclusive breath tests, the trouble begins when (Deputy) Lockhart, who is more than 6 feet tall and weighs more than 250 pounds, tells Marshall (5 feet 5 inches, 110 pounds) that she will be taken to jail if she does not submit to a blood draw. "Do you want to take a chemical test?" he asks. "I don't know what that means," she replies. "I need to make a phone call, and I deserve that."

As she leans into her car to get her phone, the officers simultaneously deny her permission to make a call. When she persists, (Deputy) Horine grabs her as Lockhart announces "Taser time" and reaches for the weapon.

As Horine pushes her to the back of her Honda Accord, Marshall screams for help, is bent over the trunk of her car by Horine, and then slumps toward the ground after Lockhart commands her to "Drop the phone," puts the Taser against her pinned arm, and applies an electrical jolt. "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" she yells….

(Sheriff Doug) Carter stands by Lockhart…"He's a good officer," the sheriff said. "And he's extremely dedicated to his community."

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Word Games

The United States Constitution grants citizens certain rights — and for years now the courts have busily taken scalpels to that great document. One of the favored methods is to play word games. A decision last month by the Arizona Court of Appeals is a classic example….

In State ex rel. Verburg v. Jones, the Court was confronted with a problem: how to permit prosecutors to use a defendant's refusal to incriminate himself with field sobriety tests against him in trial. At trial in municipal court, the defendant objected to the prosecutor using his refusal as evidence of guilt. The trial judge ruled against the defense, the officer told the jury about the refusal, the prosecutor argued it as self-incriminating evidence of guilt, and the defendant was convicted. The defendant appealed to the Superior Court — which promptly reversed the conviction. The prosecution then went up to the Court of Appeals.

The problem: the Arizona Court of Appeals desperately wanted to reverse the superior court and permit prosecutors in Arizona to use refusals against defendants. The old solution: word games.

We hold that a defendant's refusal to submit to field sobriety tests can be admitted into evidence in a DUI trial. Our holding rests on the proposition that, when supported by reasonable suspicion that a DUI offense has been committed, the administration of a field sobriety test is a lawful search. If the search is lawful, then the suspect has no legal right to refuse it or interfere with it. If the suspect has no right to refuse, then evidence of his refusal is admissible.

Our holding runs counter to a popularly held notion that a suspect can refuse field sobriety tests. If that idea were correct 'if a suspect has a legal right to refuse field sobriety tests' then evidence of the refusal would be inadmissible because it would unfairly penalize the exercise of the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures….

A suspect's capacity to withhold his cooperation is not the same as a legal right to grant or withhold his consent. As with breath tests, which also require the suspect's active cooperation, the suspect has the physical power but not the legal right to refuse field sobriety tests…."[The implied consent] law does not give motorists charged with DUI the right to refuse the test; it only gives them the power to refuse and provides for certain consequences of such a refusal. . . .".

Simple: field sobriety tests such as walk-and-turn or one-leg-stand are not actually tests — they are searches! And since they are searches, then an officer can conduct a search if he has probable cause — and since a suspect has no constitutional right to refuse a legal search, then….Presto! We have an illegal refusal! And it's illegal because, well, it's illegal to refuse a breath test, right? [Of course, it's illegal to refuse a breath test because the implied consent law makes it so; there is no such law requiring a suspect to take a field sobriety test.]

"When I use a word", Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."

"The question is", said Alice,"whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is", said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."

(With thanks to Lewis Carroll and Allen Trapp.)