Monthly Archives: January 2007
The following is a news story from the Vincennes (Illinois) Sun-Times a couple of years ago:
Lawrenceville, Ill. Sepember 17, 2004 – The Lawrence County Board unanimously approved a three-year contract with union members of the sheriff's department that call for a pay raise and clarifies the blood-alcohol content an on-duty officer can have and continue to work Under terms of the contract, a deputy or other department employee can have a BAC level of up to .04 percent and remain on duty… Board member Gene Hays said he understood some people would oppose the .04 percent BAC level as too lenient. But he maintained there has to be a margin allowed for errors in testing; if the board tried to establish a zero-level standard, he said it would not stand up in court.
Interesting double standard. Drivers under 21 are subject to .01% "zero tolerance" laws in every state in the country — but cops with a .04% level can arrest them…. Meantime, MADD is busily pushing state legislatures to lower the adult level from .08% to .05%. Also of interest: prosecutors across the country tell juries that anyone over .05% is "probably" impaired. More interesting: The County Board has apparently been told by sheriffs that "there has to be a margin allowed for errors in testing" — at least for sheriffs. That's some margin: in a .08% case, that would be a 50% error! A suspect who tested .11% would actually be innocent. Funny how cops never testify to that in court…
(Thanks to Sam Peter Hopp and to E. Thomas Kemp, on whose blogsite the article appears.)
I ran across this news story just a few hours after writing the post yesterday The Death Penalty for DUI?:
MADD Asks for Murder Charge for DUI Suspect
Daily Bulletin, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Jan. 27 - The San Bernardino County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said Thursday it will lobby the district attorney to file a murder charge against a suspected drunken driver accused of killing a father-to-be.
Prosecutors charged Jose Ramon Verdin with drunken driving, vehicular manslaughter and other crimes Tuesday in connection with the death of 33-year-old Ralph Napravnik… "It sounds like he could have prevented this fatality," MADD representative Joseph Alarcon said. "He could have chosen not to drink and drive, and a father would be alive today."
Napravnik was riding his motorcycle near his Ontario home on Saturday when he collided with a Cadillac driven by Verdin, police said. His blood alcohol was 0.11 percent about four hours after the collision, authorities said. The legal limit is 0.08.
California passed a law in 2004 requiring that drunken drivers be notified in writing of the dangers of their conduct when they plead guilty to charges in court. The idea is that if they subsequently kill someone while driving drunk, they cannot argue they did not know their conduct is inherently dangerous to human life, making it much easier for prosecutors to charge and convict them for murder. Verdin signed such paperwork when he pleaded guilty in 2005 to his first DUI, court records show…
Deputy District Attorney Charles Feibush said he has not ruled out filing a murder count, but such a weighty decision will not be made until prosecutors have a full set of reports on the crash from the California Highway Patrol. Alarcon, who learned of Verdin's case on Thursday, said it appears to be exactly the sort of case legislators envisioned when they passed the law requiring the language on the court paperwork. "That bill has blood on it," he said. "People had to die for that language to be included on the plea agreement forms."
California's drunken driving laws are terribly complex, filling more than 40 pages in the state's vehicle code.
In other words, this guy may be facing murder charges rather than manslaughter because he signed a document acknowledging the obvious – that drunk driving is dangerous. No signature, no murder. And that's our criminal justice system at work.
As I’ve commented repeatedly in the past, roadblocks ("sobriety checkpoints") are (1) unconstitutional, (2) ineffective at catching drunk drivers, and (3) used primarily to raise revenue for local municipalities…
DUI Checkpoint Impounds 32 Vehicles
Escondido, CA. Jan. 13 – Escondido police impounded 32 vehicles and arrested four people at a drunken driving checkpoint, a lieutenant said Saturday.
Police withheld the names of three people arrested on suspicion of drug possession and one person booked on suspicion of drunken driving during the operation at El Norte Parkway and Ash Street between 6 p.m. and midnight Friday.
Of about 1,600 vehicles that passed through the checkpoint, 931 drivers were screened and 82 were pulled aside because they could not produce a license or were suspected of being under the influence, according to a lieutenant. Police impounded 32 because the driver had no license or a suspended or revoked one, police said.
In some cases, those vehicles can be sold to satisfy fines and impound fees. Police also ticketed 53 drivers for various offenses.
1600 citizens stopped…1 DUI arrest…and a lot of money from tickets and impounds for the City of Escondido.
MADD has apparently developed a separate standard for politicians and police in its War on Drunk Driving:
MADD Supports OC Police in DUI Non-Arrest
Ocean City, MD. Jan. 12 – Mothers Against Drunk Driving praised the Ocean City Police Department on Thursday for how officers handled the Oct. 29 traffic stop and non-arrest of Delaware State Rep. John C. Atkins.
MADD representatives were particularly quick to support decisions made by Pfc. Douglas A. Smith, OCPD’s toughest DUI enforcement officer, who along with trainee Natalie R. Smolko, performed the stop.
OCPD came under fire when news broke that Smith and Smolko stopped Atkins, who was allegedly driving erratically and blew a .14 in his preliminary breath test, but decided against making a DUI arrest…
After Atkins blew nearly double the .08 legal limit, officers did conclude that he was unfit to re-enter traffic. He then contacted a friend, who drove him and his wife to their Millsboro home.
Atkins was arrested hours later by Millsboro police and charged with offensive touching — a charge to which he pleaded guilty in December — after a dispute with his wife.
Many in the community believed Atkins, who flashed his legislator ID to police during the stop, received preferential treatment in being let off with a warning…
Though the breath test result has been the sticking point in raising doubts about officers’ handling of the incident, MADD Eastern Shore Victim Advocate David Elzey praised the proper use of the tool.
"He administered the (test) after he had decided not to make an arrest and he made the right call by not letting him continue driving," Elzey said. "He probably saved lives by not letting him drive home."
MADD representatives expressed absolute faith in Smith, who lost his mother-in-law to a drunken driver and who was himself struck by one in another incident…
"He’s had a couple hundred DUI arrests in a few years," Elzey said. "Doug Smith has done so much. We have faith he knows what he’s doing."
Isn’t faith a wonderful thing? If only they had that much faith in the Constitution…
The latest half-baked weapons in the War on Drunk Driving:
Tokyo, Jan. 3 - Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corp. will develop a system to stop a vehicle if it detects the driver is drunk as part of efforts to cope with a serious social problem, a report said on Wednesday.
The system, expected to become available in 2009, analyzes sweat on the palms of the driver’s hands to assess blood alcohol content and would then not allow the vehicle to be started if the reading was above safety limits, the Asahi Shimbun said. The system would also analyze the driver’s eye movement, driving performance and other factors, the Asahi said.
European automakers have developed systems that require the driver to blow into a tube attached to a vehicle to detect alcohol in the breath. Toyota opted not to use that system as it may fail if the driver asks another person to blow into the tube, the Asahi said. Toyota rival Nissan Motor said last year it was planning similar steps.
Brilliant! No one will ever think of wearing gloves or dark glasses…
(Thanks to William C. Head and Gary Pirosko.)