Archive for October, 2007

How to Lose a DUI Jury Trial Before You Begin

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Simple: Have two prosecutors….one wearing black robes.

The public perception of judges is that they are largely fair and impartial. Unfortunately, this is becoming ever less true — particularly, in the politically sensitive area of DUI litigation.

To begin with, the reality is that an increasingly high percentage of judges are former prosecutors; very few are public defenders or defense attorneys. In fact, a growing number of attorneys become prosecutors to obtain the “qualifications” for later election or political appointment to the bench. Not surprisingly, the rulings of these judges reflect a law enforcement rather than judicial orientation.

Backgrounds aside, is the judiciary objective in DUI cases? Well, again there is the political reality: the failure to “get tough” on DUI defendants tends to result in negative comments from MADD, prosecutors and police agencies come re-election time — maybe even in an endorsement of the latest prosecutor who wants the judge’s position.

However, a more concrete sign of the judiciary’s increasing bias in favor of the prosecution can be found by visiting a website entitled DUI: A National Online Resource Library for the Judiciary on Impaired Driving. The site is sponsored and maintained by the National Association of State Judicial Educators, under a contract from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The organization conducts training seminars for judges nationwide, distributes written materials and provides resources on the website.

Let’s take a look at some of these online “resources” for training judges how to handle DUI cases and trials…..

For starters, there’s an article from the American Prosecutors Research Institute, entitled Overcoming Impaired Driving Defenses. The article “identifies the most common defenses used in DUI cases and provides specific strategies for overcoming these claims.”

Hmm….Why are judges being taught how to “overcome” an accused citizen’s defense in a DUI trial?

Another online article is Handling Impaired Driving Cases. According to the prefatory comments, this material covers “common aspects of impaired driving cases”, including “anticipating defense issues”. The introduction to the article describes various blood-alcohol problems in DUI cases and then observes that “Prosecutors can easily skewer defenses like those…” The article then presents specific “claims” often raised by the defense — and the supposed “reality” refuting those obviously false claims.

Why do judges need to “anticipate” legal issues which may be raised by a defendant? What about legal issues raised by the prosecution? And what is meant by “anticipating defense issues”? Clearly, judges are being taught (by prosecutors) what decisions to make — before ever hearing the evidence.

Another article on the judicial website, Admissibility of Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, explains to judges “why it is the most reliable field sobriety test for detecting alcohol impairment” — again, before any testimony from the police or evidence from the defense. Yet another, Validation of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery at BACs Below 0.10 Percent, teaches judges that “field testing found the SFST battery to be extremely accurate in discriminating between BACs above and below 0.10 percent”, apparently making defense cross-examination irrelevant. Then there’s the Annual Traffic Seminar: “In this two-day seminar, judges learn about the use of the Intoxilyzer 5000 and laying a foundation for police officer testimony…”

All of this, of course, makes due process and criminal justice much more….expedient. With judges already pre-instructed by the prosecution, there is no real need for things like testimony or evidence in a DUI trial.

Or for a trial.

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Blood Draws by Cops: “Street Justice”

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

A few days ago I posted about the growing practice of cops forcefully taking blood themselves from citizens arrested for DUI.  The following is a comment to that post from a Deputy Public Defender:


Blood draws allow the police to  take out a little bit of “street justice” on suspects who refuse to cooperate, by sticking a needle in them…

I have a client who was stabbed with a needle 5 times by a police officer before they took him to the hospital to get a blood draw.  The client told the police that he had collapsed viens and they would not be able to get his blood.  The police did not listen because there had be a scuffle and they were angry with my client.  My client took pictures of the puncture wounds the next day.  We have a hearing on the matter in December.

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Forced Blood Draws by Cops in Back Seat

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

I've posted in the past about the spreading practice of cops jabbing needles into DUI suspects to get blood for testing, often at roadside or in the back seat of a police car, rather than having a nurse or medical technician perform the draw or using a breathalyzer.  See Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood from You?,  Taking Blood by Force and Forceful Blood Draws by Cops: Constitutional?   The following recent news story shows one of the many reasons for questioning this barbaric procedure.
 

Blood Draws by Officers in

DUI Stops Questioned

 
Man files claim saying deputy infected arm
 
Phoenix, AZ.  Oct. 14  –  Attorneys are putting new scrutiny on a practice that has become common among law enforcement — having officers, not medical personnel, draw blood with syringes in suspected drunken driving cases.
 
That comes after a man developed a persistent infection at the site of a blood draw administered by a Pima County sheriff's deputy.
 
Law enforcement agencies say having officers do blood draws themselves is quicker and more convenient than going to a hospital and more accurate than a breath test.
 
The Pima County Sheriff's Department has relied exclusively on deputy-administered blood draws for years.
 
But defense attorneys have zeroed in on the practice, arguing police officers do not receive adequate training to do the blood draws, don't have the health and safety of suspects as their top priority and put suspects at unnecessary risk…
 
"I think most of the public does not realize that law enforcement personnel are doing the draws," said Michael Bloom, an attorney in the case.
According to the claim, James Green, a 31-year-old test pilot who works out of Pinal Air Park, was stopped by a sheriff's deputy March 27 and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. After being told his driver's license would be suspended for 12 months if he did not consent to a blood test, he agreed to allow the draw.
 
Even though they were within walking distance of Northwest Medical Center, the deputy performed the blood draw in the back seat of his squad car. It took two tries to get a sample.
 
The claim says Green's arm became swollen and very red around the site of the blood draw within a few hours. Five months later, he had undergone several rounds of treatment with antibiotics and still had the infection. The claim says Green can work only intermittently because of the infection and may face long-term health consequences.
 
Charnesky, who specializes in DUI cases, said the practice started in Arizona but now is spreading to some counties in Utah and Texas.
 
Lt. Karl Woolridge, the Sheriff's Department Special Operations commander, said deputies do blood draws because blood is more accurate than breath, and the closer to the time of the crime the evidence is collected, the more accurate it is…
 
In 2004, charges were dropped against a man facing misdemeanor DUI charges after he said deputies used a stun gun against him three times to force him to submit to a blood draw. He said he was afraid of needles.
 
While having police officers do their own draws is now common in Pima County, medical experts expressed surprise at the practice.  
 
(Bold emphasis added.)


(Thanks to Andre Campos and David O'Shea.) 
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Second Manufacturer Must Reveal Breathalyzer Secrets

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

As I’ve posted in the past, when you are charged with drunk driving you will be afforded your constitutional right to trial — but a trial by machine.   Quite simply, the law reverses the presumption of innocence and presumes that you are guilty if the machine registers .08% or higher; the judge will instruct the jury they must convict you if you cannot prove your innocence. 

In other words, the accuracy and reliability of this gizmo is rather important.  And what runs the device?  A computer.  What runs the computer?  Software.  What programming code is contained in the software?  The manufacturers refuse to reveal it, claiming profits from protecting “trade secrets” trump a citizen’s right to due process and fair trial.  We must take it on faith that the breath machines made by various manufacturers are accurate and reliable.           

I recently posted about attorneys in New Jersey who were finally able to get the Supreme Court of that state to order the manufacturer of the locally-used breathalyzer model to reveal the machine’s software program.  In that case, the Draeger Corporation was ordered to reveal the software code for their AlcoTest 7110.  Defense attorney Evan Levow turned the code over to a computer laboratory to analyze.  The results are set forth in that post, “Secret Breathalyzer Software Finally Revealed”.  In essence, the lab concluded that there were no “trade secrets” involved, and that:


The program presented shows ample evidence of incomplete design, incomplete verification of design, and incomplete “white box” and “black box” testing. Therefore the software has to be considered unreliable and untested, and in several cases it does not meet stated requirements. The planning and documentation of the design is haphazard. Sections of the original code and modified code show evidence of using an experimental approach to coding, or use what is best described as the “trial and error” method. Several sections are marked as “temporary, for now”. Other sections were added to existing modules or inserted in a code stream, leading to a patchwork design and coding style…


As I’ve said repeatedly before, the simple fact is that that these machines are unstable, unreliable and inaccurate – and software problems are only one of the many reasons.

Attorneys in other states are also beginning to get the courts to recognize that perhaps defendants have a right to know if the machine which is acting as judge, jury and executioner is accurate.  Another manufacturer of another breathalyzer device is now facing a legal sanction they can understand — loss of profits — if it does not reveal the software code: 


CMI’s Refusal to Disclose Software ‘Source

Code’ Has Stalled DUI Cases 

Sarasota County, FL.  Herald Tribune  –  Facing court fines and the possibility of losing future sales, the company that manufactures the state’s drunken-driving breath-test machines has agreed to give DUI defendants a look at how one works.

What defense attorneys hope to find inside is proof of their suspicions that the software inside the briefcase-size machines makes mistakes while calculating a driver’s blood-alcohol content from a breath sample.

So far, they remain only suspicions. In courts across the country, CMI Inc. of Kentucky has refused to disclose the “source code” of the software in the widely used Intoxilyzer machines.

But now that refusal is hurting CMI in the pocketbook, and the company is agreeing to release the code under certain conditions.

Judges in Sarasota and Manatee counties — where more than 300 DUI cases are stuck in the system — have fined CMI more than $100,000 for not allowing computer experts for the defense attorneys to view the software’s source code.

And Minnesota is considering scrapping CMI machines for a competitor’s devices so prosecutors have results that will not be thrown out of court, according to Minneapolis-area defense attorney Jeffrey Sheridan.

“They’re starting to understand they’re going to lose their market share, and they’re starting to wake up and decide to do something,” said Sheridan, who won a state Supreme Court battle over CMI’s source code this year.

Defense attorneys have challenged the Intoxilyzer machines on the software issue for nearly two years, insisting that defendants should know everything about a machine that could send them to prison.

A blood-alcohol content reading is the most powerful piece of evidence against a drunken driver, and errors in the software could mean drivers never know if the machine is working properly, defense attorneys say.

CMI has refused to turn over the source code, saying it is a trade secret that its competitors can use to learn how it is so successful — and does nothing to prove the accuracy of the machines.


For years, the big corporations have refused to comply with court orders to turn over the software running their machines — and convicting citizens of crimes they may not have committed.  Now that the “trade secrets” shield has been shown to be a fraud, the corporations are facing the ultimate sanction:  loss of profits.  And that trumps everything.

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“Inside Edition” Documents DUI Quotas Across U.S.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

As I've posted in the past, police agencies across the country are under pressure to make greater numbers of arrests — primarily to raise revenue for local governments and to get federal highway funds.  See "How to Make a Million in the DUI Business" and "DUI Roadblocks for Fun and Profit".  The result: DUI quotas.  See "Do Police Have Quotas?" and "Yes, We Have No Quotas".

Police departments and government officials uniformly deny this, of course.  But last week's TV broadcast on "Inside Edition" revealed an investigation into the practice.  Some excerpts:


…An Inside Edition investigation found that you don't have to consume alcohol and drive to be hauled off to jail.  How could that happen?

Randy Wilkinson…was pulled over by a Lakeland (Florida) police officer.  He admits he was a little tired but he'd had nothing to drink.  However, the officer gave him a field sobriety test….He wasn't worried about taking the test because he'd had nothing to drink, so it came as a surprise to him when he was arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail.  Wilkinson couldn't believe it and immediately asked for a blood test.  "I'd like to go the hospital and get my blood examined" he said.

Back at the station two blood alcohol content breath tests showed he had no alcohol in his system.  Yet, the charges were not dropped.  And the next day…he was paraded before the press.  His record of arrest and mug shot were even placed on a Sheriff's website….A week later, after his blood test came back negative, the prosecutor dropped the charges.  But his mug shot has yet to be taken down.

But this wasn't an isolated incident.  Just a few months earlier, the same police officer pulled over 19-year-old Robbie Stout.  And even though he had no alcohol or drugs in his system, just like Wilkinson's case the officer said he failed the field sobriety test and was arrested for DUI…At the police station he tested negative for alcohol and his blood test came back negative.  But it took several months and $2500 in legal fees to get the charges dropped.  His mug shot is still on the Sheriff's website also.

We have uncovered documents that suggest that police at Lakeland are under tremendous pressure to arrest people for DUI.  This memo says each Lakeland DUI officer should make 10 DUI arrests a month.  They call it a "performance standard".

"Whatever you call it, it's a quota", says Tony Corrado. 

Corrado is a former DUI officer for the Atlanta Police Department and has conducted thousands of DUI stops.  He says police departments around the country are afraid if they don't make quotas, they will lose federal funding.

"Police departments won't admit they have quotas. Every police department has quotas."

And it's not just Lakeland, Florida, where this is happening.  Our investigation has found similar documents around the country showing that police departments are under pressure to make DUI arrests.
 

Has the media finally stopped swallowing MADD's hysterical propaganda and started looking for real facts?

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