DUI Laws Overrule Scientific Truth

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 18th, 2008

It is an unfortunate fact that law and politics repeatedly trump science when it comes to prosecuting citizens accused of drunk driving…..  

In People v. Bransford, to cite one notable example, the California Supreme Court was confronted with a defendant who was challenging his DUI conviction on the grounds that he was not permitted to offer scientific evidence to the jury. Specifically, he was not permitted to offer the testimony of recognized experts that the breath machine’s computer was programmed to assume that there were 2100 parts of alcohol in his blood for every 1 part it measured in his breath.

He was also prevented by the trial judge from offering further evidence that this 2100:1 ratio was only an average — and that the actual ratio varied widely from person to person, and within one person from moment to moment.  If, for example, a suspect’s ratio had been 1500:1 at the time he blew a .10% on the machine, his true blood-alcohol would have actually been .07% — that is, he would have been innocent.

The Supreme Court of California affirmed the conviction, however, ruling that such scientific facts are irrelevant: the law was written in a way that concerned the amount of alcohol in the blood â€as measured on the breath”. In a display of either twisted logic or ignorance of the scientific facts involved, the Court simply said that the crime consisted of the amount of alcohol in the blood — but only as measured on the breath. In other words, although the crime is having .08% alcohol in the blood, you can’t offer evidence about the amount of alcohol actually in the blood!

An amazing decision. More interesting, perhaps, is language in the opinion — an opinion which gives us a window into the justices’ minds. In what must have been a complete failure to appreciate the significance of what they were writing, the Court justified its ruling in a rather frank — and incredible — admission of its hidden agenda:

It will increase the likelihood of convicting such a driver, because the prosecution need not prove actual impairment…Adjudication of such criminal charges will also require fewer legal resources, because fewer legal issues will arise. And individuals prosecuted under such a statute will be less likely to contest the charges.  People v. Bransford, 8 Cal.4th 894 (1994).

In other words, preventing an accused from defending himself with scientific truth serves justice by making it easier to get convictions!

Are all judges oblivious to the truth? Not entirely. One judge, Justice Joyce Kennard, dissented from the majority opinion. Recognizing the truth, she wrote in a separate opinion:

The majority…has on its own created the new crime of driving with alcohol in one’s breath.

  • http://www.laduidefenseteam.com joe

    A case such as this demonstrates both the need for an experienced attorney and for a thorough overhall of the laws governing DUI. Protecting drivers and citizens is a very important goal of the law, but ignoring justice in order to meet some agenda is not fair or just.

  • jim

    i would really like to to find out my what blood breath ratio is.
    is their a way to find out?

  • koivisto

    “It will increase the likelihood of convicting such a driver, because the prosecution need not prove actual impairment”.

    This goes back to my statements of guilty until proven innocent, actual impairment versus a number. Why stop at alcohol? Cell phone use, reaction times, age, vision, emotions, speed, repair of vehicle, intelligence, hearing, road conditions, weather, traffic conditions, experience, to name a few other factors that influence driving. I say let’s test for everything in the name of safety!

  • n7uqa91

    “I say let’s test for everything in the name of safety!”

    Now for the corrected version..

    I say let’s test for everything in the name of revenue generation!

    Because we all know this is the true reason, the “safety” excuse is just, well, an EXCUSE.

  • jim

    you guys arent seeing the point here.
    it is a constitutional issue.
    the right to put forth a defense.

  • koivisto

    We see the point. I ask you what is left of the constitution? These viewpoints and laws are destroying it.
    Free speech zones now, illegal search and seizures are okay now in the name of terror. DUI roadblocks are okay now. Safety roadblocks are okay now. No right to trial for certain individuals that we “know” about, what about the ones we don’t know about? I’ve been saying all along DUI is a symptom of what is going in amerika.

  • jim

    i really liked the miniseries you refer to, AMERICKA, starring kris kristosferson and robert urich, and others. It was a tv network miniseries sometime aired between spring of 84 and may 88, i remember it was when i was in college.

    I’d love to see it again.

    It was about a sucesfull soviet invasion of the US where they basic ally took over more than half the nation. robert urich played the pupper president , an american, put in by the soviets, and kristoferson played the real elected us president, .. he was killed at the end trying to save the country.

    but i digress…

    the terror issue is ok, i think, we do need security.

    roadblocks and saftely roadblocks have always been in place in nj, for as long as i have lived.. this is nothing new in the name of dui.

    right to trial is my issue— i’ll be making my 15th court appearance over 34 months time for a low level first offense dui.
    it is a simple case, nj only has municipal court bench trials for dui, no accident, it is as cut and dry as you cant get, and still… i can not get a trial, even with the nj supreme court ordering the prosecution to proceed on jan 10th 2006 in all alcotest dui trials, … the court i am in did not hold one trial.

    no my case, because of the civil rights violations, is going to be really political, and this is in the air behind trhe scenes, not really out their on record yet, just the beginings of my grumblings are on record.

    i have been working my ass off for over 2 years reseraching everything, and writting my ass off to my attorneys, trying to persuade them, especially at this point, that we got a multi million dollar law suit here.

    civil rights violations as to the way municipal court judges and prosecutors take care of their duties are very serious charges, and the penalties should be just as severe, including punitive damages.

    i am not giving up any time soon.

    this is not AMERIKA.



  • RichardAlan

    Oh yes and one last comment from me before I go is; My jury trial was on April 23, 2008 in San Fernando, CA. My case was dismissed that is to say all alcohol related charges were dropped.

    There was not one official from MADD at my trial, not one. It’s cases and great American Citizens like myself that MADD is terrified of.

    Thank you again for this great site.
    –Never surrender.