Monthly Archives: October 2009

DUI….in a Lounge Chair

The latest news from the front lines of MADD’s "War on Drunk Driving":

Man pleads guilty to DWI in motorized La-Z-Boy

Duluth, MN.  Oct. 22 – A Minnesota man has pleaded guilty to driving his motorized La-Z-Boy chair while drunk. A criminal complaint says 62-year-old Dennis LeRoy Anderson told police he left a bar in the northern Minnesota town of Proctor on his chair after drinking eight or nine beers.

Prosecutors say Anderson’s blood alcohol content was 0.29, more than three times the legal limit, when he crashed into a parked vehicle in August 2008. He was not seriously injured.

Police said the chair was powered by a converted lawnmower and had a stereo and cup holders.

Your tax payer dollars at work.

(Thanks to David O’Shea.)

Police Plan Fundraiser in DUI Double Fatality…for the Drunk Driver

So two people are killed by a drunk driver with a blood alcohol level over three times the legal limit.  So maybe there’s going to be a fundraising benefit for the families of the victims, right?

Wrong.  The benefit is for the drunk driver — if he’s a cop.

Cops Plan Benefit for Officer Charged in Fatal DUI

Chicago, IL.  Oct. 21 — Chicago police officers are planning a benefit this weekend at their union headquarters for Joseph Frugoli, who is accused of crashing into a car while driving drunk on the Dan Ryan in April, killing two people.

An invitation to the event is posted on the Web site of the Fraternal Order of Police, and appears next to the numbers "10-1," radio code for officer in need of assistance.

"You’re invited to assist Detective Joe Frugoli," the posting reads. Tickets cost $50. A detective lists his name and phone number for further information.

Police said Frugoli’s blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when his Lexus SUV struck a car that had pulled over on the Dan Ryan Expressway north of 18th Street. The car exploded into flames and killed Andrew Cazares, 23, and Fausto Manzera, 21.

Frugoli is also accused of leaving the scene.

Kind of makes you teary-eyed, doesn’t it?

DUI Quotas

DUI attorneys have long contended that many police agencies impose quotas on their officers for drunk driving arrests.  And police agencies have long contended that this is simply not true.  Imposing quotas, of course, has a coercive effect on officers to make arrests — even if those arrested are innocent.

Consider the following article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

An Atlanta police officer reprimanded for not making an arrest for a week in one of the city’s most crime-ridden areas is accusing the Police Department of using a quota system to beef up arrest numbers, a charge department officials deny.

Officer Andrew Cerul filed a grievance with the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers in late March after he was transferred from day watch to evening watch. Cerul contends the transfer was made because he did not make an arrest during the week of March 13-19

Cerul, who did make traffic stops, was one of six Zone 3 officers written up for not making an arrest that week. Three of the officers were later excused because they were either in training all week or working the desk. Cerul and the others officially received “verbal counseling.”…

(Police documents) indicate a quota system exists in the Atlanta Police Department, according to Jon Calloway, Cerul’s union representative

“They [police officials] didn’t deny that the quota system existed,” Calloway said. “They said it was reasonable to expect an officer to make an arrest. I would hate to be the person on the last day who gets stopped by an officer needing an arrest.

Calloway said residents have long suspected police of using quotas. “But this is the first time we have ever had a smoking gun. A document that we can touch and feel and say that it is going on,” he said. Police officials say there is no quota system….

So is the Atlanta Police Department that different from other police agencies across the country?  The article continues:

Other big-city police departments have come under fire for allegedly imposing quotas.

In Baltimore last month, 27 officers with lower arrest rates were transferred to different departments within the Baltimore Police Department for failing to meet “minimum performance standards.” The action outraged City Council members and prompted Maryland legislators to consider a bill that would prevent a police officer from being punished, transferred or demoted for failing to meet a quota

In January, police officers in West Hartford, Conn., railed against a new department policy requiring the traffic division to step up enforcement.

Officers in Falls Church, Va., were required to write an average of three tickets, or make three arrests, during every 12-hour shift. By the end of the year, officers faced three months of probation if they failed to have a combined total of 400 tickets or arrests….

Why do police departments have drunk driving quotas?  See my past posts, DUI: Government’s Cash CowHow to Make a Million in the DUI Business and   DUI Roadblocks for Fun and Profit.

(Thanks to William C. Head, Esq., of Atlanta.)

A “Fraudulent” Field Sobriety Test?

The critical part of any drunk driving investigation is the administration of "field sobriety tests" (FSTs).  These usually consist of a battery of excercises involving balance, coordination and mental agility — and are difficult to perform for even a sober person under ideal conditions (see "Field Sobriety Tests: Designed for Failure?").  Although there are many different tests (finger-to-nose, alphabet, etc.), an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are requiring their officers to use only the federally-recommended battery of three "standardized" FSTs.  The most recently developed of these three is horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), commonly known as the "eye test".  It is particularly effective in trial not because of its accuracy, but rather because it appears to jurors as scientific in nature.

As I have indicated in previous posts, however, HGN as a test for intoxication is fundamentally flawed and rarely understood or properly administered by police officers.  See "Nystagmus: The Eye Test", "Nystagmus: The Eye Test (Part 2)", and "Nystagmus: The Eye Test (Part 3)".

A scientific study (144(3) Science and Justice 133-139) has investigated the scientific validity of the nystagmus test:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test was conceived,
developed and promulgated as a simple procedure for the determination of the blood alcohol concentration of drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Bypassing the usual scientific review process and touted through the good offices of the federal agency responsible for traffic safety, it was rushed into use as a law enforcement procedure, and was soon adopted and protected from scientific criticism by courts throughout the United States. In fact, research findings, training manuals and other relevant documents were often held as secrets by the state. Still, the protective certification of its practitioners and the immunity afforded by judicial notice failed to silence all the critics of this deeply flawed procedure….

In 1998 the integrity of the statistical evaluation of the original research upon which the validity of the tests rested was unfavorably reviewed [5]. In 2001 new research indicated that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the cornerstone of the test battery was fundamentally flawed and that the HGN test was improperly conducted by more than 95% of the police officers who used it to examine drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI) [6]. This summary critique demonstrates that it is scientifically meretricious and that the United States Department of Transportation indulged in deliberate fraud in order to mislead the law enforcement and legal communities into believing the test was scientifically meritorious and overvaluing its worth in the context of criminal evidence….

 Deliberate fraud.  Pretty strong language for a scientific journal.  After reviewing the flawed and deceptive justifications for using nystagmus in DUI investigations, the researchers concluded that the test was essentially without scientific validity.

The state’s argument for the field sobriety tests does not rest on
proof of merit, but upon
qui tacet consentit reasoning that those tests have been so widely accepted they must have been subjected to some kind of review prior to adoption in the many jurisdictions where they are used, that somewhere along the way someone would have spotted the flaws and shortcomings. Considering that the student manual was originally considered to be a confidential state document and was only obtained through an Open Records Act request, silence from the scientific community cannot be considered an endorsement of the program.

Another “DUI Super Cop”

I’ve written repeatedly in the past about the growing phenomenon of the so-called "DUI Super Cop".  See, for example, DUI SuperCopsHow to be a "Top Cop" and SuperCops: The Smoking Gun.  The are cops who rack up high numbers of drunk driving arrests — resulting in awards from MADD, departmental promotions and higher salaries from overtime.  Problem: to reach those arrest figures, you have to find a lot of drivers to arrest — even if they aren’t guilty.

The latest example, complete with online video of the cop:

Lawsuit Accuses Cop of Fake DUI Arrests

Chicago, IL.  Oct. 4 — ABC7 Chicago has learned that a veteran Chicago police officer is under investigation for allegedly making dozens of false DUI arrests, and criminal charges may be coming soon.

Surveillance video has been obtained from one of those arrests showing Officer Richard Fiorito in action on the night shift.

Because of all the complaints against him, Chicago police ordered Fiorito to use a surveillance system in his squad car back in March. The video obtained by ABC7 Chicago is from his squad car and will be used as evidence in a federal civil case against him.

To date, 21 people are part of the lawsuit. All say they were victims of a DUI scheme…

What Officer Fiorito wrote in his own police report was that the driver was so intoxicated, he was unable to perform any of the standard field sobriety tests.

In the video, the driver is told to walk a straight line and next, to touch his finger to his nose with eyes closed. Finally, he’s told to stand on one leg for 30 seconds, eyes closed.

"I’ve been doing DUIs since 1992, and I’ve never seen a subject do the one-leg stand this well," said Jon Erickson, the attorney for plaintiffs…

The civil case charges that Officer Fiorito engages in a pattern of false arrests, then perjures himself in court testimony in order to rack up more than 300 DUI arrests per year.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving(MADD) awarded Fiorito for being the state’s highest writer of DUI tickets.

ABC7 Chicago found Officer Fiorito after he had just testified in another DUI case at the criminal courthouse. That’s a place he spends a lot of time, according to the lawsuit, being paid time-and-a-half.

"The more DUI arrests that he makes, the more times that he has to go to court, more times he goes to court, the more money he makes," said Erickson.

ABC7 Chicago has learned that Fiorito is also being investigated by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Two other Chicago cops have been accused of similar DUI schemes in recent years. One was stripped of his police powers during his investigation. The other decided to retire and collect his pension rather than face impending charges.

Despite dozens of complaints against him, Officer Fiorito is still out on the streets making DUI arrests. A Chicago Police Department spokesperson wouldn’t say much about Fiorito, telling ABC7 Chicago only that he was under investigation by the internal affairs division.

Sources tell ABC7 that criminal charges against Fiorito are expected to be handed down soon from the state’s attorney’s office.

For every one of these MADD "Super Cops" who get caught, how many across the country are "still out on the streets making DUI arrests"?