Monthly Archives: May 2011

New Law: No Right to Jury Trial in DUI Cases

For those of you who follow this blog, you’re familiar with the steady erosion of constitutional rights in drunk driving cases — what I refer to as "The DUI Exception to the Constitution".  See, for example, Are DUI Roadblocks Constitutional?, Forced Blood Draws by Cops: Constitutional?, DUI and the Disappearing Right to CounselBelieving You Have Constitutional Rights in a DUI Case Can Be DangerousThe Disappearing Right to Jury Trial…in DUI Cases and Who Cares About the Rights of Those Accused of Drunk Driving?  

The right to jury trial is one of many constitutional rights quietly disappearing in MADD’s "War on Drunk Driving"….

New DUI Law Wasn’t Vetted

Phoenix, AZ.  May 8
– Two big, emotional issues collided at the Legislature: the scourge of drunken driving and the right to trial by jury.

But you didn’t know.

First-time, non-extreme DUI defendants have lost the right to request a jury trial.  

But the public didn’t find out until after Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill.

Is this a good move or a bad one? What does it mean for public safety? For justice? How does it square with the state Constitution?

We never had a chance for debate.  Like so much legislation this year, it all happened too fast, too far under the radar.

The restriction on jury trials was a last-minute amendment to Senate Bill 1200, which dealt with penalties for driving under the influence. It was part of the onslaught of bills in the pell-mell race to end the session on April 20.

Here was legislation about core values. We should have had a chance to explore them…

As Edmund Burke once said, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to do nothing."

More Massive Breathalyzer Failures…

Ok, I’ve posted ad nauseum about how breathalyzers are inaccurate and unreliable.  See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work (and Why They Don’t.  And I’ve printed numerous articles in recent months about massive failures of the machines across the country, leading to questions concerning the wrongful convictions of hundreds of citizens.  See, for example, Attorney General Finds Widespread Breathalyzers; Police Shut Down All Machines (2 months ago),  Inaccurate Breathalyzers Cast Doubt on 1,147 DUI Cases in Philadelphia (just over a month ago),  More Defective Breathalyzers (hundreds of convictions in Ventura, CA – 2 weeks ago),  400 Wrongly Convicted in Washington: Faulty Breathalyzers.   

If you still think they were aberrations, read today’s news:

Santa Clara County DA Reviewing 865 San Jose DUI Cases After Breathalyzers Deemed Faulty 

San Jose, CA.  May 4 — A faulty breathalyzer used by San Jose police to arrest 865 DUI suspects could lead to drivers walking free — even if they were drunk behind the wheel, authorities revealed Tuesday.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said it would undertake a special monthlong review to determine how many of the cases it would drop because San Jose police officers used the Alco-Sensor V breathalyzer as part of their field sobriety tests. The breathalyzers — one of the methods used by officers to determine whether to arrest DUI suspects — may have shown incorrect readings because of a manufacturer’s error that can cause condensation to build up in the tube…

San Jose officers had been using the device exclusively since November but stopped Friday after discovering the tests are not reliable. County crime lab officials, prosecutors and police began looking into the breathalyzers after discovering that Ventura County authorities began reviewing hundreds of similar cases more than a week ago.

An unknown amount of DUI cases in Palo Alto, where officers have been using the device since April 2010, could also be affected. The San Mateo County DA was not expected to know until Wednesday whether any cases there were suspect…

San Jose police said all 60 breathalyzers its officers used in the past five months were the defective Alco-Sensor V’s, until they sent them back to the manufacturer on Friday night. The department received a shipment of 30 older, nondefective models from the same company Saturday morning and has been using them since.

The company that makes the gray and yellow instruments, St. Louis-based Intoximeters, says on its website that the breathalyzer was approved by the U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Still confident that the breathalyzers used in your city are accurate?  Accurate enough to convict your fellow citizens — beyond a reasonable doubt?