Monthly Archives: February 2013
In the ongoing "War on Drunk Driving", the latest news from the front….
High-Ranking Cop Caught Lying About DUI Arrests
Des Plaines, Iowa. Feb. 26 — A former police commander in Des Plaines, Illinois was brought up on charges last Wednesday by prosecutors who say he lied about drunk-driving (DUI) arrests. According to US Attorney Gary S. Shapiro, Timothy J. Veit was caught creating 122 bogus drunk driving arrests in an effort to boost the police department's revenue with federal overtime payments. Between 2009 and 2012, the effort generated $132,893 in bogus payments.
The source of the funds was the US Transportation Department's Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP), which funnels federal gas tax dollars through the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to bankroll traffic ticket-writing blitzes that typically take place on holiday weekends. Veit was in charge of his department's STEP campaign, which meant he had to meet a clearly specified traffic ticket quota to qualify for the monetary reward.
"IDOT notified STEP grant recipients of the performance objectives for the STEP enforcement campaigns, which performance objectives included that the grant recipient average at least one Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrest for every ten hours of overtime worked by law enforcement officers on impaired-driving enforcement campaigns," Shapiro wrote in his charging document.
As part of the funding agreement in the STEP program, local police departments must provide a detailed monthly report updating federal officials on the progress of ticket-writing blitzes. Veit signed and dated these compliance reports as well as a number of reimbursement requests. Prosecutors claim Veit claimed 27 DUI arrests in 2009 when there were only 13 arrests made. The next year, he turned 8 arrests into 47. In 2011, 8 DUI arrests became 62, and, last year, one arrest became 16. Each bogus arrest included made up blood-alcohol content readings.
City officials discovered the discrepancy in March 2012 and allowed Veit, who is 55, to retire in April. Since 2009, Veit had collected over $40,000 in overtime himself. Veit is charged with one felony count of making false statements, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, though he is likely to serve less time under federal sentencing guidelines.
Police departments across the country continue to deny they use quotas for drunk driving arrests. Using quotas, of course, forces cops to make arrests because they have to — not necessarily because anyone is guilty. See my past posts: DUI Quotas, "Yes We Have No DUI Quotas" and "Inside Edition" Documents DUI Quotas Across U.S.
In today's double-standards department…
Many Suburban Cops Allowed to Work "Half Drunk"
Chicago, IL. Feb 15 — Do you think your police department has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol?
Many suburban departments actually have clauses in their union contracts which prevent any kind of discipline for officers with substantial amounts of alcohol in their systems — even those nearing the state definition of legally drunk, an investigation by the Better Government Association and NBC Chicago reveals.
"I worry about it every day," said Sam Pulia, the mayor of west suburban Westchester.
Pulia, himself a former Westchester police officer, tried unsuccessfully to stop ratification of his department’s union contract which only allows discipline against officers when they hit an alcohol level of .05.
"I could argue that you are half drunk," Pulia said. "I still believe that police officers are held to a higher standard."
Pulia argues that no one with alcohol in their systems should be driving a squad car or carrying a gun…
Westchester is not alone. Police in Forest Park, Glendale Heights, and South Barrington also have a limit of .05. In Elmwood Park and Oak Park, the limit is the state definition of legally drunk: .08 or higher.
"I think it places the city at great risk," said Walter Zalisko, a retired police chief who now runs Police Management Consultants International in Fort Myers, Fla. "Zero would be the wise choice, that you can’t have any alcohol."
But how much alcohol really is too much? Although the Illinois State Police and Cook County Sheriff have set their limits at zero, many police departments say they believe some low limits must be built in to allow for incidentals such as a glass of wine at dinner before the overnight shift or even a shot of cough medicine.
"People who are more used to drinking will have less impairment," said Dr. David Zich of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "However, we still believe in subtle testing, that there really is no safe level at which no impairment occurs."
Indeed, Zich says scores of studies have indicated that even at lower blood alcohol levels, some kind of impairment occurs — especially regarding drowsiness, tasks requiring divided attention, or "tracking" activities, which would include driving a car.
"Don't Drink and Drive"….unless you're a cop on duty and packing a gun.
As I've noted in the past, driving under the influence of marijuana ("stoned driving") is becoming increasingly common — and difficult to determine what levels cause impairment and for how long. See, for example, Identifying and Proving DUI Marijuana. In fact, some governmental studies indicate that marijuana has little if any effect on the ability to safely operate a vehicle. See DUI Marijuana: Does Marijuana Impair Driving?
Faced with the difficulties of proving that a driver was actually impaired, states are turning to the simple — but unjust — expedient of ignoring whether the driver was actually impaired and simply making it a crime to have the chemical compounds of marijuana in his body. See, for example, Driving + Trace of Mariijuana = DUI. This is roughly the equivalent of changing the existing DUI laws to criminalize driving with any detectable amount alcohol in your system — even if you are stone sober.
Notice the changing focus of the DUI laws (alcohol, drugs and marijuana) away from the original goal of public safety. The focus is shifting from the original question, "Was the driver impaired by alcohol and/or drugs so that his ability to safely operate a vehicle was impaired — and thus a potential danger to the public?" to "What is the easiest way to accuse and convict?"
A news story a couple of days ago presents a clear example of this…
Arizona Court Ruling Upholds DUI Test for Marijuana
Phoenix, AZ. Feb 13 — An appeals court has issued a ruling that upholds the right of authorities to prosecute pot smokers in Arizona for driving under the influence even when there is no evidence that they are actually high.
The ruling by the Court of Appeals focuses on the chemical compounds in marijuana that show up in blood and urine tests after people smoke pot. One chemical compound causes drivers to be impaired; another is a chemical that stays in people's systems for weeks after they've smoked marijuana but doesn't affect impairment.
The court ruled that both compounds apply to Arizona law, meaning a driver doesn't have to actually be impaired to get prosecuted for DUI. As long as there is evidence of marijuana in their system, they can get a DUI, the court said.
The ruling overturns a decision by a lower court judge who said it didn't make sense to prosecute a person with no evidence they're under the influence…
The Court of Appeals said the Legislature adopted the decades-old comprehensive DUI law to protect public safety, so a provision on prohibited substances and their resulting chemical compounds should be interpreted broadly to include inactive compounds as well as active ones.
The case stems from a 2010 traffic stop in Maricopa County. The motorist's blood test revealed only a chemical compound that is found in the blood after another compound produced from ingesting marijuana breaks down.
According to testimony by a prosecution criminalist, the compound found in the man's blood doesn't impair the ability to drive but can remain detectable for four weeks…
So in Arizona you can be arrested for DUI if blood tests indicate you've smoked marijuana — possibly before driving…..And even if the chemical compounds are inactive — that is, have no effect whatever!
The insanity goes on….
(Thanks to Joe.)
A new study recently reported in Science Daily indicates that the mixer used in an alcoholic drink can increase the individual's blood-alcohol level as well as his degree of intoxication:
Alcohol Mixed with Diet Drinks May Increase Intoxication More than Alcohol and Regular Drinks
Feb. 5. – An individual's breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) following alcohol intake is influenced by several factors, including food. While it is known that food delays the stomach emptying, thus reducing BrAC, only recently has the role of nonalcoholic drink mixers used with alcohol been explored as a factor influencing BrAC. A new comparison of BrACs of alcohol consumed with an artificial sweetener versus alcohol consumed with a sugared beverage has found that mixing alcohol with a diet soft drink can result in a higher BrAC.
Results will be published in the April 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research…
"More attention needs to be paid to how alcohol is being consumed in the 'real world,'" said Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University. She referenced an earlier field study of bar patrons. "Researchers found that, one, individuals who reported consuming alcohol with diet beverages had the highest BrACs, as compared to all other bar patrons, and two, that women tended to be more frequent consumers of diet mixers with their alcohol. These good naturalistic observations give researchers many ideas to explore in a controlled laboratory setting."
Dennis L. Thombs, professor and chair of the department of behavioral and community health at UNT Health Science Center, was the author of the field study referenced by Marczinski. "Research on artificially sweetened drink mixers is new," he said. "I believe this might be only the third study published to date on this issue, and the findings are quite consistent with ours."
"I am really interested in drinking and driving as a problem, so I wanted to know if the simple choice of mixer could be the factor that puts a person above or below the legal limit," added Marczinski. "I also wanted to determine if any BrAC difference would be something that subjects would notice, since this has implications for safe drinking practices, including decisions to drive."
Study authors had 16 participants (8 females, 8 males) attend three sessions where they received one of three doses — 1.97 ml/kg vodka mixed with 3.94 ml/kg Squirt, 1.97 ml/kg vodka mixed with 3.94 ml/kg diet Squirt, and a placebo beverage — in random order. The participants' BrACs were recorded, as well as their self-reported ratings of subjective intoxication, fatigue, impairment, and willingness to drive. Their objective performance was assessed using a cued go/no-go reaction time task.
"Alcohol consumed with a diet mixer results in higher BrACs as compared to the same amount of alcohol consumed with a sugar-sweetened mixer," said Marczinski. "The subjects were unaware of this difference, as measured by various subjective ratings including feelings of intoxication, impairment, and willingness to drive. Moreover, their behavior was more impaired when subjects consumed the diet mixer."
When asked why mixing alcohol with a diet drink appears to elevate BrACs, Thombs explained that the stomach seems to treat sugar-sweetened beverages like food, which delays the stomach from emptying. "The best way to think about these effects is that sugar-sweetened alcohol mixers slow down the absorption of alcohol into bloodstream," he said. "Artificially sweetened alcohol mixers do not really elevate alcohol intoxication. Rather, the lack of sugar simply allows the rate of alcohol absorption to occur without hindrance."
Both Marczinski and Thombs were concerned about the risk that diet mixers can pose for alcohol-impaired driving. "In this study, subjects felt the same whether they drank the diet or regular mixed alcoholic beverage," said Marczinski. "However, they were above the limit of .08 when they consumed the diet mixer, and below it when they drank the regular mixed beverage. Choices to drink and drive, or engage in any other risky behavior, often depend on how people feel, rather than some objective measurement of impairment. Now alcohol researchers who are interested in prevention have something new to consider when developing or modifying intervention programs."
Thombs agreed. "Research on alcohol mixers is critically important for improving serving practices in on-premise drinking establishments," he said. "About one-half of all drinking and driving incidents are estimated to occur in persons leaving these settings. This type of research can provide guidance to policy-makers interested in improving the safety of bars and nightclubs."
"We have an obesity crisis in this country," added Marczinski. "As such, individuals tend to be conscious about how many calories they are consuming, and they might think that mixing alcohol with diet drinks is a healthy choice. Yet the average reader needs to know that while mixing alcohol with a diet beverage mixer may limit the amount of calories being consumed, higher BrACs are a much more significant health risk than a few extra calories."
"In natural drinking settings, such as bars and nightclubs, young women are significantly more likely than young men to order drinks mixed with diet cola," said Thombs. "I suspect this occurs because young women tend to be more weight conscious than young men. Thus, from a public health perspective, artificially sweetened alcohol mixers may place young women at greater risk for a range of problems associated with acute alcohol intoxication."
Don't drink diet drinks and drive…
(Thanks to Justin McShane.)
I've posted in the past about how cops and prosecutors are pushing the envelope ever further – well beyond the point of absurdity. See, for example, DUI on a Lawnmower, DUI in a Wheelchair, DUI on a Scooter and DUI on a Horse. Where does it all end? Will they arrest people in electric shopping carts inside stares next?
Florida Man Arrested for Drunk Driving Inside a Walmart
Feb. 5. Brooksville, FL — Police in Brooksville, Florida say that they arrested Timothy Carr over the weekend for driving drunk inside a local Walmart.
An arrest report obtained by The Smoking Gun on Monday indicated that Carr, 48, had helped himself to an alcoholic beverage while operating one of the store’s motorized shopping carts at around 9 p.m. on Sunday.
“The defendant did enter Walmart and select two packages of Daily Daiquiri and proceed to drink them in the store,” the charging document stated. “The defendant was driving a Walmart owned electric cart. While driving the cart, the defendant knocked several items off the shelves causing damage to the items.”
“The defendant did not have money to pay for the Daily Daiquiri drink that he consumed,” the report added.
Police indicated that Carr was unemployed and a transient. The crime was considered a felony because he had two previous arrests for retail theft.
Carr was being held on $6,000 bond, according to The Smoking Gun.
Hmmm…..A DUI for driving an electric shopping cart inside a Walmart?