Author Archives: Lawrence Taylor

Booze Is Good for You!

It’s true!  Recent scientific research, some of it funded by our government, is on the path to finding that drinking alcohol is actually quite healthy!

Hmmm.  Maybe we should take a second look at this latest research into the health benefits of alcohol….


Alcohol Companies Are Funding Research to Convince You Drinking Is Healthy

April 14.  Huffington Post –  Officials at the government agency tasked with studying the health effects of alcohol aggressively courted alcohol executives to fund a $100 million clinical trial on “moderate drinking,” according to recently published investigations by The New York Times, Wired and Stat

The executives complied, according to the Times, with the understanding that this research would probably conclude alcohol is safe and lowers the risk of disease.

Together, these reports paint a disturbing picture about the way alcohol companies are trying to influence scientific understanding, and thus public perception, of alcohol as a health tonic…

Alcohol executives were allowed to help pick the scientists and preview the trial’s design, reports the Times, while Wired reported on how dependent the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is on industry funding to complete the expensive, long-term study. Finally, Stat has a story about how scientists who published unflattering research about the alcohol industry were verbally abused by NIAAA officials and cut off from funding.


I seem to recall that “scientific research” (funded by the tobacco industry with government support) has already concluded that smoking cigarettes was not addictive.  It’s certainly heart-warming to know that science, government and industry is so reliable and concerned with our well-being….


(Thanks to Joe.)

Do Cops Have DUI Quotas?

The coercive effect of requiring police officers to make a minimum number of DUI arrests during a given period is obvious.  Drivers who the investigating officer does not feel there is probable cause to arrest for DUI will be arrested anyway.  Worst-case scenario:  cops will arrest drivers who they realize are not driving under the influence.  Of course, law enforcement — and local governmental agencies who pocket the extensive fines and fees — routinely deny having such policies.  And, as I’ve posted repeatedly in the past, it is a well-documented fact that drunk driving quotas are common across the country.  See, for example, “Inside Edition” Documents DUI Quotas Across U.S..   

Consider the following commentary appearing yesterday:


NHTSA Says Federal Law Requires Ticket Quotas

Jan. 30.  The Newspaper - Federal regulators are refusing to budge when it comes to requiring local police forces to use ticket quotas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Thursday finalized the procedures local police departments use to receive their share of $450 million in traffic safety grants paid for by the federal tax on gasoline. In response to complaints from the National Motorists Association (NMA), the agency claimed it was powerless to change the way it allocated the funds…

“To qualify for funding, NHTSA requires an annual traffic safety plan from each state that must include statistics on seat-belt citations, impaired driving arrests, and speeding citations issued during grant-funded enforcement activities the previous year,” NMA President Gary Biller told TheNewspaper on Monday. “What outcome is expected other than the perpetuation of federally sanctioned ticket quotas?”…

“The federal statute further requires that highway safety plans be based on performance measures developed by NHTSA and GHSA,” the agency explained. “That report includes activity measures related to seat belt citations, impaired driving arrests and speeding citations… NHTSA may not waive these statutory requirements.”


So in addition to pocketing fees and fines for false DUI arrests, law enforcement has the added incentive of receiving federal funds.  But, of course, such quotas don’t exist, right? 


(Thanks to Joe.)

Can You Be Punished for Suspicion of Drunk Driving?

It has always been a cornerstone of the United States Constitution that a citizen is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  No citizen can be punished based merely upon a police officer’s suspicion that he or she has committed a criminal offense.

Except, perhaps, in drunk driving cases.  See, for example, my posts DUI and the Presumption of Guilt and The DUI Exception to the Constitution.

In a recent example of this widely-prevailing view, consider a recent decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in the case of Hunsucker vs Fallin (December 20, 2017), as reported by TheNewspaper.com:

Oklahoma Supreme Court Slams DUI Law

Oklahoma City, OK.  Dec. 27, 2017 — Oklahoma’s attempt to crack down on drunk driving went too far. In a ruling last week, the state Supreme Court declared the Impaired Driving Elimination Act violated the due process rights of motorists by, among other provisions, requiring police officers to tear up a driver’s license upon the mere suspicion that he might be impaired.A group of attorneys filed suit, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the government to seize and destroy someone’s property without even allowing a hearing to contest the license seizure — and the high court agreed.

“More than forty years ago the US Supreme Court explained that revocation of a driver’s license must conform to the Due Process Clause,” Justice James E. Edmondson wrote for the court. “The Due Process protection of the licenses was viewed not as a mere state-created interest, right, or privilege, but when drivers’ licenses are issued their continued possession may become essential in the pursuit of a livelihood and suspension of issued licenses thus involves state action that adjudicates important interests of the licensees.”…

The law in question also included a half-dozen other provisions criminalizing the refusal to take a breath test, regulating deferred prosecution programs and providing conditions for the use of ignition interlock devices. The court found the hodge-podge of provisions in the 82-page bill violated the state constitutional requirement that bills stick with a single topic.

Question:  Why was it necessary for the state’s supreme court to tell the legislature and courts that seizing and destroying a citizen’s driver’s license based entirley upon a cop’s suspicions was a violation of the Constitution?

Do Crime Labs Hide Breathalyzer Test Evidence?

I’ve written in the past about the inaccuracy of breath test results generally.  See, for example, Breathalyzers and Breath Test Accuracy and How Breathalyzers Work – and Why They Don’t.  And I’ve commented upon the many instances of supposedly “impartial” crime labs faulty testing procedures and lab “experts” testifying to facilitate convictions rather than justice.  See Crime Lab Breath Tests “Unreliable”, More False Blood-Alcohol Results and Crime Labs Paid for Convictions – But Not for Acquittals?

This recurring and very disturbing picture of government crime labs willing to hide or even falsify evidence to assist government prosecutors appears to be endemic.  Consider, for example, this recent news article from The Boston Globe:


Report Finds State Lab Withheld Breathalyzer Test Results

Boston, Ma.  Oct. 17 – The head of a state crime lab office was fired Monday after investigators found that staff withheld exculpatory evidence from defense lawyers in thousands of drunken-driving cases since 2011, a disclosure that could threaten many convictions.

In a report released Monday, state public safety officials concluded that the Office of Alcohol Testing routinely withheld documents from defense lawyers in a lawsuit challenging the reliability of breathalyzer test results due to an “unwritten policy not to turn these documents over to any requester.”

The documents included evidence that breath testing devices had failed to properly calibrate during the office’s certification process, the report found.

“We conclude that OAT leadership made serious errors of judgment in its responses to court-ordered discovery, errors which were enabled by a longstanding and insular institutional culture that was reflexively guarded . . . and which was inattentive to the legal obligations borne by those whose work facilitates criminal prosecutions,” the report found.


This was followed a few days later with an insightful OpEd piece appearing in The Washington Post:


Another Week, Another Crime Lab Scandal

Wash., DC.  Oct 20 — ….At some point, we need to start asking pointed questions. Among them: Why would crime-lab analysts feel pressure to fake incriminating test results and to hide exculpatory results? Are they feeling pressure from police or prosecutors? We already know that, incredibly, some crime labs only get funding when their analysts produce results that help win convictions. Is that what’s happening here? There are numerous public and private grants and awards tied to driving-under-the-influence enforcement, both for police departments as a whole and for individual officers. Was that a factor here?

Crime-lab analysts should be neutral. Their job performance should be evaluated based on their accuracy. Clearly, something is making at least some of these analysts think there’s a “right” and a “wrong” answer when conducting these tests. Perhaps it’s right there in the name: the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory. A forensic analyst shouldn’t be considered on the same side or team as the police. Hosting these labs under the auspices of police or district attorney’s offices is a big part of the problem.


Yet it continues…..
 

The U.S. Constitution….Louisiana Version

Granted, the courts bend over backwards to support the police and uphold convictions.  But just when you thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous, along comes the Louisiana Supreme Court…..


Washington Post, Nov. 2 – When a friend says, “I’ll hit you up later dog,” he is stating that he will call again sometime. He is not calling the person a “later dog.”

But that’s not how the courts in Louisiana see it. And when a suspect in an interrogation told detectives to “just give me a lawyer dog,” the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the suspect was, in fact, asking for a “lawyer dog,” and not invoking his constitutional right to counsel. It’s not clear how many lawyer dogs there are in Louisiana, and whether any would have been available to represent the human suspect in this case, other than to give the standard admonition in such circumstances to simply stop talking.

The ruling by Louisiana’s high court…clarified that requesting a canine attorney need not cause the police to stop questioning someone.


Not a joke.  It’s an actual decision by a state supreme court right here in the U.S. 

 

(Thanks to attorney Steve Oberman of Knoxville, Tn.)