Los Angeles County Receives $2.5 Mil. for DUI Checkpoints


Los Angeles County, California is receiving $1.1 million in federal funding for DUI Checkpoints and other traffic safety measures for the current fiscal year (October 2013-September 2014). The county is receiving an extra $1.419 million from UC Berkeley. The state Office of Traffic Safety funds DUI saturation patrols and overtime pay for personnel who work under the grant.

According to the California Office of Traffic and Safety website, California has the highest number of DUI and sobriety checkpoints annually than any other state in the country. A statewide survey claimed that almost 90% of those surveyed were in support of sobriety checkpoints.

Minnesota Supreme Court Considers Change in DWI Law

Does law enforcement have the right to use search warrants in order to obtain a blood sample from a suspected impaired driver? The constitutionality of this question is being considered by the Minnesota Supreme Court this week. In Stearns County and in the city of St. Cloud, search warrants are required for drivers who will not voluntarily submit to a chemical test that will measure their blood alcohol content.

The Minnesota Statues under Minnesota DWI laws have an implied consent advisory which state that the refusal to a chemical test is a crime. Opponents say that the law is unconstitutionally coercive because of the criminal penalty that is administered to those who refuse to take a test when suspected of impaired driving.

In the summer of 2013, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments from a similar case coming from Missouri. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that a law enforcement officer must consider more than the dissipation of alcohol and potentially destroyed evidence when deciding to obtain a search warrant.

Minnesota is a state that considers the dissipation of alcohol enough reason to obtain a search warrant and a legal blood draw by law enforcement.

The case of Minnesota v. Brooks was sent back from the U.S. Supreme Court after the case of Missouri v. McNeely was heard.

Arizona Marijuana DUI Laws Under Inspection

A Phoenix attorney has started a petition to the State’s Supreme Court asking to make the marijuana DUI laws more specific. According to Michael Alarid, the laws on Arizona’s marijuana DUI laws will implicate a driver who has used marijuana in the past thirty days. He claims that Arizona’s laws have not kept up with the loosening of restrictions of marijuana use. Arizona is one of eighteen states which has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Alarid said that it is possible to be convicted of DUI when a blood test proves that the driver is not impaired. He is fighting to overturn a client’s 2010 DUI conviction based on the grounds that his client was indeed not “high” when he was pulled over for making an unsafe lane change. He argues that the psychoactive element in marijuana may not to present in a person’s system, but the metabolite Carboxy-THC may be, which can remain in a person’s system for up to one month.

The Supreme Court was petitioned last week, and it may be a couple of months before the justices even hear the case.

Will Montana Require Orange License Plates for DUI Offenders?

House Representative Champ Edmund Proposes Orange License Plates for DUI Convictions

Champ Suggests DUI BillMontana State Representative Champ Edmunds sponsored a new DUI bill, HB 276, which seeks to require DUI offenders to use orange license plates on their vehicles. Similiar to Ohio’s yellow license plate practice, an orange Montana license plate would identify a driver as one who has been previously convicted of drunk driving.

KFBB.com said some may view the orange license plates as a scarlet letter. The license plates would be in use by the DUI offender for five years, and the license plate number would begin with “DUI”. The bill would also require everyone with a past drunk driving conviction to change out their license plates for the new orange plates. The supporters of the bill say that offenders should put their criminal history on display in an attempt to shame them.

Opponents of HB 276 say the financial strain of a drunk driving conviction is enough punishment for DUI offenders. In addition to the orange license plate suggestion, HB 276 also adds $100 in additional fines for the special orange DUI plate.

Open Containers are Legal in Minnesota on Frozen Lakes

What are the laws in Minnesota regarding open bottles of alcohol and driving on frozen lakes? Reporter Jay Kolls spoke with state officials about Minnesota laws concerning driving on frozen lakes and open bottles of liquor. He discovered that under Minnesota DWI law, a motorist can be on a frozen lake in a vehicle with the engine running and open a bottle of alcohol without breaking any laws. As long as the motorist is not intoxicated, there is nothing illegal about having an open container in the car, even if the motorist is driving with it.

However, if the motorist moves onto dry land, everything changes. Apparently, the strange loophole in the law stems from the legality of having open containers on a boat. This extends to snowmobiles, cars, and ATVs if the water is frozen. Also, if there is a plowed roadway maintained by a city or county across the frozen water, a motorist can be charged with an open bottle violation.

KSTP news found out that in Hennepin County, there have only been two DWIs written on frozen lakes between November and January. Ramsey County did not report any DWIs on frozen lakes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving were surprised to hear of the strange Minnesota loophole regarding open containers and frozen lakes, and said that they may use this loophole as ammunition to fight for stricter laws on open bottles of alcohol on open waters.

Indiana Senate Bill 168 Would Change How DWI Cases are Prosecuted

A new Senate bill in Indiana, Senate bill 168, has the potential to change how all drunk driving cases are tried in Indiana. The proposal came about after former IMPD officer David Bisard ran over three motorcyclists on his way to serve a warrant, seriously injuring two of the motorcyclists and killing one. Officer Bisard had an alcohol level which was three times the legal limit at .19%. However, his blood was taken by a medical assistant at a medical clinic, which is a violation of the current DWI Indiana law, which stipulates that lab techs must be certified to do work for a criminal case. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Bisard because the test results would not be admissible in court.

Based on the results of Bisard’s blood draw, he had been charged with seven felony counts of drunk driving and reckless homicide; he was also charged with a Class B felony count of DWI causing death with a blood alcohol level above 0.15% which carries a penalty of 6 to 20 years in prison. Bisard still faced one of the original charges of reckless homicide.

On September 4, Mayor Greg Ballard announces that new alcohol polices would be instated, such as requiring mandatory breath tests after any crash that involved a squad car.

Senate Bill 168 has only one change to DWI laws. It simply says, “Any other person qualified through training, experience, or education to obtain a bodily substance sample” and can have it used in court. The author of the bill, State Senator Randy Head, said, “What I’m trying to do is take a situation that maybe wasn’t as well thought out as it should’ve been and allow anyone who’s been trained to do the work that they are allowed to do.” The DWI bill must pass in January or early February and would go into effect July 1, 2013.

Montana Bill Submitted to Set DUI Standard

Montana may be the next state to set a DUI standard for marijuana. The law enforcement community asked the Montana Legislature to pass laws that will set the legal limit for motorists who drive under the influence of marijuana. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly recognized as the shorthand “THC.” Representative “Doc” Moore (R-Missoula) is sponsoring the bill which would set the legal limit at 5ng/ml (5 nanograms per milliliter). This is the same legal DUI standard that was set in Colorado and Washington, where marijuana was legalized in December.

Some oppose the bill, including Dr. Pat Pardis, a medical marijuana advocate who said the limit was too low and could criminalize those who have medical marijuana prescriptions. Montana Highway Patrol Drug Recognition Expert Kurt Sager testified that 490 of all blood submissions were marijuana related, and said that it is quickly becoming the most prevalent drug in traffic accidents.

Dr. Pardis told the Legislature that if they pass a DUI standard as low as 5ng/ml, then the Legislature may as well take away all the licenses of medical marijuana users because it was unlikely they would legally be allowed to drive anymore. “I think what you could do is just take the drivers licenses away of all medical marijuana users. I think we are down to about 8,000 now,” Pardis testified. “So you can just take their licenses away because none of them will probably pass the standard that you’ve set.”

Florida Bar Sued Under Dram Shop Laws

A sports bar has been ordered to pay $2 million after an underage drunk driver ran over a pedestrian and a 2-year-old girl. Isaac Sanchez was standing on the side of the road and holding his 2-year-old nephew when drunk driver Valerie Dibble drove off the road and then across a lawn before running them over. Valerie Dibble was 20 years old and had just left Crossroads Sports Bar, however the bar at trial claimed that Dibble had never been in the bar. Dibble’s blood alcohol level was at 0.228 which is more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

The jury did not believe the Crossroad’s Sports Bar’s claim that Dribble had not been a patron at their establishment, and ordered that the bar ay Sanchez $2 million under dram shop laws. The drunk driver, Dibble, was convicted in a separate criminal trial of drunk driving and of causing serious bodily injury. She was sentenced to three years of community supervision.

Florida’s dram shop laws will hold establishments responsible for damages if they served an individual who caused a wreck who was under the age of 21 or if the individual being served is known to be “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.”

Young, White Males More Likely to Drive Under the Influence (DUI)

The Journal of Adolescent Health has published a recent article examining how young adults drink and drive (DUI). Different race and ethnic groups pose different types of unique risk factors, the study found. The study sought to identify the contextual risks and protective factors of teenagers who participate in driving. Data was collected from 10,271 adolescents from 1995 to 2001. 67% were white, 12% were Hispanic, 16% were black, 3.6% were Asian, and 49% were Male.

The longitudinal study found that whites were the most likely to drive under the influence of alcohol. They were followed by Hispanics, Asians, and blacks in all the models tested. There was an increased risk for future DUI when adolescents perceived that there was easy access to alcohol in their home.

The research team found that male teens from higher-income families and teens who owned cars of all ethnicityies were at a greater risk for drinking and driving than females, less affluent youths, and those who did not own cars. Another group of teens who reported other high risk behavior were also at a greater risk for DUI. These teens reported high-risk behavior such as binge drinking, marijuana smoking, and driving other peoples’ cars without permission.

Loophole in PA Law Favors Hit-and-Run Drivers Over DUI Drivers Who Remain at the Scene of an Accident

Panicked motorists who flee the scene of an accident may face lesser charges than if they stayed and faced the consequences. Pennsylvania lawmakers and prosecutors are bemoaning the sentencing guidelines for hit-and-run drivers, and are calling for increased penalties on these motorists. Under current Pennsylvania law, a conviction for causing a fatal accident while driving under the influence is a minimum of 3 years in prison. However, if a driver leaves the scene and is apprehended later, they can only be charged with fleeing the scene which carries a minimum of 1 year in prison.

By increasing the penalties of fleeing the scene, lawmakers hope to eliminate the incentive for hit-and-run drivers. A driver that has been drinking and causes an accident can potentially face a harsher sentence for DUI if they stay at the accident. Comparatively, a driver that leaves the scene and is not apprehended until alcohol has left their system cannot be charged with DUI, and will face lighter penalties even if the accident caused a fatality. By making sentencing guidelines for DUI with accident and fleeing the scene (even if no alcohol was involved), there is no incentive to do a hit-and-run.

Luzerne County First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce told The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens’ Voice that hit-and-run penalties should be greater than penalties for DUI in a fatal crash.

Last year state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, wrote legislation to increase penalties on drivers involved in fatal hit-and-run accidents. A grand compromise was achieved and hit-and-run accidents with a fatality was made a second-degree felony instead of a third-degree felony, which carried a maximum term of ten years in prison rather than seven years. However, the one year minimum term remains.

Sanguedolce said that the change in law will likely not effect first-time offenders or people with little or no criminal history, because typically the maximum sentence is not sought out for those who do not have a long criminal record. “The maximum sentence may be so far away from the standard range that the judge would not reach it,” he said.