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.

Dauphin County Judge’s Ruling Has Potential to Overturn Thousands of DUI Convictions

Dauphin County judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. has ruled to void breathalyzer evidence in 20 of the highest-penalized DUI cases in the county. Judge Clark Jr.’s ruling decision came after convincing evidence showed that the breathalyzer machines used could not provide an accurate reading beyond 0.15 percent.

A driver in Pennsylvania can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content is above 0.08% (the national standard). Under Pennsylvania law (75 Pa.C.S. Section 3802) (b), a driver can be charged with DUI or actual physical control if their BAC is between .08% and .10% and they will face higher penalties than “General Impairment.” The highest rate of alcohol charge deals with those whose alcohol concentration measurable by breath or blood is above .16%.

The last charge is what is specifically being effected by Judge Clark Jr.’s ruling. If breathalyzers cannot accurately measure above .15%, then not all of those charged with the highest rate of alcohol may be guilty of that charge.

Judge Clark Jr. also ruled that DUI prosecutions obtained by evidence using the 5000EN breathalyzer must be considered “extremely questionable.” Testimony of the breathalyzers convinced the judge that the machines are not properly calibrated to give accurate readings at any level. The judge said that the machines are not calibrated according to state regulations.

Justin McShane is the DUI attorney who filed a challenge on his client’s behalf. DUI attorney Justin McShane challenged the accuracy of the breathalyzers, and asked Judge Clark Jr. to void the breathalyzer evidence used by the police. As a result, Judge Clark Jr. not only voided the evidence in Justin McShane’s client’s case, but also in 19 other highest-rate DUI cases in Dauphin County court.

The judge’s ruling has the potential to overturn thousands of drunk driving prosecutions and convictions locally in Dauphin County as well as across the state of Pennsylvania.

The NTSB Recommends All States Should Require Ignition Interlock Devices

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that all states update their DUI or DWI laws to require the ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers, even first-time offenders. Currently, only 17 states require the interlock device for first time offenders. The NTSB completed a special investigation report on wrong-way driving collisions, of which more than half involved drivers impaired by alcohol. One of the study’s conclusions states, “New countermeasures to alcohol-impaired driving, as well as renewed emphasis at the federal, state, and local level, are needed.” Also: “The installation of alcohol ignition interlocks on the vehicles of all driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders would reduce accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.” The NTSB is is an independent federal investigative agency consisting of only about 400 employees and 5 board members. They have an annual budget of nearly $100 million.

The NTSB have pushed for widespread use of ignition interlocks for DUI/DWI offenders for many years. For this recent recommendation, the board cited a new study that found 360 people are killed each year in wrong-way driving crashes, and that 60% of these wrong-way drivers involved alcohol. The report emphasizes that seven of the nine wrong-way driving crashes had drivers with a BAC exceeding 0.15%. Additionally, 9% of those drivers had a previous record of a DWI conviction within the last three years.

The report had specific recommendations to the 33 states that do not currently mandate use of the ignition interlock devices for all DWI offenders, and also the District of Columbia and Puerto Rice. The recommendation specifically states that their governments should “enact laws to require the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices for all individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses.

The NTSB strongly endorsed continuing development of a “passive alcohol-detection technology” called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). The DADSS would prevent drivers with alcohol in their systems from starting their vehicles if the system detects alcohol with its breath- and touch-based sensors. The NTSB has recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety would together to accelerate the widespread implementation of these technologies.

An opponent to these measures is Sarah Longwell, The American Beverage Institute’s managing director. She says the interlock devices need to be reserved for “hardcore” offenders, or those whose DUI or DWI involved a very high BAC (above .15%) or repeat offenders. She argues that first-offenders with blood alcohol levels less than double the legal limit need to be treated separately than those with high BACs or who have previous offenses. Longwell said, “You don’t punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do somebody going 50 miles over the speed limit.”

If the DADSS systems continue to develop their technologies and become widespread, Longwell surmises that it would “eliminate people’s ability to have a glass of wine with dinner or to have a beer at a ballgame and then drive home.”

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, states with DUI and DWI laws that require interlock devices for first-time offenders include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Missouri’s new laws will not be fully enacted until 2013.

Florida Reconsiders Alcohol Standard for Ignition Interlock Devices

The state of Florida has one of the highest thresholds of blood-alcohol levels for a driver who has a court-ordered ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The ignition interlock device will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s alcohol level is measured as too high, and Florida’s standard for the devices is set at .05, which is nearly the legal limit of .08. These devices are often used to deter DUI offenders from future drinking and driving.

The new proposed standard is .025 which is more “in line” with national standards, according to Julie Jones, the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. She is pushing for legislation that would lower the level for these devices.

Under Florida law, a convicted drunk driver must install the ignition interlock device in their vehicle if they have multiple DUI convictions, if they had a very high BAC (above .15), or if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of their DUI.

Ignition interlock devices can carry a number of fees, including:

  • $12 interlock fee
  • $75 for installation
  • $72.50 for monthly monitoring and calibration
  • $100 refundable deposit or a $5 monthly insurance charge

Florida statutes require the devices to be installed on a first-time DUI offender if court-ordered. A second-time DUI offender must install the device for at least one year, or two years if they had a high BAC or minor in the vehicle. A third-time DUI offender is required to use the device for 2 years, and a fourth-time DUI offender is required to use the device if they have four convictions or more under the condition of a hardship license.

Independent Study Finds South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program Reduces DUI

According to a new RAND Corporation study, South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project has helped to reduce the number of repeat DUI arrests and additionally there was a 9% reduction rate in the number of domestic violence arrests. The 24/7 Sobriety Program is an alcohol monitoring program that is court-ordered when someone has been charged with an alcohol related offense.

Researchers in the RAND study found that frequent alcohol testing followed by swift but modest sanctions was efficient in reducing repeat drunk driving arrests. The study’s finding was that the 24/7 program was associated with a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests , and that overall there were modest reductions in traffic crashes.

The RAND Corporation analyzed data from 2004 to 2010, and Judge Larry Long has said that RAND independently analyzing the data lent to the reliability of the results.

The program requires those charged with multiple DUI’s to submit to twice-daily alcohol breath tests, and some participants were required to wear alcohol-monitoring bracelets as well as install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

Will New Texas DWI Laws Pass to Allow for Sobriety Checkpoints?

The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee met Monday in Austin to discuss creative ways to curb DWI in the state. San Antonio police Deputy Chief Anthony Trevino urged legislators to allow for permanent DWI checkpoints that would allow law enforcement to stop drivers and do routine sobriety tests near “drunk driving hot spots.” The deputy police chief’s idea was opposed by Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project who said that this would allow for police abuse of power.

Harrington said, “Once you start setting these roadblocks, you are basically saying the government has control over your movement.”

State Representative Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, the committee chairman, wanted “creative ways” to reduce the number of DWI’s in Texas, and said that the committee was looking for a change in DWI laws to “get on the front end of the problem.” In 2010, drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.08 killed 1,259 people on the Texas roadways. California, which has the second highest number of DWI deaths in the country, had 791 deaths in 2010 caused by drunk drivers.

Gallego said, “It’s always bothersome when California does something better than Texas. California – with more cars, more drivers and more people – still has less DWI-related deaths than Texas does.” This hearing was Pete Gallego’s last in the state Capitol, as he was elected on November 6th to represent U.S. House District 23.

Bexar County (San Antonio) District Attorney Susan Reed expanded “no refusal” weekends to every day of the year starting in April 2012. This means that anyone suspected of DWI in Bexar County will be required to have their blood tested if they refuse the breathalyzer. Reed said of their policy, “We are now the largest metro area in Texas to have an absolute no-refusal policy.”

Bill Lewis, MADD’s public policy liaison, asked legislators to support sobriety checkpoints by passing laws to allow police officers to conduct them. He said checkpoints could save 200 lives in Texas every year. Lewis said of lawmakers, “We have asked them to provide those guidelines for, what is it 18 years? They haven’t done it, so may it’s time to try something else.” He said he would be surprised if the checkpoints do get passed into law because he recognizes that some see checkpoints as government playing “big brother.”

Lewis did suggest to the Legislature that all first-time DWI offenders be required to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, which would prevent a car from starting if the driver has any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. Under Texas law, it is the discretion of the judges whether the ignition interlock device is used for DWI offenders.

Texas prohibits checkpoints based on the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, however the Corpus Christi Police Department claims to have found a loophole. Public Information Officer for the Department, Julie Garcia, claims that the department does conduct what they call “driver’s license checkpoints” routinely. If during this driver’s license checkpoint a driver is suspected to be impaired, the officer can conduct field sobriety tests, which if failed, the driver “can and will be arrested.”

Driver’s license checkpoints are also used in Lubbock County, according to Assistant District Attorney Tom Brummett, who said that these checkpoints are an effective way to legally target DWI drivers. He said, “Even though we can’t use DWI or sobriety checkpoints, the law does allow us to use driver’s license checkpoints, vehicle safety checkpoints.”

California’s 14%

One in seven weekend nighttime drivers in California tested positive for drugs that can affect driving ability, according to a voluntary survey of drivers across nine cities in California. The survey was the first of its kind conducted in the state, which was an anonymous study that paid participants to submit to drug and alcohol tests and answer a series of questions. Some drivers were found to be over the legal limit, and were asked to stay at the site until a sober driver could retrieve them, and no one was placed under arrest.

The survey results were announced by the California Office of Traffic Safety. There were more drivers who tested positive for drugs known to impair driving (14 percent) than drivers who tested positive for alcohol (7.3 percent). Marijuana was the most prevalent drug found, and 7.4% of the drivers tested positive for it.

Of the 7.3% of drivers who tested positive for alcohol, 23% of those drivers also tested positive for at least one other drug. 4.6% of the drivers tested positive for illegal drugs, and 4.6% of the drivers also tested positive for legal, over-the-counter medications that could potentially affect driving ability. Of the 7.4% of drivers who tested positive for marijuana, 26.5% of those drivers also tested positive for at least one other drug.

Over 1,300 drivers voluntarily provided breath and saliva samples at the roadside locations set up across nine cities where the survey was conducted. The survey spanned from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The samples were collected during these times as a reflection of the peak times of impaired driving according to arrests reports. The breath samples were tested for alcohol, and the saliva samples tested for the active ingredient in marijuana (THC), major illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications known to potentially impair driving abilities.

The $650,000 study, as reported by the Orange County Register, was conducted by the Maryland-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. The study was paid for by federal funds and was conducted to supply data needs identified in the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which is, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, a “dynamic action plan developed by federal, state and local government agencies, as well as organizations and advocacy groups dedicated to all aspects of traffic safety.”

“Avoid the 30” Program Acquires Large DUI Grant in Riverside County

Riverside received a grant to pay for additional DUI patrols; the $385,000 DUI grant came from the state Office of Traffic Safety. The grant will fund more checkpoints and extra patrols to find drivers who are DUI. The grant was received by the “Avoid the 30” program, which refers to the 30 law enforcement agencies in Riverside County. According to the “Avoid the 30” website, there have been 1,030 arrests this year due to additional police patrols on holidays such as Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day.

The grant money will be used to pay for overtime and other miscellaneous expenses. With this, law enforcement will be able to set up 13 checkpoints and 118 saturation patrols through till September 2013. There will also be self-funded checkpoints and patrols set up by law enforcement agencies.

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz commented on the program at a news conference and said, “The main message is if you decided to become intoxicated and get behind the wheel, your chances of getting caught are very good.”

All DUI saturation points are in addition to the regular patrol and traffic enforcement operating in Riverside County.

Alabama DUI & Actual Physical Control Laws

Al.com reports that a woman dressed as a zombie was arrested for DUI in Alabama when she was found asleep in her car. On the morning of November 1st, Birmingham police responded to a call that an unresponsive woman in a car was allegedly shot. Police arrived and found the victim in question was actually an intoxicated woman still dressed in her Halloween costume. The costume was ‘pregnant-zombie’, and the woman had fake blood covering the front of her body.

Police arrested the woman for DUI. Alabama’s DUI law states that a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle while their BAC is at or above .08%, and the definition of actual physical control is defined by judicial decision.

In 1980, Alabama DUI law changed dramatically. The term “intoxication” was taken out, removing the burden from law enforcement to substantially prove intoxication of a driver. Before 1980, the legal term for drunk driving was driving while intoxicated, and the law changes replaced DWI with driving under the influence, or DUI. This change made it easier for prosecutors to argue that a person could be under the influence of alcohol without showing signs of intoxication. Under Alabama law, a vehicle does not have to be in a state of operation but it must be capable to some degree of operation. For instance, in 1999, Nicholas Mester was arrested for DUI for steering an inoperable vehicle which was being moved along by another vehicle.

A motorist who is asleep behind the wheel and is in possession of keys can be charged with DUI in Alabama. If a person is physically capable of starting the engine or causing the vehicle to move, then direct evidence such as a law enforcement officer observing swerving or movement of the vehicle is not always needed for a drunk driving conviction.