Fliers Part of New Anti-DUI Program in Schuylkill County

An anti-DUI program in Schuylkill County is making itself visible in local bars and restaurants with the distribution of “Table Tents”. They are fliers that ask six questions on DUI laws and facts, and are intended to get people to compartmentalize the reality of a drinking and driving arrest. The questions include:

  • Q: How much alcohol is equal to one “drink”?
  • Q: A DUI arrest can result from impairment due to:
  • Q: How many people were arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania last year?
  • Q: What is the minimum amount a DUI in Pennsylvania would cost?
  • Q: What is the range of fines for a DUI?
  • Q: How many alcohol related crashes occurred in Pennsylvania last year?

The answers are:

  • A: 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce wine, 1.5-ounce shot
  • A: Just alcohol, illegal drugs, “designer drugs” (example: synthetic marijuana or bath salts) or prescription drugs
  • A: 57,000
  • A: $5,000
  • A: $300 to $10,000
  • A: 11,812 crashes

Many law enforcement agencies increase patrols around the holidays because there tend to be more alcohol and drug related crashes from Christmas to New Year’s. In 2011, Schuylkill County reported 72 motor vehicle accidents in the county, which resulted in two deaths.

Mahanoy City police Chief Mark J. Wiekrykas said, “We’ve seen an increase in the number of blood (test) results that are coming back (positive) for drugs.” He added that their first case of driving under the influence of bath salts occurred recently.

ACLU Fights Oklahoma Judge Over Court-Ordered Church Attendance in DUI Manslaughter Case

District Judge Mike Norman is in trouble with the ACLU for requiring ten years of church attendance as part of teenager Tyler Alred’s deferred sentence for DUI manslaughter. (See original posting on this story here.) The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, accusing Norman of violating the Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct by infringing on religious liberty. The executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, Ryan Kiesel, criticized Judge Norman on his actions.

“We believe in a strong and independent judiciary. For us to come to this conclusion really speaks to the level of disregard that Judge Norman has showed towards the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of the state of Oklahoma,” Kiesel said.

Tyler Alred was allowed to decide between church and prison. Alred’s defense attorney Donn Baker said, “My client goes to church every Sunday. That isn’t going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him.”

In November, Norman admitted that his ruling may have been unconstitutional, but he was going to wait and see if he would get away with it. “I received a couple of bad calls – one from Oregon and one from Missouri – telling me it was in violation of the U.S. Constitution. They may well be right, but that’s what I did and we made a record,” Norman said. Then he added, “If someone wants to appeal my decision, they’re entitled to do that.”

On Tuesday, the ACLU took him up on his offer.

Can a Judge Order Church Attendance as a Term of Probation in a DUI Case?

If you are in Oklahoma, the answer is yes. Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman has imposed an unusual penalty on a teenager who was charged with DUI manslaughter in Oklahoma. Tyler Alred, 17, has been ordered to attend church on Sunday for the next ten years as part of his deferred DUI manslaughter case.

This is not the first time a judge has unconstitutionally ordered church attendance in lieu of jail time. In the town of Bay Minette, Alabama, the city judge offers the option of church attendance for a year or jail time to people charged with misdemeanor offenses.

On Dec. 3, Tyler Alred was driving a Chevrolet pickup at 4a.m. when he crashed into a tree on a county road; the crash killed his friend John Luke Dum, 16, who was the passenger in the truck. Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers arrived and Alred admitted that he had been drinking. His blood alcohol content was between 0.06 and 0.07. The legal limit is 0.08, but drivers under 21 are not allowed to consume any alcohol and will be charged with DUI regardless of their BAC under a zero tolerance policy.

No one has challenged Judge Norman’s bizarre probation, and unless it is challenged, the ruling will stand. Professor of law Randall Coyne said the condition would not stand a legal challenge, but a challenge would have to be filed.

In the 1992 case of Lee v. Weisman, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the state may not use a “threat of penalty” to “coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise.”

Some have successfully challenged court-mandated attendance of A.A. and N.A. meetings. In the case of Kerr v. Farrey, Kerr objected to being forced to attend N.A. meetings as an atheist, because the meetings began with a Christian prayer and because Kerr perceived N.A. as having a deterministic view of God in the way that belief in a God was necessary for full recovery. The Court ruled that the N.A. program was decidedly religious and based on monotheistic principles and a policy of coercing prisoners to attend the meetings was unconstitutional.

In Tyler Alred’s case, not much will change. His defense attorney, Donn Baker, said, “My client goes to church every Sunday. That isn’t going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him.”

DUI Court Lowers Recividism

Most people learn a hard lesson after being charged with drunk driving their first time. A DUI or DWI stays on your permanent criminal record and can drastically limit future opportunities. However, some people do not learn their lesson and continue to drive drunk, these are referred to as hardcore offenders in the court system. In Twin Falls, Idaho, a DUI Court coordinator is seeing success with a DUI Court program that is helping repeat DUI offenders stay sober and prevent re-offending.

Twin Fall County received a three-year grant in 2006 which helped fund the creation of the DUI Court program. Every participant in DUI Court must pay a monthly fee of $100 which covers drug and alcohol tests. Participants are required to show up to court once a week to check-in on their progress. The program requires ignition interlock devices for anyone who continues to operate a vehicle, which they may do if they can obtain a restricted license through the program which only allows them to travel to and from work or school.

DUI court requires participants to attend court every Wednesday morning at 7:30am to speak with a judge and answer a weekly question. As they progress they are allowed to attend course less frequently. While speaking with the judge, participants can request support from the court and even discuss individual problems.

If a participant is absent from DUI court, assigned therapy, or other treatment, then the judge may issue a warning or sentence mandatory community service or jail time.

DUI Court is open to the public, allowing anyone who is curious or interested to show up as an observer. Judge Kershaw sees a positive impact from the program. He says that those who successfully graduate from DUI Court are much less likely to re-offend.

In DUI Court, the emphasis is placed on treating the problem of alcoholism rather than shaming and penalizing the offender. These types of programs have been in use in the United States since 1997, and many courts across the country are lauding their success.

Nevada’s DUI Problem and Undercover Investigation

Gerard Ramalho of KSVN investigated DUI offenders in Henderson, Nevada showing up to required DUI School while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. According to KSVN, one of the biggest problems in the Valley are people getting behind the wheel intoxicated. How do Nevada’s DUI penalties stack up to other states, and why is DUI so prominent there?

Judge Bill Kephart, of Las Vegas District Court, says that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has 625 DUI arrests a month. He estimated that half of the DUI offenders that end up in his court room are from out of state, which may point to a problem of Vegas’ reputation as a place where one can break the law without punishment.

So what are Nevada’s DUI laws? For a first or second DUI, you will need to complete a DUI class which you are required to pay for. Other requirements may include a fine and attendance to a MADD panel (victim impact panel). Not completing these requirements within the time you are given could be in violation of your probation, which can result in being sentenced to jail for at least two days.

A first-time DUI can result in a driver’s license suspension for 90 days. A second-time DUI within seven years of your first DUI carries a license suspension of an entire year, and a third DUI in a seven year period can result in a three year license suspension. The Nevada DMV operates separately from the criminal court, so even if you are ultimately found not guilty for DUI, the DMV does not have to retract their imposed license suspension.

According to Judge Bill Kephart, it would be less expensive to travel by cab from Nevada to New York than to pay for a DUI in Nevada. According to Ramalho, the recidivism rate in Nevada is less than 3%.

86% of DUI Cases Acquitted by Judges in Worcestor County

The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts’ highest court has been urged by a special counsel to toughen laws and courtroom policy after a report was revealed that 97% of DUI bench trials ended in acquittal in one county. The study was commissioned by the Supreme Judicial Court last year after a Globe Spotlight series found that a significant number of people charged with DUI do not have traditional trials by jury but instead go before a judge, and 4 out of 5 who go to bench are acquitted. The high number of acquittals is 11 percentage points higher in Worcester County than in the rest of the state, and the issue with having a near 100 percent acquittal rate is that it creates an appearance of leniency, according to the study. The recommendations by the study included requiring defendants to choose a bench trial earlier in the process to avoid “judge shopping.”

Defendants are allegedly waiving their right to a jury trial on the day of when a judge with a reputation for leniency appears on the bench. The Supreme Judicial Court chose Jack Cinquegrana, a former federal and state prosecutor, as special counsel on the issue. He produced a 148-page report which included other recommendations such as requiring district court judges to rotate through courts more often. It was also recommended that judges receive better training on how to handle scientific evidence.

The study points out that lawmakers may want to close a loophole that helps defendants evade conviction even with evidence that they had a blood alcohol level above the legal .08% limit. Defendants are allegedly arguing that while their BAC may have been .08% at the time of the test, that it was lower when they were actually driving because the alcohol in their system had not yet metabolized.

In drunk driving cases that go to trial, Jack Cinquegrana found that juries acquit 58% of the time, but judges will find defendants not guilty 86% of time. Cinquegrana reviewed 57,000 OUI (DUI) cases, and interviewed lawyers and judges for the study.

Arkansas DWI Law and Penalties

If David Whitaker (D) wins the election for the Arkansas House of Representatives District 85, he would like to enact a DWI Battery statute. Under Arkansas DWI law, penalties increase based on the number of DWIs on your record in the past five years, but do not have specific statutes for DWI with injury.

A DWI Negligent Homicide can be charged if the accident resulted in the death of another. DWI Negligent Homicide in Arkansas is a Class B felony with a jail sentence of not less than 5 years and no more than 20 years, with a fine no more than $15,000.

Arkansas’s Act 262, which passed in March 2011, will allow for misdemeanor DUI and DWI convictions to be expunged after five years since the completion of the DWI sentence.

Since Arkansas has a five year rule when considering a DWI record, one woman has 10 DWI convictions on her record, but since her last conviction was in 2007, her 11th DWI would be treated as her first.

Arkansas DWI Penalties Overview

  • 1st Offense: 1 day to 1 year in jail. $150-$1,000 in fines.
  • 2nd Offense: 7 days to 1 year in jail. $400 to $3,000 in fines. Minimum 30 days  community service possible in lieu of jail.
  • 3rd Offense: 90 days to 1 year in jail. $900 to $5,000 in fines. Minimum of 90 days community service possible in lieu of jail.
  • 4th Offense (felony): 1 year to 6 years in prison. $900 to $5,000 in fines. 1 year minimum community service possible in lieu of jail.
  • 5th Offense or more (felony): 2 years to 10 years in prison. $900 to $5,000 in fines. 2 years minimum community service possible in lieu of jail.

Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) charges have a 3 year look back period, meaning offenses in the last three years are considered as part of your record. A 1st BWI can be punishable by 1 year in jail and a fine between $250-$1,000. A 2nd BWI in 3 years is punishable by 2 days to 1 year in jail, a fine between $500-$1,000, and a mandatory 30 days minimum of community service. A 3rd BWI or more is punishable by 60 days to 1 year in jail and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000.

States with Toughest DUI Penalties

10,228 people lost their lives in 2010 on account of drunk driving. State lawmakers try to tackle this issue with strict DUI laws and penalties. Sometimes states will experience spikes in DUI fatalities, accidents, and injuries, and lawmakers will respond with a crackdown on DUI offenders and pass stricter laws and add harsher punishments. The following is a snapshot of the states with the toughest DUI penalties in the nation.


Arizona made some big changes to their DUI laws on January 1, 2012. Some may be surprised to find out that if you are charged with your first DUI (non-extreme) in Arizona, you are not entitled to a jury trial.

Work release in Arizona increased to 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. Work release is a program where a person is permitted to be released from jail but only long enough to fulfill employment or studies, and a strict curfew is implemented to ensure that these privileges are very limited.

Arizona has a graduated penalty system based on BAC. A driver with a BAC above .15 can be charged with Extreme DUI, and if the driver’s BAC exceeds .20 then they can be charged with Super Extreme DUI. A Super Extreme DUI has a minimum jail sentence of 45 days, compared to just one day for a basic DUI charge.

A first time offender is often required to use an ignition interlock device for at least 6 months. For a first DUI, the fines can include a base fine of $250, an Arizona DUI Surcharge of $200, an Arizona Xtra DUI Assessment of $500, a Prison Construction Assessment of $500, and the additional required maintenance fees of the use of the ignition interlock device.

Maricopa County, Arizona operates male and female chain gangs, and now has a new anti-DUI chain gain made up of inmates serving sentences for DUI after entering the county illegally. The chain gangs wear pink shirts and clean the downtown Phoenix area.


A first time DUI offender in Georgia must spend 24 hours in jail, and may ultimately face up to a year in jail. The fines range from $600 to $1,000. Mandatory DUI School and mandatory alcohol evaluation can be ordered, the driver’s license can be suspended by the court for 12 months, and 40 hours of community service may be required.


Florida charges drivers with higher blood alcohol levels with tougher penalties. A first-time DUI offender with a BAL above .15 is required to use an ignition interlock device for 6 months, pay up to $2,000 in fines, and spend a maximum of 9 months in jail. Any first-time DUI offender can have their license suspended for up to one year, and can be required to complete 50 hours of community service.

What Are California’s DUI Penalties for Multiple Convictions?

Bobby Brown has been arrested for suspicion of DUI, which is his second arrest for DUI in the San Fernando Valley in six months. California’s DUI penalties often include fines, jail time, license suspension, and alcohol treatment programs.

For the first DUI charge, Brown was placed on three years of summary probation and ordered to complete a three-month alcohol education program. This is typical of California DUI penalties, which will usually require three years of informal probation, a fine up to $2,000, a period of license suspension, and a requirement of a 4-month alcohol class for a first DUI conviction.

Brown’s first DUI was in Florida in 1996, but California has a ten year “look back” period, which means the Courts will review only this time period for determining your punishment. Since Brown’s 1996 DUI was over ten years ago, his arrest for DUI in March is counted as his first.

A second-time DUI in California can face a two year license suspension, mandatory jail time up to 60 months, and an 18-month alcohol class.

A third DUI in California can be penalized with a three year driver’s license suspension, an 18 month alcohol class, and mandatory jail time of at least 120 days.

Double Penalties for DWI Offenders with High BAC in Bexar County

Bexar County has doubled the maximum penalty for drivers whose BAC is nearly twice the legal limit. Under the new law, first-time DWI offenders with a BAC .15% or higher will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $4,000. A high BAC of .15% is more than double the legal limit of .08%.A first offense was previously a Class B misdemeanor, which was punishable by up to 6 months in jail, and a fine of $2,000.

The changes to the law were pushed through the Texas House by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. He said, “We took a more serious approach for people who are clearly not social drinkers. Sending these people to court and giving them probation and other alternatives doesn’t solve the issue.”

On weekends, Bexar County has a “no refusal” policy. A no refusal means that those suspected of DWI can have their blood forcibly drawn if they refuse to submit to a chemical test. This policy was put in place by District Attorney Susan Reed, whose office arranges for nurses to be available to do blood draws of DWI suspects when an officer obtains a search warrant.

The no refusal initiatives were originally an occasional policy used in 2008, but this year the program was expanded to every weekend. District Attorney Susan Reed has said that she would like the policy to be implemented daily.