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.

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.

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.”

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.

Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Tougher DUI Legislation

Kentucky lawmakers are being asked to consider changes to the state’s current DUI laws. House Bill 32 is being sponsored by Rep. Mike Harmon (R), and it aims to toughen drunk driving laws by increasing penalties on repeat offenders and by lengthening a conviction’s “look-back” period.

House Bill 32 amends the “look-back” period from 5 years to 10 years. This means that any DUI conviction that occurs within a ten year period will be considered for sentencing. Under current law, only DUI convictions within the last 5 years may be considered.

Under current law, first and second-time DUI offenders may serve their terms of imprisonment on weekends so as not to infringe on their employment and educational opportunities. HB 32 suggests that the court should rule whether a second-time offender has this option.

HB 32 reduces court-ordered alcohol or substance abuse education or treatment programs for first-time offenders from 1 year to 90 days.

One of the most notable potential amendments to Kentucky’s DUI laws is under Section 5. This change allows for vehicle forfeiture if a motorist is found driving on a suspended or revoked license stemming from a DUI offense.

New D.C. DUI Laws Combat Drunk Driving

Mayor Vincent Gray signed two bills which will toughen D.C.’s drunk driving laws. One bill addresses ignition interlock devices, which are machines installed into vehicles that will block a car’s ignition from starting if the driver is over the alcohol limit, which is set at .02%.

The second bill is related to the admission of breath requirements and whether certain evidence is admissable in court.

Under the previous law, the DMV could not recommend a driver use an ignition interlock device until after two convictions. The new law makes first-time DUI offenders eligible for the ignition interlock device.

The District will also begin using new breath-testing machines which feature digital readouts and ID scanners.

One of the bill’s signed also includes updates to the city’s procedures for administering the tests, which means more quality-control checks which should improve accuracy of the machines.

Frank Harris, a representative for MADD, believes these changes are going to improve DUI enforcement and keep drunk drivers off the road. He said, “”It’s one less loophole that a defense attorney can throw out there, one less roadblock that a defense attorney can throw out.”

Kansas DUI Laws Questioned after Drunk Driver Receives Light Sentence

The story of a Kansas University student who had both legs amputated after being struck by a drunk driver is putting a spotlight on Kansas’ DUI laws. 18-year-old Colby Liston is learning to walk again with prosthetic legs and accused drunk driver Julian Kuszmaul is facing a maximu of one year in jail, which Liston’s family believes is not justice for Colby.

Kuszmaul is being charged with misdemeanor DUI. The D.A. ruled there was no recklessness on part of Kaszmaul. A decade ago, Kansas legislators repealed a law which would have allowed battery charges for DUI cases that involved injuries.

The Kansas Supreme Court has a case law which states, “additional evidence, beyond evidence that an accused was driving under the influence of alcohol, is necessary to create probable cause for reckless aggravated battery charges. Simply driving under the influence of alcohol does not, standing alone, amount to reckless behavior.” [State v. Huser, 265 Kan. 228.]

In a press release from Charles Branson, the Douglas County D.A., he states that the D.A.’s office disagrees with the Supreme Court’s interpretation but is bound to follow it.

Liston’s family responded to Branson’s reasoning on their Facebook account, which said, “In order to change or get a new decision a prosecutor or DA needs to present another case. We feel Colby’s accident is a perfect case to present in order to get the case law changed. So it’s not a matter that DA Branson CAN’T charge aggravated battery it’s that he WON’T.”

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.

New Hampshire DUI Laws Expand to Include Prescription, Over-the-Counter, and Synthetic Drugs

New Hampshire has criminalized driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and any other chemical substances starting Jan. 1. The drugs were not previously covered under state law. New Hampshire lawmakers expanded their DUI laws in 2012, with Gov. Lynch signing the law in June.

State Police Sgt. Matthew Shapiro said that before, people could be grossly impaired by medications but could not be charged with driving under the influence. He testified in favor of the DUI bill in April 2012. He said there has been an increase in the use of prescription drugs and other new drugs, such as bath salts.

Defense attorneys complain that the new DUI laws are too far-reaching. They take issue with the fact that police officers may not be able to adequately determine whether someone is or isn’t under the influence of a certain drug.

On House Bill 1699-FN, the wordage has added the line: “prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or any other chemical substance, natural or synthetic, which impairs a person’s ability to drive.” Before, it vaguely read, “under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any controlled drug.”

Sgt. Shapiro said, “The cases that we’re dealing with are people who are clearly impaired, they’re under the influence, they have diminished mental capacity and physical capacity as a result of taking drugs that are impairing them.”