Court Rules on Florida Breathalyzer Challenge

By Mary Ann

Over the past several months, hundreds of DUI cases in Florida have been lost, pled down or left hanging as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over the source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000.

The battle caused such a snag in the legal system that the state legislature took action to prevent the issue from arising in future cases.

Today an appellate panel in Seminole County, where judges had rejected breathalyzer evidence in hundreds of cases, ruled that those judges were wrong.

Hundreds of Florida DUI cases have already been dismissed, tried or plea-bargained since the controversy arose, but those cases still pending are now free to move forward with the breathalyzer evidence.

The court ruling and legislative action seem to ensure that such arguments from DUI attorneys won’t be well received in the future.



BAC “Refusal” Has Different Meanings from State to State

By Mary Ann

The question as to whether or not a DUI defendant has refused a breathalyzer or blood test might sound simple, but in fact, “refusal” has very different meanings depending upon state law.

For instance, a Missouri appellate court ruled in February that a man who had explicitly stated that he was not refusing the breathalyzer test but would not take it until he was allowed to use the restroom had refused the test. The court cited a prior ruling explicitly stating that a refusal need not be “knowing.”

In contrast, a Pennsylvania DUI court recently suppressed evidence of a blood test refusal where the defendant had been asked three times whether she would go to the hospital for a blood test, but had not been asked directly after the refusal consequence warnings had been read to her.



Interesting Perspective on Field Sobriety Testing

By Mary Ann

Georgia DUI attorney Rob Leonard has been trained to administer field sobriety testing. When he tried it out at home, he made an interesting discovery: two out of three of the sober people he tested failed!

Read more about Rob’s experiment on his Georgia DUI Blog at www.gaduiblog.com.



Ignition Interlock Devices for Us All?

By Mary Ann

If New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the state will soon require alcohol-detecting ignition interlock devices on all cars and trucks.

Several states have or are considering provisions that require ignition interlock devices for those with a DUI conviction, but New York would be the first state to require the devices on every vehicle.

The issue is far from settled, with vocal advocates on both sides: civil liberties groups argue that the inconvenience to the large percentage of adults who don’t drink at all is unwarranted, and raise questions about exactly where the line would be drawn. Current ignition interlock devices won’t allow a car to start if there is any trace of alcohol detected.

But MADD and others committed to reducing drunk driving point out that ignition interlocks are the only sure way to prevent DUI, and a former National Transportation Safety Board Official is lobbying automakers to include the wiring for ignition interlocks in all cars, so they’ll be easier to install.

The success or failure of the New York bill will undoubtedly have long-term effects beyond the borders of that state, so its progress is worth watching no matter where you live.



Effectiveness of DUI Checkpoints Questioned

By Mary Ann

The legality of DUI checkpoints has long been questioned, though challenges to checkpoints that require minimal delay and inconvenience to motorists have been largely unsuccessful.

But as central Pennsylvania gears up to add more checkpoints in the coming months, experts are pointing to a different problem: it seems that DUI checkpoints are significantly less effective than roving patrols in stopping drunk drivers.

Maybe it’s because motorists are able to avoid the checkpoints if they’ve been drinking or know that they have outstanding warrants or non-functioning equipment on their vehicles. Possibly roving patrols make more targeted stops based on observed behavior. Whatever the reason, Pennsylvania data indicates that patrols lead to about double the number of DUI arrests in about one-third the number of contacts.

That means that an officer at a road block has to see six times the number of drivers as a roving officer before identifying the same number of people operating while intoxicated.



Navy Considers Heavy Sanctions for DUI Convictions

By Mary Ann

The Navy Judge Advocate General is considering an instruction that would require sailors involved in off-base alcohol related incidents to report those incidents to their commands–and those sailors shouldn’t expect a slap on the wrist.

If the instruction is approved, notation of DUI incidents will be required in sailors’ fitness reports, and those with two DUI convictions will automatically be separated from the service.

The instruction would also introduce changes in drug testing policy and consequences for underage sailors caught drinking.