Colorado Representative Joel Judd has proposed an extreme DUI measure to reduce drunk driving after a driver hit and killed a mother and her two children in Denver. Under Judd’s DUI law, first-time DUI offenders, regardless of BAC, would lose their driver’s license for five years unless they agreed to addiction treatment and to putting an ignition interlock in their car. A driver convicted of DUI must keep the interlock in his car for five years.
Second time DUI offenders would lose their driver’s license for twenty years or install an interlock for two decades.
As with many DUI proposals, Judd’s law disregards the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver. Being stopped with a BAC of 0.08 does not necessarily indicate an alcohol addiction. Many states are instituting Extreme DUI laws (BAC over 0.15-0.20 depending on the state) to combat the drivers who cause most injuries and deaths. Judd’s law ignores findings that most injuries and deaths are caused by drivers with a BAC over 0.15, but rather, punishes every DUI offender equally. When having two drinks in a hour can cause a BAC over the legal limit for DUI of 0.08, any DUI law needs to differentiate between the careless and the reckless driver.
Riverside County, CA reportedly shot and killed a DUI suspect who led them on a seven-minute chase, then pulled into a cul-de-sac and crashed his vehicle into a patrol car. Four sheriff’s deputies opened fire on the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to reports, Nissan is developing an ignition interlock to prevent drunk driving. Toyota is developing an anti-DUI system that detects alcohol in a driver’s sweat. In both systems, an intoxicated person could not start or operate the vehicle.
Due to several high-profile DUI related accidents and fatalities in Japan, Nissan is testing interlock systems for future vehicles. One device would be a standard breathalyzer ignition interlock. Another device would involve a keypad with a complex PIN number and pattern that would be tricky for an intoxicated person to operate.
Toyota’s interlock would sense alcohol in a person’s sweat using sensors in the steering wheel. The system could also kick in if the sensors detect abnormal steering, or if a special camera shows that the driver’s pupils are not in focus. The car would then be slowed to a halt.
Toyota hopes to have its system installed in vehicles by 2009. The question that remains is what BAC would a driver be allowed to drive at.
The Arizona state senate gave preliminary approval to a DUI law requiring drivers convicted of extreme-DUI (0.15 BAC) to serve their full 30 day sentence. The new DUI law would forbid judges from suspending any portion of extreme-DUI offenders’ sentences even if they complete court-ordered drug or alcohol screenings or programs. Before the DUI law received approval, however, Senator Jorge Garcia tacked on a provision allowing judges to completely eliminate the sentence of a driver convicted of extreme-DUI if he pays for and completes a 30-day residential treatment program.
Some Arizona lawmakers disapprove of allowing drivers to go to rehab. One senator complained that “you won’t have to serve any time at all as long as you can afford a nice rehab center. You’ll spend your 30 days in a rehab facility instead of jail, where you belong.”
Senator Garcia responded that those who believe that programs like Sierra Tucson and the Betty Ford Clinic are little more than vacations are wrong. “They may be in cushy surroundings,” he said. “But the reality is it’s hard work for anyone who goes through a 30-day program.”
A Virginia state delegate has introduced a ‘scarlet letter’ DUI law. Drivers convicted of DUI three times would be required to have DUI license plates. The plates would have red numbers on a yellow background. These DUI plates would cost a driver $500. The State estimates it could rake in $500,000 per year.
The delegate believes that the law will limit DUI incidents. He said that drunk drivers continue to drive even when their license has been taken away. His DUI license plates would single out drivers who have multiple DUI convictions. The executive director of the Virginia ACLU countered that family members would be punished along with the driver, since they would also be driving the vehicle with DUI scarlet-letter plates. He said the law is based on public humiliation rather than sound corrections theory.
Virginia has attempted to pass scarlet-letter license plate laws several times in the past. None of these DUI laws has passed, yet.
A former Texas judge and prosecutor pled guilty to driving while intoxicated. He was arrested only two weeks ago, and charged with speeding, DUI, and refusing to submit to a BAC test. He had a open beer in the car, but was not charged for that.
The judge pled guilty to DUI and was fined $750 and required to attend DUI school. His driver’s license was suspended for 120 days. He was given credit for 24 hours of jail time served, though he didn’t have to serve the full 24 hours. A 24 hour jail sentence is standard for first time DUI offenders in Texas. He was also fined for speeding and ordered to pay court costs. The charge of refusing to submit to a BAC test was dismissed.
The judge had resigned from the bench after being arrested on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He had crossed the center line and struck another vehicle. He fled the scene, on foot, and was later arrested at his home.
An Elyria Ohio woman, driving with 3 children, was arrested and charged with DUI. She told police that her car had broken down with a dead battery. The car was found straddling the middle of the highway with no hazard lights on. Police say the driver’s breath smelled of alcohol and she failed several field sobriety tests. She refused submit to a urine test to determine her concentration of alcohol (BAC).
The woman home with a passenger and three children, ages 3 to 5. She was arrested and charged with DUI and three counts of endangering children. The children were released from the Elyria police station to an aunt. County Children Services have been notified of the incident.
Paris Hilton resolved her DUI case by pleading no-contest to reckless driving in Los Angeles California. Hilton’s lawyers slipped into court and entered a plea on her behalf to the reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving. She was sentenced to 36 months probation, ordered to undergo alcohol education, and pay $1,500 in fines.
Hilton was arrested in September 2006 and charged with DUI. Her blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 percent, matching the legal BAC limit for DUI in California. Hilton claimed to have had one margarita at a charity event, after working but not eating all day.
A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is equivalent to a guilty plea for determining sentencing. Allowing a driver, charged with DUI, to plead to a lesser charge is standard practice for most DUI offenders who have a BAC at or near the legal limit for DUI.
A Jupiter Florida Police Department captain was suspended for failing to arrest the son and daughter of the town’s parks and recreation director for DUI after he had pulled them over on suspicion of DUI. The Jupiter Police Chief reprimanded the police captain for failing to follow DUI policy. He wrote in the official reprimand that the captain compromised his integrity when he allowed the two DUI suspects to escape arrest because of their relationship to a town official.
Another Jupiter police officer was under investigation, recently, for failing to arrest a fellow officer on DUI charges, claiming that the department was short of manpower that evening.
The Jupiter police chief reiterated that “our policy says that if a police officer suspects a person is operating a vehicle while under the influence, he must give a field sobriety test.” “It also says that if the individual is found to be under the influence, the officer will make the arrest. This is what should have happened.”
Arizona State Senator Jim Waring proposed creating a new extreme-DUI classification for drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.20 percent or greater. The law would also require a driver found guilty of Extreme DUI (a 0.15 BAC) to serve a full 30 or 45 days in jail without possibility of a suspended sentence. Currently, in Arizona, a judge can suspend a driver’s sentence if he completes a drug or alcohol treatment, screening, or education program.
Statistics show that drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or more accounted for two-thirds of all alcohol-related vehicle deaths in Arizona in 2005.
Although news stories conflict, Waring’s bill apparently would not raise the BAC limit for Extreme DUI from 0.15 percent to a BAC of 0.20 percent, but rather, create a new DUI classification of driving with a BAC of 0.20. None of the stories indicate what penalties would attach to conviction for DUI with a 0.20 BAC.
A Fort Worth Texas judge found a police officer not guilty of DUI and scolded Keller Texas police for treating the officer more harshly because she was a police officer. Court records showed that a Keller police officer stopped the Fort Worth officer for speeding. The Keller officer said that the woman’s breath smelled of alcohol and that she stated she had hardly anything to drink. The Keller officer said that she refused to take a Breathalyzer test and was “uncooperative” about field sobriety tests. She was released, but a warrant was issued a few days later for DUI.
Refusing to take the Breathalyzer did not indicate that she was guilty and trying to avoid jail, according to the judge. She was found not guilty of DUI, but her duty status is in the hands of the Fort Worth Internal Affairs Department, which will review the charges and the judge’s verdict finding her innocent of DUI.
A federal security officer at the Fargo North Dakota airport was charged with DUI in Minnesota. The officer was arrested Saturday morning in Dilworth Minnesota. Police say he failed several field sobriety tests and had a BAC of 0.22 percent, almost three times the legal BAC limit for DUI in Minnesota. He is facing two counts of third-degree DUI in Clay County District Court. The officer is security director for screening at Fargo’s Hector International Airport.
The Colorado Supreme Court threw out a Glenwood Springs, Colorado driver’s DUI conviction saying that state law doesn’t adequately cover cases where a driver’s choice of BAC test is unavailable. The driver was arrested in Aurora, Colorado for suspicion of DUI. Under Colorado’s express-consent law, he asked to be given a blood test rather than a breath test. No qualified person was available to draw blood within the two hour limit specified by Colorado DUI law. A sheriff’s deputy told the driver he could lose his license for a year if he refused to take a breath test. He submitted and the breathalyzer indicated a BAC of over twice the legal limit for DUI in Colorado.
The Supreme Court upheld the charge of DUI but said the results of the breath test had to be thrown out because the deputy had inappropriately threatened the driver with loss of his license. The ruling did give prosecutors the opportunity to refile DUI charges based on other evidence.
While a BAC of at least 0.08 percent is presumptive evidence of drunk driving, neither a breath test nor a blood test is necessary to convict a driver of DUI.
Following the lead of other states, legislators in New York’s heartland are seeking to allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend a driver’s license upon arrest for DUI. Legislators point to a New York man who was charged with his fourth DUI (DWI in New York) in December. The driver managed to get a restricted driver’s license from a judge after his second arrest and a conditional license from the DMV after his third arrest. Under the new proposal, police would have the authority to automatic suspend a driver’s license following a DUI arrest. A driver with a pending DUI could not apply for a conditional license.
New York has attempted to toughen its DUI laws by increasing penalties for multiple DUI convictions and creating a charge of Aggravated DWI for drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.18 percent. (Due to a typo, the Aggravated DWI is yet to be enforced). Legislators say more needs to be done to combat DUI.
In the case of the driver cited above, he was charged with DUI January 29 in Pittsfield, April 27 in Morris, May 6 in Laurens and Dec. 22 in Morris. Because he has no DUI convictions he cannot be considered a repeat DUI offender. His driver’s license was finally revoked following his refusal to take a breath test after his last arrest.
An off-duty Jupiter Florida police officer who appeared to be DUI was not arrested when police determined they were too short-staffed to arrest him. The officer has been put on administrative duty while the incident is being investigated.
The officer was pulled over for suspicion of DUI while off duty. He said that he had no identification or paperwork for his vehicle and that he was a Jupiter police officer. He failed more than one field sobriety test and was “too intoxicated to drive.” However, the officer was not arrested because the Jupiter police department was short-staffed that night.
The officer remained in his vehicle until someone arrived to drive him home. He was cited for not having a driver license and for weaving in and out of his traffic lane, but not for DUI.