Maryland Law Would Require DUI License Plates

By Topher

DUI Offenders in Maryland may soon be easy to spot.

Delmarvanow.com, the online arm of the Salisbury Daily Times, is report that state legislators have introduced a bill that would require repeat DUI offenders to place a special license plate on their vehicle.

Maryland delegate Marvin E. Holmes Jr., of Prince George’s County, has introduced the bill each year for the last several years. He has thus far been unsuccessful in getting the bill passed.

The bill proposes that those who have been convicted of three or more DUIs would be required to use a brightly colored license plate on their cars. Currently, repeat DUI offenders are subject to higher insurance rates, jail time and fines. Delegate Holmes, however, would like to see something more publicly visible in place.

Holmes called the proposal “another tool in the toolbox.” He told DelmarvaNow.com that there were several reasons to implement the highly visible license plates. One was the social stigma that would result from it, which would deter potential offenders in a kind of “scarlet letter” effect.

The second effect would be to enable police and fellow drivers to take caution when approaching a vehicle with such a license plate.

According to Caroline Cash, who is executive director of Maryland’s chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there are more than 25,000 people in the state of Maryland who would qualify for such a license plate.

Wicomico County Sherriff Mike Lewis told Delmarvanow.com that there were hundreds of people in the Lower Shore region of Maryland with three or more DUI offenses that would qualify.

Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio are states that already have such laws in place regarding special license plates as DUI penalties for repeat offenders, said Melissa Savage, program director with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Such bills have been introduced in other states like Iowa, New York and Virginia, but they did not pass.

Rather than supporting the idea, Mothers Against Drunk Driving are supporting ignition interlock devices that require a breathalyzer before the operator can start a vehicle.

“While we appreciate the idea and efforts of Delegate Holmes, we feel that the ignition interlock is the best way to avoid allowing drunk drivers in Maryland,” Cash said.

Holmes stated that he also supported ignition interlock laws, and that he thought the special license plate would add to the arsenal of deterrents.



Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds DUI of Parked, Sleeping Driver

By Topher

In 2007, a Minnesota man was arrested after police found him asleep at the wheel of his car, parked in his designated spot in front of his own apartment building. According to the Star Tribune, Daryl Fleck was drunk, and he was subsequently charged with driving under the influence.

Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a jury’s drunk driving conviction of Fleck. The court determined that there was enough evidence for the jury to conclude that Fleck was in control of his vehicle when he was arrested.

Fleck’s conviction was his fourth for DUI, and he was sentenced to four years in prison. The conviction had already passed through the state’s Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and paved the way for the state Supreme Court appeal.

G. Tony Atwal, Fleck’s appellate lawyer, did not agree with the court’s decision to uphold the conviction. He told the Star Tribune, “Presumably, if you’re in or about your car, the county attorney could now charge you with a physical control DWI.”

Atwal explained his decision to pursue the various appeals because there was not evidence to suggest that Fleck had actually driven the vehicle that he was found in. According to Atwal, the car’s engine was cold to the touch, and a police officer wasn’t able to start it at all.

Atwall also noted that the fact that the car was parked in a parking lot near Fleck’s home made a great deal of difference. Had it been parked by the side of the road, for example, the situation would change.

According to the Star Tribune, the Supreme Court did not agree. The decision handed down read, “Mere presence in or about a vehicle is insufficient to show physical control; it is the overall situation that is determinative.”

The decision, written by Justice Alan Page, did acknowledge that the circumstances of this situation were not typical of the more common “physical control” drunk driving cases.

The “physical control of a motor vehicle” law is intended to prevent drunk people from getting in a position to operate a motor vehicle, but rather to enter vehicles only as passengers.



NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith Pleads Guilty to DUI

By Topher

National Football League Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith recently pleaded guilty to drunk driving in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The Associated Press reports that Smith cited a desire to be a responsible asset to the community in his decision to plead guilty.

As a part of the guilty plea, Smith agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and was given a 90-day suspended sentence. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped charges of speeding and refusing to take a breathalyzer test. Smith will also be required to take an alcohol safety program, and his driving privileges will be restricted.

Under the agreement, Smith can only drive when going to work, medical visits, visits with his mother, to the alcohol class and when he takes his children to school and to the doctor.

Smith was convicted of the DUI charge in General District court in July, and was allowed an appeal and a retrial. Smith made the plea agreement before going to retrial, which was scheduled to occur in the near future.

Smith said in a statement to reporters that the risk in the case would not be worth the reward, and that he thought he had only a 50 percent chance of getting out of the DUI charge. Even then, he would still have to negotiate the additional charges. As it is, he was able to come to a plea agreement that would allow him to, in his words, “take ownership of that evening.”

Smith also said that he would be hiring a former state trooper to accompany him to events at which he might be consuming alcohol. Of the night in question, Smith said that he spent the evening with friends, and that he had consumed some wine with dinner.

This is Smith’s third arrest for DUI. In 1997, a DUI conviction was later dismissed, and in 2003 he was acquitted of any charges.

As a member of the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins, Smith amassed 200 sacks, which puts him at the top of the all-time list. He retired from the sport in 2003 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.



School Bus Driver Arrested for DUI While on Field Trip

By Topher

School bus driver Brian Dunlap faces a litany of charges after he was arrested and charged with DUI while on the job driving teenagers to a field trip destination.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that chaperons on the field trip called 911 when they noticed that Dunlap, their bus driver, was acting strangely.

A Pittsburgh Police report describes the situation in which the chaperon called police during the trip. The chaperon had become nervous when the bus driver narrowly missed running into a pole, then laughed off the situation. The chaperon also noticed that the driver had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, the police said.

The aide finally decided to call the police when Dunlap ran a red light. At that point, an aide called the police, who arrived on the scene and observed the behavior noted, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and “swaying back and forth.”

Dunlap underwent a field sobriety test and was taken to a police station, where an expert in drug recognition determined that he was not under the influence of alcohol but likely another drug. Police decided that he was unfit to drive a vehicle, and he was taken to the hospital and then to the Allegheny County jail in Pennsylvania.

Parents were notified to pick up their kids.

In addition to the charges of driving under the influence, Dunlap faces fifteen counts of endangering the welfare of children and two counts of recklessly endangering another person.

Pittsburgh Cares, a non-profit organization that promotes volunteerism and community service, had hired the driver via SD Transit to take fifteen local high school students on a field trip to volunteer and then visit a nearby science center.

A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Public Schools reported that the field trip was not associated with the public school district. Spokeswoman Ebony Pugh went on to say that the school district does have some dealings with SD Transit, the bus supplier in question, but that Brian Dunlap was not on a list of driver that were authorized to drive for the schools.

SD Transit had no comment on the situation, the Post-Gazette is reporting.



South Dakota Woman Sets State Blood Alcohol Content Record

By Topher

A South Dakota woman received a dubious honor in December when she doubled the state’s previous record for blood alcohol content during a recent DUI.

On Dec. 1 of last year, state troopers found Marguerite Engle passed out in the driver’s seat of a stolen van on the side of a highway.

Engle, 45, was found to have a shocking .708 blood-alcohol content percentage, about 25 percent higher than the highest BAC recorded in South Dakota history, according to a reportin the New York Daily News.

“The BAC is almost incomprehensible,” said Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal. She said the previous record high for BAC in the state was .56. Drivers found with a BAC over .08 percent can be charged with a DUI in every state.

Somehow, Engle managed to survive with a BAC level that would have been fatal in most instances.

If a person drinks to the point where his or her BAC is .20, just over half of the legal limit for driving, the person could hurt could themselves and not feel any pain. Walking would also be a difficult task.

But if the person continues to drink to the point of reaching a .25 percent BAC, he or she is at a high risk from choking on vomit. Beyond that level lays a legitimate possibility of death by alcohol poisoning.

At a .35 percent BAC, it is as if the same person was given anesthesia for surgery. And if a person can actually reach .40 percent BAC, they are likely to become comatose. That level involves a high risk of respiratory arrest, which can lead to death.

Despite being hospitalized after she was found behind the van’s steering wheel, Engel was found again, less than a week later, asleep behind the wheel of another stolen on a different highway, according to the Daily News.

She was found on a highway near the hospital in Sturgis, South Dakota where she was treated after her record-setting night the previous week. The vehicle was in a ditch beside the road this time, according to the Daily News, and authorities are waiting on another blood test taken.

While Engel was released on bail for her first DUI charge, she missed a court date between her two charges. Once back in court later in December, a judge ordered her to be held in jail without any bail.

She was later charged with two counts of driving under the influence and could also face charges for grand theft auto, according to the Daily News.

Engel’s extreme drunkenness still doesn’t surpass the reigning champion of intense alcohol consumption, and driving. And being found asleep at the wheel.

That distinction still remains in the hands of then 42-year-old Terri Comer who was found unconscious in early 2008 behind the wheel of a running car stuck in a snow bank in rural Oregon.

Comer’s BAC at the time was .72. She was still alive when deputies found her.



St. Cloud Woman Arrested for DWI with Infant

By admin

A woman in St. Cloud, Minn. was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of hitting a pedestrian with her car while in a parking lot, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

The woman was allegedly driving drunk, and had an infant in the car with her.

Police were dispatched for a verbal disturbance, which escalated to a physical altercation. En route to the scene, police stopped a silver car driven by Maria Elena Carrillo, 34, who had left the parking lot.

Carrillo was arrested for second-degree DWI, second-degree DWI test refusal and suspicion of a hit-and-run. She faces more severe charges than she might otherwise because Carrillo has a prior DWI charge and had an infant in the car with her at the time of the incident, according to Sgt. Orth of the St. Cloud police.

Carrillo is currently in police custody at Benton County Jail, and will have to appear in court.



Orange County Teenager Suspected of Felony DUI

By admin

After a single-vehicle drunk driving crash that sent one man to a trauma center with severe injuries, an 18-year-old was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI.

Danielle Everman of Fountain Valley, Calif. was arrested in December after she crashed her Ford Explorer into a guard rail, severely injuring her passenger, 20-year-old Jacob Dearman.

According to a police report, Dearman was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident. He was rushed to a trauma center nearby and treated for his injuries.

Everman was arrested after the crash, and released on $100,000 bail. The Orange County Register reported that Everman was under the influence of alcohol when she was drove the Ford Explorer off the road and into the guard rail.

No further information is currently available about the incident.



DUI Laws: New York Gets Strict

By admin

Last year, New York state saw about 12,000 DUI-related deaths, according to local CBS news.

As a result, the state has recently enacted strict new DUI laws to help decrease the number of fatal accidents. State Governor David Patterson signed the Child Passenger Protection Act, which outlines some of the toughest DUI laws in the country – according to the governor.

Patterson hopes it will help provide police officers with the tools they need to better prosecute DUI offenders.

The Child Passenger Protection Act is also referred to as Leandra’s Law, for an 11-year-old girl named Leandra Rosado who was killed as a passenger in a drunk driving accident.

Leandra was in a car with a friend’s drunk mother, Carmen Huertas, behind the wheel. Huertas caused a car accident, causing the car to flip. Leandra was flung from the vehicle, and later died from head and chest injuries. All other passengers survived the accident.

According to a local CBS report, Huertas was charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, DUI and assault.

Under Leandra’s Law, anyone driving a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while a child under 16 is a passenger can be charged with a felony, and may serve up to four years in jail if convicted – even if it is a first DUI offense.

Drunk drivers who cause serious injuries to a child could be charged with a Class C felony – punishable with up to 15 years in prison.

If a child dies as a result of drunk driving, the offender can be charged with a Class B felony and spend up to 25 years in prison.

In addition to increased DUI penalties, parents caught driving under the influence will be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

Leandra’s Law also makes it mandatory for any convicted drunk driver to have an ignition interlock device in their car.

Interlock devices require the driver to breathe into them before the vehicle will start. If any alcohol is detected in the breath test, the car will not start.

These new laws are meant to curb all future DUI fatalities – not just those of children. Hopefully drivers will think twice before getting behind the wheel after one too many drinks.



Colorado Springs Crime Lab Botched BAC Tests

By admin

The Associated Press is reporting that hundreds of DUI cases could be impacted by the flawed results of blood-alcohol tests coming out of an area crime lab.

According to law enforcement, at least 82 blood tests since January 2009 have registered higher blood-alcohol contents than they should have. These flawed tests were exposed as a result of internal investigations of the blood tests at the Metro Crime Lab.

As a result of these findings, more than one thousand drug tests from past cases are being retested. The new results will be sent to the county’s district attorney’s office and the Department of Revenue.

These offices will study the impact of the errors on any pertinent criminal cases and driver’s license revocation cases.

“We understand how regrettable this and we’re owning up to our own error,” said police spokesman Dave Whitlock. “We’re still getting our arms around the totality of it.”

The lab discovered the errors through its built-in checks and balances and quality assurance measures. According to Whitlock, officials do not believe that all of the tests that came out of the lab are in error.

Police are investigating whether the mistakes were a result of procedure or of human error. Changes have already been made to ensure that the tests will be more accurate in the future.

There is also an investigation underway by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the state’s main law enforcement agency, according to the AP.

The AP also attempted to question the district attorney’s office about how past defendants are being notified about the potential for errors in DUI cases. The office was unavailable for comment, however.

A representative of area defense attorneys raised her doubts about the process. Sandy Mullins, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, told the AP, “It puts a lot of things into question. We take a lot of these tests as fact, when in fact these are being administered by people and systems. Just like any system, they can be faulty.” Where often it’s assumed that a machine-rendered test is undeniable fact, Mullins said, “this proves that tests do lie sometimes.”