Mar

31

NFL Star’s Arresting Officer Faces DUI Problems of his Own

By Topher

NFL football player Jerry Porter was arrested in Bakersfield, California, recently, on suspicion of drunk driving, assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, according to a story by the Associated Press.

While Porter is hardly the first prominent athlete to gain unwanted attention with a suspected DUI arrest, this case has taken several strange turns: Starting with the arrest itself and continuing on to the matter of the arresting officer, who is himself under investigation for drunk driving.

Furthermore, it is possible that the California Highway Patrol is investigating the officer for alleged brutality in the arrest.

Porter, a linebacker who recently signed a contract with the Arizona Cardinals football team, was approached by California Highway Patrol officers in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Bakersfield. It was early on a Saturday morning in what one source claims was a Taco Bell parking lot.

According to police, Porter refused to give them his driver’s license when they requested it, and he started to roll up his window when police asked him to exit the car. Police also say that Porter slapped at an officer’s hand when the officer attempted to unlock the door to Porter’s car.

The linebacker finally got out of the car and cooperated with the police, and he and a passenger in his car were arrested.

In a strange twist, though, Porter’s lawyer later revealed that the California Highway Patrol officer who arrested Porter for suspected drunk driving is in fact being investigated for two counts of driving under the influence on his own.

Bakersfield Eyewitness News reports that court documents reveal that 33-year-old officer Jeritt Greer was arrested by a Bakersfield cop after an undercover sheriff saw him and became suspicious, back in October 2009.

Greer was “driving erratically” according to the police report. He seemed to be drunk during field sobriety tests, and his blood-alcohol content was measured as .10 percent and .11 percent on several breathalyzer tests.

Eyewitness News is reporting the opinion of legal experts who say that “Greer’s DUI arrest may hurt his credibility if called as a witness against others arrested for DUI, including the Porter case.”

California Highway Patrol officials did not comment on Greer’s investigation, or on why he was still out on patrol. A spokesperson said that such situations are handled on a case-to-case basis. Greer pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of DUI.

According to TMZ.com, the California Highway Patrol has also launched an investigation into Greer’s conduct during the Porter arrest. As TMZ reports, “Joey claims the deputy manhandled him, striking him in the face.”

Porter’s agent, Jeff Sperbeck, told TMZ “it’s unfortunate that Joey has to endure the negative fallout surrounding this investigation. Joey has always been respectful and supportive of law enforcement in Bakersfield. The fact that one officer acted inappropriately will not change his views.”

Bakersfield is Porter’s hometown. He has played in the NFL since 1999, most of those with the Pittsburgh Steelers. More recently he played with the Miami Dolphins before signing with the Arizona Cardinals this year.

Mar

28

Miami Dolphins Star Running Back Ronnie Brown Arrested for DUI

By Topher

With each new week, it seems, there comes the latest story of a star athlete who is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The latest to carry on this trend is the running back for the Miami Dolphins, Ronnie Brown, who was arrested outside of the city of Atlanta, Georgia on suspicion of DUI, according to the Miami Herald.

Brown was on a trip to his hometown during the NFL’s off-season. He was stopped by police after making what the officer labeled as a lane change without a signal.

Brown did not have a previous record of arrest, and according to the Herald’s sources, Dolphins officials were “not believed to be overly upset with Brown because of his impeccable past as a layer and a citizen.” They did not comment about the arrest.

Brown was released from jail early on the Saturday morning following his arrest.

According to the sources who spoke with the Florida newspaper, Brown was distraught over the DUI arrest. The same sources noted that Brown had not done well when administered a field sobriety test.

The results of the test had led the officers to arrest him. The arresting officer’s detailed description of the arrest and field sobriety test have not yet been released to the public.

Brown hired an attorney to defend him, and the Herald’s sources said that it was still possible that the charges could be reduced to a traffic violation.

Brown’s agent, Todd France, did not respond to the media’s request for comment.

Brown is recovering from November surgery on his foot after a fracture that he suffered that ended his playing season. He is a restricted free agent, though he is expected to return to the Dolphins next year. Off-season voluntary workouts will soon begin, and this legal situation is not expected to restrict these football activities at all.

According to the Herald, Brown is a laid-back person who has not raised flags in his personal life before. He has spent his entire career with the Dolphins so far, after being drafted in 2005.

Mar

24

Indiana Police Officer Retires After DUI Suspect Leaves Scene

By Topher

In Pendleton, Indiana, a strange videotape of a DUI stop ultimately led to the retirement of the police officer involved in the incident.

Officer Mike Moore was videotaped by his own dashboard camera pulling over a man suspected of driving under the influence, according to NBC News. Officer Moore had the suspect step out of the car and move around to the rear to perform a field sobriety test.

According to Pendleton Police Chief Marc Farrer, the field sobriety test indicated that the driver was intoxicated, as he appeared to perform poorly, tipping over and staggering at various points. Officer Moore even put the suspect into handcuffs.

Then, however, the videotape went blank, and nothing more of the traffic stop or the field sobriety test was documented. According to Chief Farrer, what happened was that Officer Moore let the suspect go without making an arrest and without even filing a report.

“When I watch that I think of all the different things that could have gone wrong and affected my town and my department, liability wise, cost wise,” said Chief Farrer. The chief suspended Officer Moore, a 30-year veteran of the force, and recommended that the safety board vote on a termination hearing.

The board did not see the issue the same way as Farrer did, however, following Moore’s announcement that he would retire in February. The announcement came on the same day that the board would have voted on the termination.

The board voted to accept Moore’s retirement instead of moving forward with the hearing.

“It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to proceed,” said Pendleton Town Attorney Alex Intermill. “How do you fire somebody that’s already retired?”

Moore’s retirement benefits were not in question, no matter if or how the hearing had gone on. At stake was the matter of Moore’s ability to carry a firearm without a permit after his departure from the department, and his right to retire as a full fledged police officer with a badge.

The peculiar video was discovered during a random check of dashboard camera and police cruiser videos. Of his decision to suspend Moore, Chief Farrer said “I stand behind that forever.”

Mar

20

Georgia Ignition Interlock Bill Stalls in State Legislature

By Topher

The legal battles over ignition interlock law has made it to the state of Georgia, as lawmakers debate a measure that would require more convicted DUI offenders to use the mechanism on their cars.

According to the Savannah Morning News, the bill, brought by state representative Tom Knox, is waiting to be reviewed by Georgia’s House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving are urging the committee’s chairman, Burke Day, to schedule a hearing. Day has said that he will do so, but that he doesn’t know if he’ll do so in time for the state House to act on it this session.

In particular, the bill would allow judges to order the installation of ignition interlock on an automobile after a person’s first DUI conviction. The option for a judge to do so currently exists only for a person’s second DUI conviction.

According to MADD, Burke Day is “holding up and blocking” a hearing on the bill.

Day, in response, has said that he isn’t against interlock bills, but that he is “simply not going to let just any bill out until I have more facts,” and he emphasized that it is his job as chairman to make sure that bills are well-researched.

Day said that the state’s budget crisis has tied up hearing schedules, making it difficult to hold a public hearing about the proposed bill.

According to MADD representatives, in 2008 Georgia saw 416 drunk driving related deaths. They also said efforts similar to the proposed bill have reduced drunk driving deaths elsewhere by more than 30 percent.

While Day maintained that there were “other sides” to the issues raised by the bill, MADD lobbyist Frank Harris said that he had not heard about any opposition to the proposed bill. Day in turn responded that a public hearing often unearths this sort of opposition.

If the bill should stall this year, it will need a new sponsor next year, because Knox is giving up his spot as state representative in order to run for insurance commissioner. Of the bill, he said “I think it’s a good bill, and a necessary one.”

Mar

18

Teens and DUI Arrests: Serious Penalties for Everyone Involved

By Topher

There is a troubling variety of stories in the news about teens and drunk driving. Across the country teens find themselves arrested for DUI. Some of the worst cases involve serious injury or death while behind the wheel and impaired.

In Kennewick, Washington, for example, a 15-year-old was driving a stolen 1999 Oldsmobile when a Washington State Patrol officer attempted to stop him, according to the Tri-City Herald.

The teen fled in the car, and before police could stop him he struck a building. He was not hurt in the incident, though his 16-year-old passenger was taken to the hospital. The teen was charged with vehicular assault, driving under the influence and eluding police.

In Defuniak Springs, Florida, a teen from recently pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter following a collision that killed a friend of hers last year.

The Associated Press is reporting that Elyse Tirico was 16-years-old when she crashed her car. Her defense team is asking that she be sentenced as a juvenile. If she is, Tirico could face a sentence ranging from probation to six years in prison. If she were tried as an adult, she could face ten years in prison.

Tirico’s accident happened after she left a party with two friends in her car. According to authorities, she ran a stop sign and crashed her car into a tree. Her blood-alcohol level was tested and determined to be 0.102 percent, well above the legal limit.

In San Diego, a teenager was arrested on suspicion of DUI recently, after allegedly running a red light and crashing into a car, injuring a woman in the other car. Police had to break the window out of the 51-year-old driver’s car to get her out of it, according to 10News. Police said that the teen, Julian Tavasci, appeared intoxicated and was arrested.

These are just a few recent examples of the serious consequences for underage DUI. Many states have special DUI laws for minors arrested for drunk driving that may carry harsh penalties. Unfortunately for many of these teens, a life lesson comes too late when the consequences are fatal.

Mar

16

DUI Mug Shot Web Site is Discontinued in Hawaii

By Topher

A new program in Hawaii aimed at reducing DUI arrests has been halted for further review.

The Honolulu Police Department launched a pilot program that posted the mug shots and names of DUI suspects online once a week. They hoped the extra attention on the arrests would discourage other potential drunk drivers.

This pilot program has been halted, however, to undergo a review by the Honolulu Police Department.

The Traffic Division operated the web site, which was initially intended to run for six months but made it only four. It started the day before Thanksgiving in 2009.

Every Wednesday for those four months, the photos and names of DUI suspects were posted for 24 hours on a page called “Oahu’s Drunk Drivers,” according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Critics of the program stated that it was unconstitutional to post these photos online because it could infringe on the suspects’ right to a fair trial.

Laurie Temple, an attorney for the ACLU of Hawaii, noted that innocent people are sometimes arrested, and that photos posted online could be around forever even if the HPD site only posted them for a limited time. She said that the proliferation of the photos on social media sites like Facebook has validated the concern that these photos will live on long after they aren’t posted on “Oahu’s Drunk Drivers.”

HPD spokesperson Michelle Yu said that HPD did not close down the site as a result of these concerns, though they were aware of the re-posting issue. She said that they had received both positive and negative comments about the site.

The web project will now be reviewed by HPD officials, which was the result of an administrative decision. No photos will be posted during the review process.

One individual on Facebook started a page devoted to re-posting images, so that they were available indefinitely, rather than for the HPD’s 24-hour period. The page had over 10,000 fans. The person who started it, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed she started the page in order to raise awareness of DUI after a friend was killed in an accident in which her boyfriend had been driving under the influence of alcohol.

The executive director of MADD in Hawaii assured the public that though the web site would go down, police would still be out on the streets arresting people for DUI and conducting DUI checkpoints.

Mar

12

Jack Shea’s DUI Law Would Close Loophole in New York

By Topher

A proposed DUI law working its way through the New York senate and assembly would close a loophole and make it more difficult for drunk drivers to avoid prosecution.

The bill is commonly known as Jack Shea’s law after the Olympic medalist in the skeleton who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002. It has moved through the New York Senate, and now it must pass the assembly to go into effect.

Senator Charles Fuschillo, a supporter of the legislation, told the Legislative Gazette he was confident it would pass the assembly.

The new legislation revolves around Section 1194 of the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. This section defines who is allowed and qualified to take a blood sample at the scene of an accident from a person suspected of drunk driving.

In 2002, the driver who killed Jack Shea was able to avoid charges because of a loophole in this section. The argument that got him out of prosecution was that a physician had to directly supervise the drawing of blood samples.

In the Shea case, a police officer had requested that an emergency medical technician take the blood sample without a doctor present. Instead, a registered nurse and physician’s assistant oversaw the drawing of blood.

The blood sample had shown the driver to have a .15 blood-alcohol level at the time of the blood test.
Based on this loophole, however, the court had to dismiss the case, even in appeal.

The new legislation would take away the need for a doctor to be on the scene, and it would broaden the options for those with the authority to draw blood to nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and other professionals with a license to draw blood in New York.

When time is essential in many DUI cases, the ability of emergency first responders to draw blood could mean the difference in some situations. As it stands now, the law could discount blood drawn by EMTs and tested for blood-alcohol content.

Also, often in rural parts of the state, a doctor is not available to oversee blood drawing within a sufficient time period.

“This is another measure to strengthen provisions to get DWI drivers prosecuted,” said Fuschillo. He has been working on the bill since 2006.

Mar

10

DUI Arrest Leads to Outing of Gay California Politician

By Topher

California state Rep. Roy Ashburn’s DUI arrest earlier this month led the conservative politician to come clean about his sexual orientation.

For the past 14 years Ashburn has been a Republican senator who consistently voted against movements for gay rights, reports the Associated Press. But on a radio in his California district he came out out of the closet, saying: “I am gay… those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.”

Ashburn is a 55-year-old father of four who stated he has always tried to keep his personal life separate from his professional life. But his recent drunk driving arrest brought both together under the public spotlight.

The senator was arrested near the Capitol in Sacramento on March 3rd for erratic driving. A breathalyzer test revealed Ashburn’s blood-alcohol level was .14, according to the Associated Press, well above the legal limit of .08.

After his arrest, news outlets reported that Ashburn was driving with an unidentified man in his government-owned car. The pair had allegedly left from Faces, a gay nightclub in the area.

Ashburn has been on leave from work since the arrest, but attended a Senate session where he was warmly received by Republicans and Democrats. The senator has basically tried to avoid the media, the Associated Press reported.

Ashburn has consistently voted against anything offering equality to gays, including a day of recognition for Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California.

As far as his voting in the Senate is concerned, Ashburn says his votes don’t necessarily reflect his own views, they reflect the way he feels his constituents would want him to vote. He doesn’t believe his work is a place to bring his own “internal conflict.”

The senator asked for support from friends and family, and says he has no plans to run for further public office after his current term ends.

Mar

5

Arrested for DUI for 21st Time, Man Facing a Decade in Prison

By Topher

An Ohio man was convicted of his twenty-first DUI recently, and with a dramatic statement a judge sentenced him to ten years in prison, representing the maximum term possible in the case.

Forty-five-year old Kevin J. Ante did not comment as the Butler County judge handed him the sentence in Common Pleas Court. According to authorities, they initially knew of 17 of Ante’s DUI offenses. Recently, however, they uncovered four more DUI convictions on his extensive record.

Even Ante’s lawyer, David S. Washington Jr., was surprised at this development. Whatever the final count, Washington agreed, it was far too many DUI convictions.

Ante was only recently released from prison on the same charges of drunk driving. He served a four year sentence, and was picked up for his latest DUI only 90 days after his release.

According to police, Ante even attempted to evade arrest when he was stopped on December 3, 2009. He got about a quarter mile away before they were able to pull him over. Police quickly smelled alcohol and realized that Ante was confused or unresponsive, according to WKRC in Cincinnati, and he was arrested for DUI.

The judge in this latest case, Judge Michael Sage, said that he had never seen such a case in 20 years as a judge and 30 years as a lawyer. Judge Sage made reference to the 2005 DUI that landed Ante the four year sentence.

“You served every day of that,” Sage said as he made his ruling. “I struggle with cases like this,” he continued, “because, in my mind, alcoholism is a disease.” Sage noted, however, that Ante did not use his previous time in prison to address his problems with alcohol.

In making his decision to enforce the maximum sentence, Sage said that he was protecting the public. “You are a ticking time bomb waiting to kill somebody,” he told Ante.

Ante’s 21 drunk driving convictions stem all the way back to his first one in 1982.

Mar

3

Minnesota NBA Star Apologizes for DUI Arrest

By Topher

Another athlete is making a public apology after being arrested for DUI.

The Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team have suspended their star center Al Jefferson for two games without pay after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated recently, according to the Associated Press.

Jefferson apologized to his team and to fans after the DWI arrest. He also said that he accepts the punishment that the Timberwolves handed down. In his apology, Jefferson said:

“I want to apologize to the entire Timberwolves organization, owner Glen Taylor, my teammates, coaches and Wolves fans everywhere for my actions last night. I made a very poor decision and I am truly sorry for that. As a leader on this team, I know that more is expected of me, and I am disappointed in myself.”

Jefferson was stopped on Interstate 394 in Minneapolis, near downtown, early on a recent Sunday morning.

According to police, he was speeding and changing lanes without a signal. Jefferson took a field sobriety test, then agreed to be transferred to a nearby hospital for a blood test to determine his blood-alcohol content. His car was towed, and police described him as very cooperative with their efforts.

The results of the blood tests had not come in yet, and are expected in the next several weeks.

Jefferson’s arrest came after a loss to the Portland Trailblazers. Jefferson had scored 19 points in the game, which took place at the Target Center.

“On behalf of the Timberwolves organization, we are disappointed that Al used poor judgment last night,” said Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn. “Thankfully, nobody was injured or hurt.”

Kahn also said that Jefferson felt terrible about the incident, and that he understood how serious an issue it was for himself and for the team.

“He feels terrible,” said Kahn, “and I believe him when he says he will learn from his mistake.” Kahn reiterated also that the suspension was appropriate.

Jefferson is 25-years-old, and has played in the NBA since 2004, where he started out with the Boston Celtics. He was traded to Minnesota in the blockbuster deal that sent star Kevin Garnett to Boston.