Apr

30

DUI Driver Sentenced to Year in Prison for Hitting 9-Year-Old Boy

By Mike

A drunk driver has been sentenced to a year in prison after he struck a nine-year-old boy who was leaving a San Francisco Giants game last year, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle.

The man, 22-year-old Andrew Alan Vargas, appeared in court last week for sentencing and expressed his remorse to the family of the boy whom he struck with his pickup truck last August.

Before the crash occurred, young Ryan White was walking with his family back to their San Francisco hotel after watching a baseball game at AT&T Park. The Whites, who are from Yardley, Pennsylvania, had traveled to the Bay Area to watch their favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

As a result of the accident, which was caused by Vargas’s misguided decision to drive the wrong way down a one-way street, Ryan White suffered a lacerated liver and a fractured pelvis.

The parents of the child, Ken and Roseanne White, were unable to attend the sentencing hearing because they had to stay in Philadelphia, where their son was undergoing his fourth surgery since the crash, sources indicate.

In a letter to the judge, however, the parents made pointed remarks to Vargas, claiming that he was “incarcerated because of [his] actions” but they also noted that their son was also incarcerated because of the man’s actions.

In their letter, the Whites said that Ryan’s injuries have rendered him unable to do all of his favorite physical activities, including swimming, bike riding, and performing martial arts.

To his credit, Vargas did apologize profusely, both to the judge and to Ryan White and his family, for his decision to drive under the influence of alcohol.

In his statements to the sentencing judge, Superior Court Judge Nancy Davis, Vargas claimed, “I have learned so much out of this, and I’m determined to turn things around for them and will do everything in my power to avoid others from making the same mistake that I committed.”

Interestingly, Ryan White’s parents supported Judge Davis’s decision to only sentence Vargas to a year in prison (sources suggest that, had she wanted to, the judge could have sentenced Vargas to a much lengthier prison term).

Sources say that the family gave their approval to a decision last month in which Vargas pleaded guilty to a felony DUI charge with great bodily injury. Charges related to a hit-and-run were dropped.

In the White family’s words, they did not want Vargas “to sit in jail forever and do nothing” because, from what they had heard, he was “a good young man.”

Apr

27

Hapless Florida Man Arrested for Drunk Driving in his Front Yard

By Mike

Thousands of people are arrested for DUI charges every day, but most of these arrests happen on highways and other public streets. Few DUI arrests are made in the privacy of one’s own home.

One Florida man, however, bucked this trend after he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol when police found him repeatedly backing his truck into trees in his own front yard, according to a remarkable report from WJXT Jacksonville.

Sources indicate that Dennis Jones, a 57-year-old resident of Paisley, Florida, was charged with drunk driving after an unsuccessful attempt to back out of his driveway.

According to the police report, Jones was trying to back out of his driveway last Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. when his efforts went horribly awry.

While backing out of a driveway does pose some occasional challenges, Jones took these difficulties to a new extreme as he spent at least 15 minutes trying to escape his front yard by ramming into trees and spinning his tires in dirt.

Neighbors who called police to report the odd behavior told dispatchers that Jones smashed into trees, dug his truck into a hole, and repeatedly spun his tires in a manner that slung dirt into a neighbor’s yard.

When police officers arrived on the scene, they claim that Jones had a strong smell of alcohol on his breath, was slurring his speech, and somehow was missing a lens in his eyeglasses.

In an effort to ease the authorities’ minds, Jones curiously tried to defend himself by claiming that he had imbibed “less than one pint of vodka” that morning, according to the police report.

In one of the most predictable field sobriety tests in the history of modern jurisprudence, Jones failed to prove to police that he was sufficiently sober to drive, and he was unceremoniously taken into police custody, where he could do no further damage to his own trees.

Less than an hour after his arrest, police administered a breathalyzer test to the hapless driver, and he blew a staggering .242, which is more than three times the legal limit.

Some curious readers might wonder if Jones will be able to argue his way out of a DUI conviction because his driving took place within the confines of his own yard. This argument, however, is not likely to hold sway, as the man was clearly a danger to himself and others, especially if he had been able to successfully maneuver his way out of his own yard.

Apr

23

Scientists Creating Marijuana Breathalyzer to Test Stoned Drivers

By Mike

Unlike alcohol, which allows police officers to easily detect the amount of the substance in a driver’s system, marijuana poses all sorts of testing issues for state officials.

First, THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana, stays in a person’s body for weeks after the initial high has long since worn off. And, today, scientists do not have a reliable test to determine exactly how much marijuana is in a person’s system at any given point of time.

However, scientists across the country are working on developing a saliva test to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana, as several states look to push more aggressive marijuana marijuana DUI laws , according to a report from Reuters.

Sources indicate that scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a relatively obscure government research lab, have been developing a simple saliva test that will be able to detect whether a driver has recently been using marijuana.

The test, though, won’t be able to specifically measure the user’s level of marijuana use. In fact, according to the so-called White House drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, “I’ll be dead – and so will lots of other people – from old age, before we know the impairment levels.”

So, scientists are creating an admittedly less-than-reliable saliva test to gauge whether a person who is driving after smoking marijuana is too impaired to get behind the wheel.

And the unreliability of the saliva test has many DUI attorneys concerned that their clients could be hauled before a judge for DUI violations due to drug use that occurred days, or perhaps weeks, before the incident in question.

In response, law enforcement officials say that there are other gauges to determine just how stoned a driver is, including the redness of eyes, coordination, speech, and the like. But this seems to add a lot of guess work to an arrest that could lead to jail time or serious fines.

In fact, these concerns have already been addressed by a wary public. In California, for example, Proposition 19, which would have elevated marijuana to the status of alcohol in DUI arrests, failed in 2010 in part because voters were concerned that it didn’t specifically set forth a THC driving limit.

In the voters’ minds, if blood alcohol levels are capped at .08 percent, then THC levels should have an equally concrete limit for drivers. This limit, however, may be impossible to adequately set, given today’s current marijuana-detecting technology.

Apr

20

Racecar Driver Al Unser Jr. Convicted of Second DUI in Five Years

By Mike

Racecar legend Al Unser Jr., who is the youngest member of the iconic Unser racing family, was convicted for his second DUI in less than five years, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Unser, who has won the Indianapolis 500 twice, pled guilty this week to Albuquerque prosecutors’ charges that he was drag racing while intoxicated during an incident last September.

During that incident, New Mexico state police saw Unser, who was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Suburban, racing another car on a state highway at roughly 3 a.m. The two cars were traveling at speeds of more than 100 mph in a 60 mph zone, according to the police report.

While the other car evaded police, officers eventually caught Unser, who had a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit. Sources say that, when police arrested him, Unser lamented that they had “caught the slower driver.”

Sources suggest that Unser pled guilty to a few lesser counts in order to avoid being tried for charges of aggravated DUI and reckless driving.

As part of his plea agreement, Unser was sentenced to three months in jail, but a friendly judge reduced this sentence to a year of supervised probation. As a result, Unser will remain a free man, but he will have to report frequently to his probation officer.

The 49-year-old racecar driver was lucky to avoid jail time after being convicted for his second DUI, especially given the extreme nature of his arrest. Speeding down a road at 100 mph while drunk is often a ticket to extended jail time.

In 2007, Unser was involved in a crash on another New Mexico freeway after which police discovered that his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

After this accident, Unser lost his driver’s license for 90 days, paid a $1,000 fine, and attended a few classes that discussed the perils of drunk driving.

Not surprisingly, some observers are upset with what they perceive as preferential treatment for Unser, whose family is from Albuquerque and considered local racecar royalty.

According to Anna Duerr, a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, “[c]elebrities and sports figures need to be treated just like any other driver” because drunk drivers “kill 10,000 people each year and injure 350,000.”

In response, the DUI attorney for Unser says that his client has apologized for his poor judgment and is “taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Of course, an attorney for Unser made a similar statement after the incident in 2007.

Apr

18

Congress Launches Study into DUI Ignition Interlock Technology

By Mike

The U.S. Congress has launched a study into the effectiveness of “in-vehicle” technology, such as ignition interlock systems, when trying to prevent drunk drivers from starting their cars, according to a report from Politico.com.

In a recent transportation bill passed by the Senate, politicians subtly inserted a provision that asks the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to study the potential effects of a “more widespread deployment” of in-vehicle devices.

The research will be conducted by the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, which is a joint effort between the automobile industry and the NHTSA to reduce the overall occurrence of drunk driving.

The goal of the research is to design technology that is “far less intrusive” than the current ignition interlock devices, which require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer device that is attached to the car’s dashboard and wait up to a minute for the breath sample to be measured.

Several states require repeat DUI offenders to have these devices installed in their cars, and some states have even proposed laws that would require first-time drunk drivers to blow into these machines before starting their cars.

Of course, the efforts by Congress to develop better DUI prevention technology have been met with some resistance from civil liberties advocates, as well as the alcohol industry itself.

According to Sarah Longwell, the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, the bill could eventually lead to a mandate that forces all car makers to insert these devices into their cars as original equipment.

This, naturally, upsets the American Beverage Institute, which represents alcohol distributors and restaurants that sell alcohol, because the presence of alcohol testing devices in cars could dramatically reduce the number of people willing to go out on the town to drink.

In response to these concerns, those who support the bill claim that car companies would not necessarily have to insert these devices into every new vehicle.

According to J.T. Griffin, a senior vice president with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, “car companies right now are trying to figure out how to do it and if it can even be done. The goal is this would be a voluntary technology.”

However, Griffin also said his organization believes that, ultimately, “every parent in America is going to want this on their vehicle.”
If this prediction proves correct, alcohol detection systems could eventually become as common a car feature as radios, windows, and air conditioning.

Apr

16

Chicago DUI Accident Kills Law Student at Northwestern University

By Mike

The tragic death of a law student at Northwestern University has led to drunk driving charges for a 21-year-old Illinois man who allegedly struck the student with his vehicle at a Chicago street corner.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that Bianca Garcia struck 32-year-old Jesse Bradley while he was walking in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, apparently in an effort to seek a late-night snack.

Sources say that Bradley was walking across a crosswalk on LaSalle Street when Garcia’s Jeep Liberty ran directly into him at about 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital declared Bradley dead at 2:54 a.m.

After the accident, Garcia reportedly fled the scene of the accident by driving the wrong way down a one-way street, but police officers pulled her Jeep over a few minutes after the collision.

Police officers were suspicious of the car because it had serious damage to its front end, including a missing headlight, and there was a significant amount of smoke coming from the engine compartment, according to the police report.

After police pulled her over, Garcia refused to submit to a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test, but this did not prevent Chicago prosecutors from bringing DUI charges against her.

Sources indicate that Garcia has been charged with felony aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, and misdemeanor reckless driving. Police also cited her for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and for driving with a license.

After the accident, Garcia decline medical attention, but sources say that she eventually was treated for injuries, along with a 20-year-old woman who was riding in the backseat of the Jeep, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Sadly, Bradley was beyond the point where treatment would help. According to the Chicago Tribune, Bradley had taken a semester off from law school, but was planning to complete his degree this summer before pursuing a career in corporate law.

As he awaited the completion of his degree, Bradley had taken a part-time job at a local Starbucks, which was partially due to his self-admitted addiction to coffee. Bradley had lived in Chicago for about five years.

In a recent interview, Bradley’s sister expressed feelings that were shared by the rest of his family. In her words, “it’s just bizarre. It really shows you how life can change in an instant. He was healthy. He was living. And he died. He should not have died at 32.”

Apr

13

Flawed DUI Tests Plague Several California Police Departments

By Mike

A few months ago, police officials in San Francisco faced a great deal of embarrassment when an investigation revealed that several breathalyzer tests administered to DUI suspects were flawed, a finding that threatened hundreds of DUI convictions.

This problem, however, does not seem to be isolated to San Francisco, as police departments across the country have experienced troubles with the reliability of their breathalyzer tests, according to a recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle.

An eerily similar situation happened in Philadelphia last year. There, the district attorney was forced to offer new trials to almost 1,500 people who had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol over a 15-month period.

This offer was made necessary by the finding in March 2011 that four different breath test machines used by the Philadelphia police department had not been adequately calibrated before their use.

San Francisco faced a similar problem with the calibration of their breathalyzer devices, but they used a different type of breath test, according to sources.

In addition to San Francisco, other California communities, such as those in Santa Clara County and Ventura County, have seen some dropped DUI convictions due to faulty breath tests, but not to the extent that San Francisco experienced.

In the city by the bay, the district attorney’s office is currently reviewing hundreds of cases dating back to 2006 to possible mismanagement of breath testing devices used by the city’s police department.

According to San Francisco Public Defender Jess Adachi, as many as 1,000 convictions could eventually be altered, although Adachi does have a bit of a skewed perspective, given that he stands to benefit from any overturned convictions.

Still, the fact that even hundreds of DUI convictions could be overturned is unnerving for judges and prosecutors alike, and it reveals the danger of relying on technology when identifying possible DUI offenders.

People who are arrested for a DUI should also note that there are a wide range of complications that could arise from a breath test, including the possibility of condensation in the device that skews the blood alcohol results, or simply misuse of the machines by poorly trained police.

A DUI arrest does not necessarily mean a DUI conviction, given the wide range of possible procedural violations or technological mishaps that sometimes plague DUI stops.

So, if you’ve been arrested for a DUI, remember that you are not necessarily convicted automatically. The court must still prove your guilt.

Apr

12

Navy Will Soon Give Breathalyzer Tests to Sailors and Marines on Duty

By Mike

In a decision that may not be popular with sailors, the U.S. Navy will soon start administering breathalyzer tests to sailors and Marines who are reporting for active duty on ships and submarines, according to an announcement made recently by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

The new tests are a small part of the Navy’s 21st Century Sailor and Marine program, which is a multi-faceted initiative designed to improve the lifestyles of members of the military.

The new initiative promotes healthy lifestyles by promoting better nutrition, heightened fitness, and responsible alcohol use. The wide-ranging program also has zero tolerance for drug use, according to a report from Fox News.

Of course, the program is not just intended to limit certain activities. It also reportedly offers programs related to topics ranging from suicide prevention, financial planning, and family and personal counseling.

These programs may be welcomed by many soldiers, but the breathalyzer tests administered aboard ships is a new, and potentially unwelcome, development.

The program, though, is a direct response to alcohol-related incidents that can “end careers and sometimes end lives,” according to a Navy spokesperson.

Sources indicate that, currently, roughly 180 active duty sailors are arrested for a DUI each month. The military believes this number is too high.

According to Mabus, the new program “is not done to punish, but to help. We want to help sailors and Marines make good choices before something happens that can’t be undone.” He also said the military’s goal is to maximize sailors’ safety, fitness, and readiness.

In addition, the Navy is concerned about sailors’ long-term healthy. According to Mabus, when “a sailor’s or Marine’s time in the military ends, whether it is after four years or 40, we want your productive life to continue and for you to leave the service in better health, more trained and better educated than when you came in.”

Sources indicate that equipment designed for alcohol screening tests will start being installed on Navy ships this month, and will continue to be rolled out through the end of 2012.

And, in response to privacy concerns given by many sailors, the breathalyzer tests given on board Navy ships would not be legally admissible in a criminal trial.

Instead, the tests are simply designed to give commanding officers notice about potential problems related to alcohol. Sources say the tests are not intended to lead to punitive measures, or criminal convictions.

Apr

10

Japanese Tech Company Designs Breathalyzer App for Smartphones

By Mike

One of the most frightening aspects of drunk driving laws is that a driver may feel fine to driver, and have no idea that the couple of drinks he or she had earlier in the evening resulted in a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

It would take a superhuman effort to determine, for example, whether one’s blood alcohol level is .06 or .08, but that .02 difference divides legal driving (though impaired) from driving that is punishable by a hefty fine or jail time.

The police, though, have powerful devices that can measure blood alcohol levels with extreme precision. Thus, the average driver may not know their true level of impairment until it’s too late due to a technological disadvantage.

This fact, however, is changing. Rapid advances in technology have started to bridge the knowledge gap between police officers and drivers who have had a few drinks.

One exciting example of new personal breathalyzer technology was revealed at the this year’s Mobile World Congress, where the Japanese-based cell phone company NTT Docomo released a breathalyzer device for smartphones.

According to a report in the International Business Times, the company’s unique form of breathalyzer attaches to smartphones and uses sensors to detect alcohol concentration and the breath odor of smartphone users.

The technology, however, does have some limits. Rather than offer a precise measurement of a user’s blood alcohol level, the NTT Docomo device only ranks a user’s level of inebriation on a scale from one to five.

While this may offer some guidance to drivers who have had a few drinks, it is not accurate enough to give a definite answer about one’s level of inebriation.

Moreover, even if it did give an accurate reading, and that reading was below .08, if a police officer’s breath test later registered a level above .08, the arrestee’s prior cell phone reading would not be admissible as evidence in court.

So, the new technology is certainly not a magic device, nor should it guide users in their decisions to drive home.

No police officer will have sympathy for drunk drivers who claim that their smartphone app told them they were only a “2” on the inebriation scale.

So, even with the exciting cell phone technology, drivers still have to rely on their common sense. If you have been drinking, but not very sure about your level of drunkenness, it is best to be cautious and err on the side of not driving.

Apr

6

Tampa Bay Relief Pitcher Matt Bush Charged With Drunk Driving

By Mike

It’s been a tough week for major league pitchers and drunk driving adventures. On the same day that fellow pitcher Bobby Jenks was arrested for a DUI, Tampa Bay relief pitcher Matt Bush was also arrested for driving under the influence.

Bush, however, may be in much more trouble than Jenks, as Bush reportedly struck a motorcycle driver who is in serious condition in a Florida hospital, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times.

Last Thursday night, Bush was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol for driving under the influence and feeling the scene of an accident, sources say.

According to a police report, Bush was driving a Dodge SUV at around 5 p.m. when he struck a motorcycle that was being driven by 72-year-old Anthony Trufano. During the accident, Trufano suffered numerous injuries, including broken bones and hemorrhaging in his brain.

At the time of the collision, Bush’s blood alcohol content was reportedly .180, which is more than twice the limit at which DUI laws assume a person is too impaired to drive. Because of the serious nature of the crime, police are currently holding Bush in jail without bail.

Sources indicate that alcohol issues have plagued Bush since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2004 by the San Diego Padres. The Rays, however, chose to take a chance on Bush and had been pleased by Bush’s efforts to turn his life around.

But the team may now be regretting its decision. In an official statement, the Rays said “[o]ur thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and his family. We will reserve further comment until we learn more about the incident.”

The police report indicates that Bush told police he had a “serious alcohol problem” and that he did not remember seeing Trufano or his motorcycle before the crash.

One witness at the scene told the Tampa Bay Rays that Bush’s car drove directly over Trufano’s head, and that he was surprised the driver of the motorcycle was not dead.

Remarkably, Trufano survived the accident, although he is currently in serious condition at Lee Memorial Hospital. Trufano’s daughter-in-law told sources that the victim was able to speak, but he does not remember what happened on the night of the crash.

The daughter-in-law also expressed her disbelief that Bush fled the scene of the accident. In her words, “I just don’t understand how someone can run over someone’s head and leave them in the middle of the road.”

Apr

4

Boston Red Sox Pitcher Bobby Jenks Arrested for a Hit and Run DUI

By Mike

Bobby Jenks, a longtime relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox who was signed this offseason by the Boston Red Sox, was reportedly arrested this weekend for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.

Jenks was arrested at 3:43 a.m. last Friday after striking two vehicles in the parking lot of Babes strip club in Fort Myers, Florida, and then leaving the scene of the crash, according to a report from The Fort Myers News-Press.

Police charged Jenks with a DUI and two counts of DUI with property damage, in addition to the charge that alleges the pitcher fled the scene of the accident.

The Red Sox are spending the month of March in Fort Myers, where the team holds their annual spring training camp. Jenks’ drug of choice, according to reports, was muscle relaxers, which Jenks admits may have impaired his ability to drive.

Typically, DUI arrest involve drivers who have had too much alcohol to drink, but drivers can be arrested for a DUI if they are impaired due to prescription drugs or other narcotics, as well.

Sources say that the 31-year-old Jenks paid a $4,250 bond and was released by police after just five hours in their custody.

According to the police report, Jenks was driving a white Mercedes SUV when he struck a parked truck at a Fort Myers strip club around midnight. After this collision, however, Jenks reportedly sped out of the strip club parking lot.

To his chagrin, local police pulled him over roughly five minutes after the crash because he was driving erratically. Police claim that, after they pulled him over, Jenks was “shaking uncontrollably and had a difficult time speaking.” Jenks also admitted to taking “too many muscle relaxers.”

And to make his situation worse, when responding officers asked Jenks if he’d taken any other substances besides the muscle relaxers, he said, “I’m going to be honest with you, I was just leaving Babes because I hit a car. I just had to get out of there.”

After expediting the police officers’ investigation, Jenks agreed to take a field sobriety test, but he told police that he was “going to fail it,” and if the arrest is any proof, he probably did.

Though Jenks complied with a request for a field sobriety test, he told the officer, “I’m going to fail it,” according to the report.
The Red Sox have not issued an official statement on the arrest, as they are awaiting more information before decided what, if any, disciplinary actions to take against Jenks.

Apr

2

South Florida Millionaire Convicted of DUI Vehicular Manslaughter

By Mike

A man colorfully described by the Washington Post as a “South Florida polo mogul” was convicted on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide this week after a fatal drunk driving crash that occurred two years ago.

A jury in Palm Beach County convicted 48-year-old John Goodman on both of the felony charges, which were raised in response to the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Sources say that, two years, ago, an inebriated Goodman sped through a stop sign and slammed his Bentley into Wilson’s car, which caused Wilson to roll into a canal, where the victim eventually died.

Shockingly, Goodman reportedly fled from the scene and waited roughly an hour before calling 911 to report the incident. At the time of the accident, sources say that Goodman’s blood alcohol level was measured at .177, which is more than twice the legal limit.

Despite the negative verdict, Goodman’s DUI attorney, Roy Black, said that he and his client plan to appeal the decision, though he did not offer any concrete examples of the portions of the trial the two would be challenging.

Nevertheless, in Black’s words, “multiple errors were committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client’s ability to get a fair trial. We intend to file an appeal so that our client can receive the just and fair proceeding to which he is entitled by law.”

Of course, the prosecutors in the case feel differently. According to State Attorney Peter Antonacci, “the jury in the Goodman case exercised sound judgment in its analysis of the factual and expert evidence in this trial.”

In addition, Antonacci observed that “Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future, and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott’s family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”

The Goodman trial has captured the attention of many legal observers in Florida due to the shocking nature of the accident, and the relative wealth of the accused man.

Goodman is the founder and owner of the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, and, as evidence by the use of his Bentley on that fateful night, has plenty of cash to burn.

Now, thanks to one very, very poor decision, Goodman faces the potential of spending the next 30 years in prison. Sources do not suggest whether the judge is leaning towards a lighter sentence, but this will be determined at the sentencing hearing on April 30.