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

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.

Mar

8

Virginia Passes Bill Requiring Ignition Locks for DUI Offenders

By Mike

A few weeks after the state’s House of Representatives passed a similar bill, the Virginia Senate recently voted 26-13 in favor of a proposed law that would require first-time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock system installed in their cars.

Under current Virginia DUI law, ignition interlocks are only mandatory for people who have been convicted of more than one DUI offense, according to a report from Patch.com. This system matches the law that is in place in many other states.

The new bill, however, would require Virginia drivers who are arrested for their first DUI offense to have an ignition interlock installed, which represents a fairly strict rule for first-time DUI offenders.

Ignition interlocks, for those who have not had the unfortunate distinction of using them, require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer device before they are able to start the car. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is above .02, the ignition interlock will prevent the car from starting.

The Virginia bill’s journey towards becoming a law has not been easy, as this is the sixth straight year that the interlock ignition rule has been proposed in Virginia’s General Assembly.

According to Kurt Erickson, who serves as the president of the Washington Regional Alcoholic Program, “Virginia’s patience with the more than 29,000 drivers in the state annually convicted of driving under the influence has worn thin.”

Erickson’s point is well taken, particularly because data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does show that almost 30,000 people were convicted for drunk driving offenses in Virginia in 2010.

In Erickson’s mind, ignition interlock devices help stop people from driving drunk. And, if the initial test doesn’t work, subsequent tests while the driver is operating his or her vehicle continue monitoring the driver’s blood alcohol level.

If the device determines that a driver is drunk while driving, the vehicle’s horn will start blowing, and the headlights will begin flashing to attract nearby police officers.

Of course, not every Virginian is excited about the proposed law. Some critics argue that the mandatory use of ignition interlock systems is overkill for first-time DUI offenders, many of whom will avoid drunk driving in the future.

Critics also argue that ignition interlock machines invade individual drivers’ privacy. This argument, however, was ignored by the Virginia Senate, which determined that the public benefit of ignition interlocks outweighs the loss of privacy suffered by individual drivers.

Jan

5

600 DUI Cases Fail Due to Expired Breathalyzer Certifications

By Mike

While a driver may be arrested for a DUI, there are several obstacles that the prosecutor must overcome before successfully convicting that driver on official charges.

Potential errors made by police officers during a DUI arrest include failing to follow standard police procedures, conducting an illegal search or seizure, or giving a faulty breathalyzer test.

Errors such as flawed breathalyzer tests can be a legal nightmare for police departments, as evidenced by a recent incident in Kentucky in which several alleged DUI drivers may be set free after the police made a very technical mistake.

According to an investigative report from Louisville’s Courier-Journal, the results from alcohol breath tests that were used against roughly 600 drivers may be inadmissible in court after police discovered that four lab technicians had let their licenses lapse.

In what the local prosecutor called a “very unfortunate situation,” hundreds of breath test results have been challenged because they were performed by lab technicians who were working with expired certifications.

The inadmissibility of these breath tests could lead to dropped cases against hundreds of suspected DUI drivers because the breath tests are often the best evidence police can present against people suspected of drunk driving.

According to a Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, whose cases will be weakened if the breath tests results are thrown out, these tests represent “the single most important piece of evidence at trial.”

He also observed that the results of portable breathalyzer tests, which are used in the field as a first line of detection by police officers, are not admissible in court because of their unreliability.

Thus, police typically rely on blood or breath tests that are administered at the police station after the arrest. These tests, it appears, are much more reliable than the portable units used by police officers.

O’Connell expects that many DUI lawyers will try to reverse convictions for their clients that were supported by faulty tests.

He fears that many convicted drunk drivers may be released, unless state authorities can support their convictions with other compelling evidence, such as video of the driver during the arrest, witness testimony, or the results of field sobriety tests.

And, even if the defendants are able to escape DUI charges, prosecutors may still try to convict them on other charges, like public intoxication, disturbing the peace, alcohol intoxication, and wanton endangerment, none of which require breath tests at trial.

Despite these potential alternatives, though, Louisville police are embarrassed by the incident, which they claim is very rare and hasn’t happened before in Jefferson County.

Of course, while the police and state attorneys may be upset, there are hundreds of suspected drunk drivers in Louisville who can’t believe their good fortune.

Dec

9

Talking Breathalyzer Adds Fun to DUI Prevention

By Mike

Recent technological developments have allowed police to check the blood alcohol content of allegedly drunk drivers on the scene. This new technology has also allowed drivers to check their level of inebriation before getting behind the wheel.

According to Tech News Daily, inventor Al Linke recently created a talking breathalyzer that tells its users New innovations, though, continue to make breathalyzer tests more appealing for regular folks. The newest invention, a talking breathalyzer, lets people who want to hit the road know if they are under the legal alcohol limit. The device can be built from a kit or it can be purchased whole, and it costs roughly $140.

The device contains an Arduino-based circuit board, which is attached to regular commercial alcohol sensor. When a person breathes into the device, the sensor heats the breath, and a chemical reaction changes the electricity flowing through the circuit board.

Somehow, the electrical change within the circuit board triggers a mechanism that allows the user to learn whether he or she is drunk.

In a unique twist, the machine does not require users to blow into a mouthpiece. In order to keep the device sanitary for multiple users, the talking breathalyzer only requires users to blow on its alcohol sensor.

In another effort to separate this breathalyzer from other commercially available devices, Linke programmed the machine to deliver the verdict through an electronic voice. Each unit comes with several voice options, including a pirate, a New York cab driver, and an old Englishman.

The device can also be programmed with digital music or a user’s own voice. Apparently, if the device is connected to a computer, users can also send updates on their level of drunkenness over Twitter.

One caveat, though, with the machine is that the talking breathalyzer does not give an accurate reading of a person’s blood alcohol content. Rather, it simply tells a user roughly how drunk he or she is.

As a result, drivers should not rely solely on the advice given by the talking breathalyzer when deciding whether to get behind the wheel. Only professional breathalyzers should be trusted to gauge a person’s blood alcohol level, and drivers are better off not trying to drive at all after drinking.

The company admits this shortcoming of its device on its website, where it warns users that the talking breathalyzer is “for entertainment purposes only.”

Nevertheless, if the device informs a user that he or she is drunk, it could obviously serve as a rough guide for people when they are deciding whether to drive.

Still, users are warned not to rely on the device’s information in their driving decisions. No police officer in her right mind would allow a DUI driver to walk free based on the words of a robotic pirate.

Nov

16

New Laws Require Interlock Devices for DUI Drivers

By Mike

Sometimes, it takes the tragic death of a young victim of a drunk driving accident to convince legislators to enact effective laws against the dangerous practice.

Nevertheless, lawmakers sometimes feel they can honor a victim’s memory by ensuring that similar accidents are prevented in the future. This phenomenon recently occurred in the Oklahoma state legislature.

According to KOCO news in Oklahoma City, the newly minted Erin Swezey Act aims to monitor drivers with prior drunk driving offenses by requiring drivers convicted of a DUI to have an ignition interlock system installed in their car for at least 18 months after their conviction.

In addition, drivers who arrested for a second DUI offense will have to have an interlock device in their car for four years after their arrest. Subsequent offenses will lead to a mandatory five-year period with limited driving abilities.

The law is named after Erin Swezey, who died in 2009 at the young age of 20 after she was struck by a drunk driver going the wrong way on an Oklahoma City turnpike. The drunk driver had previously been arrested multiple times for DUIs and other traffic offenses.

By passing the Erin Swezey Act, legislators hope that DUI offenders will no longer be able to get behind the wheel after drinking.

The ignition interlock devices mandated by the new statute act as a sort of gatekeeper to the car. When an interlock device is installed, a driver must blow into it in order for the device to determine the driver’s blood alcohol level.

If the driver is sober, the car will start. If, however, the driver has been drinking, the interlock device will prevent the driver from starting the car.

The interlock devices are usually installed on a car’s dashboard, and drivers who are required to have the devices will also have a special notification on their licenses about the interlock device requirement.

Typically, interlock devices prevent driving if the driver blows between a .02 and .04. In Oklahoma, drivers are eligible for a DUI arrest if they blow above a .06.

While Oklahoma has been relatively late to join the interlock device movement, statistics compiled by the federal government show that the devices have a profoundly positive impact on the prevention of drunk driving.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, interlock devices have been able to reduce repeat DUI offenses by roughly 67 percent. In addition, the federal agency claims that the devices have reduced DUI fatalities by nearly 30 percent.

These figures certainly seem convincing, but they actually may understate the benefits of interlock devices. In Arizona, state officials say that their new interlock program has cut DUI fatalities by more than 50 percent.

Oklahoma officials hope that the Erin Swezey Act, which takes effect this week, will have a similar impact.

Oct

3

New DUI Technology Measures Blood Alcohol Levels Through Skin

By Mike

Police have long loathed traditional breathalyzer tests for the same reason that doctors tired of oral thermometers—sticking objects into the human mouth requires worrying about sanitation and discarding used devices.

Of course, the alternative to a roadside breath test, which requires using a needle to extract blood from a DUI suspect, is even more invasive and raises more serious health concerns.

In response to the disadvantages posed by these methods, two companies are developing a device that check drivers’ blood alcohol levels by simply touching their skin.

According to an article in USA Today, Takata, a Japanese company with a U.S. office in Michigan, and TruTouch a New Mexico-based corporation, are trying to make touch devices commercially viable using a $2 million grant from the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.

In its current stage of development, the device, which is roughly the size of a breadbox, uses an infrared sensor to determine whether a driver is intoxicated.

Eventually, the company plans to scale the device down so it becomes small enough to place on a car’s start button, preventing would-be drunk drivers from ever firing up the engine.

The companies plan to sell the device for roughly $200, and with the goal of having the touch button replace the cumbersome ignition interlock device that DUI offenders sometimes have to use before starting their cars.

The companies say the device may even be hidden, or unknown to drivers, which will likely raise concerns from advocates worried about preserving personal liberties.

Despite the potential for such disputes, experts say most drivers will have to voluntarily agree to the installation of the device, and it will certainly be easier than having to repeatedly blow into a tube, provided that the technology actually works.

While the two companies are optimistic about the device’s commercial readiness, there remain a few hurdles to make the tool more sturdy and reliable.

With the grant money, the companies are looking to reduce the tool’s processing time from several seconds to just a few hundred milliseconds. In addition, the tool only works at room temperature in its current condition, so scientists are working to modify it for operation in more extreme temperatures.

There is increasing demand for better-designed blood alcohol tests in the United States, which saw almost 11,000 people die in drunk driving accidents in 2009 alone.

According to sources, deaths caused by drunk driving account for almost a third of all driving fatalities each year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has praised the work of Takata and TruTouch, claiming in a statement that the new technology signals a “new frontier in in the fight against drunk driving.”

A program director for the Driver Alcohol Detention System for Safety, Susan Ferguson, believes that this frontier will soon be breached.

By her estimation, the touch-activated device will be on the market within the next 10 years.

Sep

28

Police Force Sober Teenager to Take Breathalyzer Test

By Mike

Breathalyzers are typically used at traffic stops when police suspect that someone has been driving under the influence of alcohol. Rarely, though, are breathalyzers used on young people who are not driving.

A 13-year-old boy, however recently discovered that police have several applications for breathalyzers, which are simple devices used to detect a person’s blood alcohol content.

According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against police in Livonia, Michigan after the police allegedly forced a teenager to take an alcohol breath test while on a school field trip.

At the time of the incident, the boy and his classmates were on a field trip celebrating their eighth grade graduation at Livonia’s Rotary Park.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the boy and his friends had walked into nearby woods for a brief walk when an assistant principal, who had followed them into the woods, found them and accused them of drinking alcohol.

The assistant principal based his allegation on a liquor bottle that was found near the boys, though they claimed it did not belong to them and that they had not been drinking.

When the police arrived, they forced the students to take a Breathalyzer test. To the embarrassment of school officials and the officers, each boy blew a 0.0, proving that they had not had alcohol.

The boy’s lawsuit focuses on the officers’ breach of his Fourth Amendment right to not be subjected to an unlawful search. The Fourth Amendment is designed to protect innocent people from obtrusive searches by the police.

According to the ACLU, federal and state courts have ruled police officers must have a search warrant to administer a breathalyzer test to someone who is not driving.

The lawsuit also claims that, not only did the police officers not have a warrant to lawfully administer the blood alcohol test, they also did not have any probable cause of wrongdoing that might have given them a reason to pursue a search warrant in the first place.

As the lawsuit stated, “[w]hen there is no evidence that a child has done anything wrong, he should never be subjected to this degrading and embarrassing procedure in front of his teachers and peers.”

As mentioned above, these types of situations are relatively uncommon. Breathalyzer tests are usually given to adult drivers when they are suspected of driving under the influence.

Even under these circumstances, however, breathalyzer tests are not infallible. In addition to the tests’ potential for making mistakes, police must also follow a strict set of guidelines when they give BAC tests.

If these police fail to follow proper procedures, or the results of the BAC test are unreliable, a DUI lawyer may help a person arrested for a DUI fight the charges.

Jul

22

Faulty Breathalyzers Prompt Review of DUI Arrests in Bay Area

By Topher

The results of blood alcohol tests—commonly administered via breathalyzers—often mean the difference between jail sentences and freedom for drivers who are pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence.

These tests, however, may sometimes malfunction. According to a press release in the San Francisco Chronicle, a few cities in the Bay Area recently reviewed hundreds of DUI cases that involved the use of faulty breathalyzers.

Some observers believe that the problem with breathalyzers extends beyond a few faulty machines. In fact, the fundamental technology and interpretation of breathalyzer results may have flaws, as well.

First, there is the threat of condensation. These blood alcohol testing machines are used more than once, and some critics claim that the breath of one person may remain on the machine until it is used by someone else.

Unless a test is given that can be used once and only once, this problem is likely to remain.

In addition, breathalyzers test for a number of different chemicals in the body, rather than just alcohol. Some people claim this broad scope may skew the alcohol-related results.

Third, the blood alcohol testers are designed to study the “average” person. If someone falls outside the average range—for example, if a person is very small or unusually large—the machine might find that person intoxicated even though he or she is able to pass field sobriety tests.

Fourth, breathalyzers have faced criticism because of the machine’s built-in margins of error. Most prosecuting attorneys will admit that the tests have margins of error of about .01 percent.

While this may seem like a minor defect, the legal blood alcohol limit is only .08. Thus, if someone has a .07 blood alcohol level, a potential breathalyzer error could have drastic consequences.

Moreover, the same machine often provides different testing results for the same person within just a few minutes. In order for breathalyzer results to be admissible as evidence, police officers must get a suspect to blow two different readings within .02 percent of each other.

Again, this seems like a relatively small difference, but DUI arrests are often determined by fractions of a percent.

In addition, margins of error not only decide the line between driving under the influence and legal driving, they may also determine whether a person has committed a misdemeanor offense or a more serious DUI crime – which may increase the penalties from a mere fine to a prison sentence.

While breathalyzers are not perfect, they do provide an efficient, objective means for police officers to determine the level of a driver’s intoxication.

Until a more reliable method of measuring intoxication is discovered, breathalyzer tests are likely here to stay.

Sep

19

Kentucky DUI Case Put Breathalyzer Burps Under the Microscope

By Mike

In a DUI case in Kentucky, a judge in the case acquitted a man suspected of DUI because of a burp.

According to the Courier-Journal, a judge found Bertrand Howlett not guilty of DUI because the judge had a personal recollection from his experience as a prosecutor of DUI cases years ago that a burp at the wrong time could skew the results of a Breathalyzer test.

Based on that recollection, Howlett was acquitted of the charge that stemmed from when police pulled him over after, according to officials, he was seen speeding and almost driving off the road. Police said he smelled like booze and that he failed a field sobriety test, and they charged him with DUI.

However, Howlett claimed that he had burped just before his blood alcohol content was tested back at the jail—a test in which he blew a 0.15. That burp, he contended, was enough to skew the results of the test. The judge in the case agreed. Police had not, in the judge’s mind, waited long enough after Howlett’s burp for the test to be accurate.

In testimony, Howlett said that the burp wasn’t a loud one, and that in fact no one may have been able to hear it. The machine used to measure his blood alcohol content stated in the manual that police should observe a suspect for 20 minutes before a test is given, in order to make sure that the only substance tested is air from the lungs.

If the test subject regurgitates, for example, police should wait 20 minutes before proceeding.

The DUI case in Kentucky was without a jury, so the judge was left to decide on the matter. He sided with the idea that the burp had skewed the test results, based on his time as a DUI prosecutor for six years while he was an assistant county attorney.

That decision has since moved to the Supreme Court of the state, not to appeal the DUI case decision, but to question whether a judge can admit as evidence a piece of his or her own knowledge. The county attorney’s office called the judge’s use of his own personal knowledge a “manifest injustice.”

Clearly Howlett wasn’t the only one left with a bad taste in his mouth.

Aug

14

Minnesota Sherrif’s Officer Charged with DUI, Tries to Steal Officer’s Gun

By Topher

Lawrence John Doheny, a sheriff’s department officer in Anoka County, Minnesota, has been charged with DUI and with attempting to grab a police officer’s gun after he was stopped on the highway.

While he was awaiting a blood-alcohol test, police had to Taser Doheny three times to get him to submit, according to Fox 9 in the Twin Cities.

Police saw Doheny’s car make a wide U-turn at a traffic light, then speed and cross over the center line before they stopped him on the highway. When the officer pulled Doheny over, he noticed that there was a smell of alcohol coming from the vehicle, and he saw signs that the driver was drunk.

Doheny said at that point that he had drunk a “couple of beers.”

Doheny got out of his vehicle willingly, but allegedly stumbled as he did so. He did not, however, agree to take an alcohol test, and he was placed under arrest, then transported to the Jordan Police Department and read the implied consent advisory.

Doheny then asked for a lawyer and to be allowed to make a telephone call. He then refused to take a urine or a blood test. He offered to take a DUI breath test, but Scott County, where he was being held, does not offer breath tests as an option in these situations.

Finally, Doheny agreed to take a blood test at the St. Francis Medical Center. “You guys nailed me,” he reportedly said. Doheny was not handcuffed as police transported him into the hospital, but that is when things started to get dangerous.

At that point, Doheny allegedly tried to grab a police officer’s handgun. He then threatened the officer by stating, “you really shouldn’t test me.” The police officer was able to secure his gun before Doheny shoved him in the chest, and took off on foot, ignoring the police’s commands that he get down on the ground.

When Doheny kept running, the officer Tased him. Doheny kept at it, and ended up getting Tased three times as back-up arrived on the scene.

Finally he was handcuffed, put on a stretcher and taken to the emergency room, where staff reported that he was belligerent. They were able to get a reading on his blood-alcohol content.

Doheny, who has been with the sheriff’s department in Anoka for 18 years, has been placed on administrative leave from his civil division post.

Apr

11

Washington State Schools Leader Gets Jail Time for DUI

By Topher

The head of the state of Washington state’s public school system had what he called a lonely, sad, sleepless and devastating night in jail after serving a one-day sentence for drunk driving.

Randy Dorn’s 24 hour stint in jail was the result of his guilty plea in his DUI case that concluded a week or so ago, reports Komo 4 News in Seattle.

Dorn is the Washington state superintendent of public instruction. He was arrested on March 21 when an officer in the town of Orting observed him speeding. The officer pulled over Dorn, who then failed a field sobriety test. His blood-alcohol content also measured over the legal driving limit.

Dorn, according to the police report, volunteered for a breath test and measured a 0.097 percent, compared with the 0.08 percent limit. Several other tests showed a content even higher. Dorn admitted to having had beer at a crab feed and dance at the sports club where he and his wife are members, and that he had stayed late to help clean up after the event.

Dorn pleaded guilty in a municipal court and received a sentence of 365 days in jail, with 364 days suspended.

His night in jail left him with the urge to return home, as may be expected. “That’s what I hope to do,” he said upon leaving the jail facility, “is go home with my wife and get some sleep, because I have a long day tomorrow.”

When the judge in his case asked Dorn if he had a drinking problem, the school administrator said that he did not. “I’m a diet cola guy,” he replied. The incident overall, he said, was a “teachable moment” and he said that it would not happen again.

Dorn wants to complete his term as school superintendent, which lasts four years. He apologized to Washington’s citizens, schoolchildren and parents, and to his wife and to his staff for their support.

“The past two weeks have been the worst of my life,” he said.

Dorn said in court that his attorney advised him to seek a lesser charge in the case, based on the way that the Breathalyzer was administered. But Dorn, according to him, rejected the idea, and faced the original DUI charge.

“I am a stand-up guy,” he said. “If I make a mistake, I believe I have to accept the consequences.”

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.”