While Thanksgiving is the traditional celebration Americans observe this time of year, another festivity has come into popularity is the potentially risky Blackout Wednesday.
Blackout Wednesday, or Thanksgiving Eve, occurs the Wednesday before Thanksgiving; it is associated with binge drinking, as most people do not work on Thursdays, and many college students are home with their families to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Data from several organizations show that both drunken driving and binge drinking exponentially increase during the holidays—beginning with Blackout Wednesday.
In some urban areas, bars report they see greater business on this day than on St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve, according to a Detroit CBS affiliate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 728 people will be injured or killed every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, all due to drunken driving accidents. This amount is two to three times higher than the rest of the year.
Alcohol Monitoring Systems, who monitor previously convicted drunk drivers 24/7, see a 32 percent increase of drinking violations in the 17,000 people they monitor daily.
“And that’s for individuals who know they’re being tested every 30 minutes, know they’ll be caught and know there will be consequences,”AMS CEO Mike Iiams said in a statement. “That number just illustrates the significance of family stress, money stress and an endless supply of holiday temptations for people already struggling with alcohol.”
To combat the upswing in drunken drivers and DUIs, many communities see an increase in DUI checkpoints.
MADD reports that one arrest is made in every 88 episodes of drunk driving. DUI checkpoints, which target a greater number of drivers on a hazardous holiday, can lessen alcohol-related accidents and fatalities by between 18 and 24 percent.
Additionally, DUI checkpoints provide a deterrent for drivers to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, especially on noted holidays.
It is encouraged that Americans make a plan to get home safely before leaving holiday gatherings ahead of time to lessen the risk of driving drunk.
The potential costs of a DUI arrest can be very high, as drunk drivers often face large fines, possible jail time, or a suspended license. The costs of a DUI, however, often extend beyond these immediate losses.
For example, many people who are convicted for a DUI find that their insurance premiums rise dramatically. Insurance companies, quite naturally, are more reluctant to insure drivers with a history of drunk driving.
According to a recent report from Fox Business, insurance premiums for drivers with a DUI on their driving record could rise anywhere from 30 to 100 percent.
In Colorado, for example, rates may jump by 30 percent, while North Carolina residents could face a staggering spike of 340 percent on their next car insurance bill. Some insurance companies may drop customers altogether, depending on the severity of the drunk driving incident.
While insurance rates may spike after a DUI, this rise is not necessarily permanent. The length of time rates will rise depends on your insurance company’s own policies, but it is common for your record to be wiped clean (in the insurance agency’s eyes) after about three years.
However, many states keep DUI convictions on a driver’s record for much longer periods of time, which could result in a driver facing higher premiums for up to a decade.
In California, for example, drivers are prevented from receiving a safe-driver discount for at least 10 years after a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.
In addition to increased insurance rates, drivers also have to complete an SR-22 form, which is a certificate of responsibility that many states require drivers to complete after they have been convicted of a DUI.
This certificate of responsibility must be carried by the driver for a certain period of time (usually three to five years) after the driving incident that created the need for the special license. Again, this certificate is just another hurdle for drivers after a DUI.
Of course, the statistics showing insurance rate spikes after a DUI serve as evidence that people who are arrested for a DUI should take the charges very seriously. And just because a person is arrested for a DUI does not mean that he or she will be convicted.
A number of things can go wrong during a DUI arrest that may hurt the prosecutor’s case, and a DUI attorney may help you understand more about your legal rights after drunk driving arrest.
And, if you are able to defeat your DUI charges, your insurance company may never learn about the incident, and insurance premiums may stay put.
While this may not always be the case, it is certainly worth your time to research your legal options after a DUI arrest, because these incidents do not always have to be fatal to your reputation or your finances.
When people drive home after a night of drinking at a bar, they usually gauge their level of drunkenness with a quick glance at the mirror or a simple balancing test. Getting arrested for a DUI is rarely on their minds.
Some enterprising souls carry portable breathalyzer tests, but these are expensive, and sometimes difficult to use. Most drivers, however, simply guess whether they are sober enough to drive home.
In response to this information gap, a company in Buffalo, New York has designed a breathalyzer kiosk that could offer quick blood alcohol readings for bar patrons, allowing them to drive home with the knowledge that they and their passengers are safe.
According to the University of Buffalo Reporter, Ladybug Technologies recently announced the release of their new machine, the SipSmart Network, which allows bar customers to check their blood alcohol levels before they get into their cars.
In addition to the new kiosks, the company also sells a portable breathalyzer test, as well as a smart phone application that helps drinkers keep track of their BAC by entering each drink they consume and their body weight.
The kiosk, however, is the jewel of the company’s DUI-preventing fleet of machines. Sources indicate that the SipSmart Network machines contain a police-grade breathalyzer unit, which is covered by a “thin, sleek” kiosk.
The machines also use platinum fuel-cell technology, which allegedly helps the devise obtain accurate data about a user’s blood alcohol levels.
A pilot program aimed at studying the usefulness of the machines has started in a bar in New York, as well as a bar in Ontario. These pilot machines require a $5 payment from each customer for a reading.
Each $5 payment entitles a user to three different breath readings throughout the night. Before using the machine, though, customers must also purchase a 50-cent disposable mouthpiece from a nearby dispenser.
While the machine may offer a helpful resource for some potential drunk drivers, it still has its critics. First, some people note that the machine often takes up to 15 minutes to provide an accurate reading, which could dissuade some customers who are leaving a bar in a hurry.
In addition, critics are concerned that people will use the machine to drink until they are right at the legal limit, then immediately get into their cars.
Even though customers may technically be under the legal limit, they may still have reduced reaction times or poorer vision due to their drinking. In other words, just because a person passes a kiosk test, they aren’t necessarily in the best shape for driving.
Finally, customers that rely on the kiosk should also be warned that police won’t let them go simply because they passed a test a few minutes ago. If a police officer’s breathalyzer reaches a different measurement than the kiosk’s, the police will always rely on their own reading.
So, much like alcohol, the kiosk might be a fun tool, but it should be used wisely.
The trauma induced by a police officer shining a flashlight directly into a motorist’s eyes during a traffic stop may be one of the most indelible memories of an encounter with the police.
However, while the flashlight-in-the-eyes gambit can burn the retinas, it rarely helps police detect whether a driver has committed a crime.
A new toy for public safety officers, though, could help law enforcement officials use flashlights to detect whether someone is driving under the influence of alcohol.
And this new device isn’t a product of science fiction. It’s being deployed in cities near you.
According to StateCollege.com, police in State College, Pennsylvania, recently received a fresh shipment of the flashlights that can apparently detect whether someone has been driving drunk.
The spaced-aged flashlights, which cost around $700 apiece, were given to the State College police department as part of long-term, federally funded research project aimed at studying the effectiveness of DUI-fighting tools.
The flashlights, which are called “passive alcohol sensors,” look to be normal illuminating devices, but when they are placed within a foot of a driver’s nose, they can detect whether the driver has been drinking lightly, moderately, heavily, or not at all.
Lights on the end of the devise indicate whether the motorist should be given further tests to determine his or her level of inebriation.
Since the flashlights are less than precise, they cannot be used as the sole basis for an arrest. However, they can help police officers determine whether further testing is needed to gauge a person’s blood alcohol content.
According to one study, the percentage of drunk drivers detected at a traffic stop using the sci-fi flashlights was 71 percent, which represented a large increase over the 55 percent of drunk drivers detected using more traditional methods.
While the flashlights may seem invasive, the police do not intend to use them secretly. State College police plan to use an advertising campaign to alert drivers to the presence of the new machines.
Of course, in an interview, one officer remarked that most drivers would not be told the flashlight was used during a traffic stop until after an arrest.
Some critics are concerned that the devises could be used outside of traffic stops. Police, however, promise that they do not intend to use the flashlights for, say, pedestrian checkpoints.
Nevertheless, State College police claim that they may also use the flashlights in the event of an open container violation, or a medical emergency.
In defense of the new technology, law enforcement officials say that the device traditionally used as an initial DUI detector—the human nose—is far less reliable.
By introducing a more objective initial test to determine the presence of alcohol, police say the new flashlights may ultimately prove more trustworthy than an individual officer’s arbitrary sense of smell.
In South Dakota, there is a legal loophole in DUI court cases that may be enabling those arrested for DUI to get off the hook for offenses that might otherwise be punishable, according to an article in the Rapid City Journal.
The situations are somewhat exceptional, dealing with those arrested for DUI multiple times within a very short period of time. In these so-called DUI clusters, one case might still be left open and without a conviction entered on the record when another DUI arrest occurs with the same person.
Because of constitutional presumption of an innocence, a person may be facing two charges of a first DUI at the same time, and not have to deal with the escalated consequences of multiple offenses.
Take the case of 53-year-old Barbara Van Ekeren. She was arrested for DUI for the first time on May 1, 2009. She pled guilty, and was given a suspended imposition of sentence that July. Her file remained open, and the conviction did not appear on her record.
She got arrested for DUI again soon after that, in November. She was charged with first offense DUI for that arrest as well. Then, in February, she was arrested again. She was able to plead guilty to second offense DUI for both of these arrests, rather than pleading guilty to third offense DUI.
She served 15 days in jail, as per the judge’s order, for these second offense pleas. The loophole occurred because the DUI arrests were so close together. These clustered DUIs enable some of the worst DUI offenders to avoid felony convictions.
According to the president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Lila Doud, Van Ekeren is getting a freebie for one of the DUIs by avoiding the third offense conviction. She has publically voiced her frustration about the law, and told the Rapid City Journal that this sort of freebie DUI situation occurs frequently.
Doud blames the law’s systematic treatment of DUI for their ability to leave with the lesser sentence in the cases.
“When they’re not sentenced on their first one and end up getting the second, they’ve got a freebie,” she said.
According to prosecutors, they are limited by the constitutional presumption of innocence. MADD officials as well as state leaders agree that there should be something done to be tougher on these repeat offenders, but that it’s not a simple fix. The legal system’s methodical nature make change slow to come and difficult to finalize.
Currently causing the loophole is the law that DUI offenses can’t be escalated to the next level until the defendant has pleaded guilty or has been found guilty, the Pennington County State’s Attorney Glenn Brenner said. “But in order to get a third offense, you have to have two prior convictions and in order to get a fourth offense, it’s not good enough to have three prior convictions. You have to have a third offense felony DUI before you can enhance to a fourth offense.”
At the root of the issue is the presumption of innocence. Cases can’t be escalated without a conviction, and these can take months, even while repeat offenders with alcohol addictions pile up DUI arrests.
“We need to get them through the system faster,” said Doud.
South Dakota extensively combats DUI with billboard campaigns and police presence, and Rapid City police chief Steve Allender believes that there are fewer drunk drivers on the road now. “Every day and night, we are looking for the drunk driver,” he said.
The economy has caused many of us to make cuts not only personally but also in business, and the government is no exception.
They need to make cutbacks just like the rest of us. In order to save money they have begun using advanced technologies to monitor people with DUI convictions.
Many states closed down prisons in the past couple years making it expensive and uneconomical to fill them especially for lesser crimes such as drunk drivers. So some states have adopted electrical monitoring devices for people convicted of DUI.
Included in this development of technology is Virginia. It only costs $12 for offenders to wear this ankle monitor 24 hours a day. This is the cheaper option compared to the $150.00 it costs to keep a minor offender in the Loudon County Jail. Plus the convicted driver is the one who pays the cost to wear the anklet.
Bari Lynn Williams is learning the hard way that this ankle bracelet can cause you to think twice about drinking and driving.
Back in April 2007, Williams was pulled over by the Loudon sheriff’s deputies. She had been at a golf outing earlier that day and had partaken in a few adult beverages.
The deputies pulled her over on suspicion of drinking and driving when they found baggies with drug residue.
She pleaded guilty to drunken driving and drug possession. She got two years probation. The judge told Williams he would dismiss the charges if she followed a court program of probation, therapy, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and periodic checks for substance abuse.
She had no problems until recently when a deputy stopped by her house for a check and her BAC content was a 0.09, a smidge over the legal limit in Virginia which is 0.08.
Williams faced up to 6 months in jail for violating the terms of her agreement- or she could wear the SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) anklet. This device has a small fuel cell located in the bracelet that’s sensitive enough to detect even the tiniest amount of alcohol that emerges from a person’s skin after drinking.
SCRAM samples perspiration every 30 minutes thus being able to detect the slightest amount of alcohol on the body. So every time an offender sweats it can sense the alcohol and alert the police.
There are about 15,000 SCRAM anklets being used throughout 46 states.
Williams states she’s thankful to be wearing the bracelet because it keeps her out of jail. Sure there is the slight embarrassment she suffers with her new fashion anklet, but to her it’s worth wearing. It keeps her from drinking and will prevent her from any future charges of drinking under the influence.
Drinking and driving is a universal problem and many are searching for solutions.
Although most people start out with good intentions, one drink leads to another. Before you know it, you hit the brick wall and attempt to figure out how the night took a turn for the worse.
You go back and forth questioning your ability to drive and many times, unfortunately, the wrong choice is made. You start the car increasing your chances of committing a DUI offense and worse endangering yourself or others on the road.
But what if there was technology that could decide for you? What if it could tell that your blood alcohol level was over the limit? What if it would not let you start your vehicle to drive home?
For example, if a driver drinks way too much past the predetermined limit, then an ignition interlock will not start the vehicle.
These are usually placed in the vehicles of convicted impaired drivers and commercial vehicles to promote safe driving.
But we are jumping into the future and the realizations that the dangers of drinking and driving affect everyone on the roads. We live in a world where alcohol is a part of everyday life and when mixed with driving can be a deadly and costly combination.
A company in Canada called Alcohol Countermeasure System Corp is investing $18 million in the “next generation” of alcohol-sensing technology. They hope to commercialize this product to combat future drinking and driving.
Some countries have started putting these devises in public buses, school buses and taxis to prevent anyone caring passengers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Volvos are being built with alcohol sensors and will be sold throughout North America. This way if you decide to get into your car and you’ve had one too many, then your car won’t start – saving you from making the wrong decision.
These devices will no longer be just a form of punishment but of method of teaching drivers to not drink and drive.
Unfortunately in some situations we can’t judge for ourselves. Hopefully modern technology can help stop not only our generation but future ones from getting a DUI offense and worse.
In a surprising move, Colorado’s Governor Bill Ritter plans to divert more than $1.3 million intended to fight drunken driving to help fill the state’s budget gap estimated at $318 million.
A recent Denver Post article stated that the $1.3 million, which is raised by a surcharge imposed on everyone convicted of a DUI offense in Colorado, has been used to “pay overtime for cops working the ‘Heat Is On’ crackdowns on long holiday weekends.”
This is particularly relevant as the recent Labor Day Weekend statistics are being tabulated and due to be released shortly.
For Colorado, their planned campaign for Labor Day weekend was to be the last funded by those grants if the legislature approves Ritter’s plan, and as of Tuesday, Sept. 8th, the decision has yet to be made.
As of now, in Colorado everyone convicted of an alcohol- related traffic offense pays a $90 fine, roughly 1/3 of which goes to the Transportation Department to fund grants for DUI enforcement.
The money is then dispersed throughout the local law enforcement agencies. For 2009 a total of $1.4 million was available to 56 police and sheriff’s departments. Nearly $375,000 is expected to be left after the Labor Day enforcement campaign.
This being the money that Ritter reportedly froze in an executive order.
Larimer County sheriff’s Sgt. Gerald Baker, who is the head of the department’s traffic unit was quoted as saying, “It’s going to have an impact on our numbers, and it’s a little too early to say whether it’s going to have an impact on injury accidents or fatalities.”
In 2008, within the state of Colorado, nearly 40% of all DUI related traffic fatalities occurred within a 24 hour window of a holiday; the same time period which is now under jeopardy of losing heightened patrolling.
Labor Day weekend is a time when families are to get together and celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the school year and the ever closing holiday season.
Unfortunately, some find themselves eye-to-eye with the law as they are charged with DUI.
Every region has their own collective of individuals who become part of this year’s statistics, and each in their own right is stunning in their toll.
For California’s Bay Area, this Labor Day weekend resulted in over 370 DUI arrests as the extended weekend began to close down, and it’s likely once the final statistics come in the number will increase. As for now, local law enforcement is proud to say they have rid the public’s travel ways of 370 potential disasters.
According to the story posted by San Francisco’s KTVU, “The weekend crackdown has led to the arrest of at least 371 individuals on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, compared to 377 arrests during the same time period last year, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.”
As well, and a point worth mentioning is that the same report stated that there were no deaths in the Bay Area accredited to drunk driving so far this weekend. This compares to the two alcohol-related deaths during the same period in 2008.
The long standing jokes about women who are pulled over by police and how they get out of tickets may have even less merit than before.
Sure there are cases where a woman may flirt to get out of a ticket or bat her doe eyes innocently at the officer in the hopes of avoiding a ticket, but now there maybe concrete evidence to prove that woman are more at a loss when it comes to the standard DUI laws than ever before.
According to an article provided by the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor, who is Los Angeles area DUI attorney and nationally-known author of the book Drunk Driving Defense, a study out of Italy shows there is a component to a female’s bio-chemical make-up which could make women more predisposed to fail a DUI road test. The study may prove that woman may be unfairly arrested for DUI in some cases and should be given more gender specific tests.
Taylor cites researchers at the University School of Medicine in Trieste, Italy, who found that women have less alcohol dehydrogenase than men. The study asserts that with less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach, women reach the same blood alcohol concentration as men after drinking only half as much.
The study goes on to state that women reached blood alcohol levels illegal in a DUI case after drinking 20 to 30% less alcohol than men of equal weight.
This could be a sturdy claim that could be asserted by many women when they find themselves eye to eye with a Trooper, but one that seems to only find merit in Italy at the moment.
In Canada, a study has shown that women taking oral contraceptives may reach peak BAC levels more quickly. This is a supposition that other attorneys have used when claiming their female clients failed a breathalyzer test due to the fact that they were taking oral contraceptives at the time of the test.
Both studies may eventually be a foundation for a compelling argument in the court room.
The underlying problem in this is that many women may not choose to argue against the validity of their failed test based on their sex. In fact, in the majority of the cases where birth control was a deciding factor for failure, it was a male attorney who plead the case.
At the end of the day, the best way to avoid this all together is to not drink and drive.
Some people are slow learners. Cases in point: This week we have two examples of people being arrested for DUI on consecutive days.
In Brownsville, Texas a man ran a vehicle off the road at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. He was arrested, charged with his first DUI and released about 11:20 a.m. on $3,000 bond.
A mere six hours later he was picked up again after he hit another vehicle. He was charged, once again, with DUI – and a host of other vehicular charges – and placed in prison under $40,000 bond.
Two days, two DUIs.
But in Wisconsin, a woman topped the Texas mark, picking up three DUI arrests in three days. Her first arrest came as she tried to drive out of a ditch near a state park. She was wearing only one shoe and registered a BAC of .21.
Not 24-hours later her car was stuck in a snow bank and she was arrested for DUI again.
“I am still finishing up the box of wine in my car from yesterday,” authorities reported she told the officer.
She spent 12 hours in jail, but was picked up not long after her release. She was reported to be driving erratically and was found, once again, with a box of wine in her car. She will now spend 30 days in jail.
We’ve mentioned many times that you can get a DUI offense in vehicles other than cars. This includes drunk driving of snow mobiles, scooters, riding lawnmowers, etc.
But, could face a DUI arrest even if you aren’t driving.
How’s that? The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of a man who started his car in a parking lot, sat in the driver’s seat while drunk but did not drive anywhere.
The court ruled that merely starting a vehicle is considered operating a vehicle. So the DUI conviction, which a lower court had overturned, was reinstated.
There are other examples in the DUI world of people being arrested even though they weren’t “driving” at the time. There are cases where a drunk driver got on the road, realized he was drunk and pulled over to rest or “sleep it off.” In these cases, you may be arrested for DUI even if you aren’t “driving” when police arrive.
The Chicago Sun-Times has more reports that Officer Joe Parker, formerly honored as one of the top DUI cops in the city, exaggerated DUI arrest reports.
The paper’s Web site has some great video from a 2008 arrest of Raymond Bell.
The video shows Bell performing a number of field sobriety tests, including walk-and-turn test, the one-legged stand and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.
After reviewing the video, and the contradicting police reports by Officer Parker, prosecutors have dropped all charges against Bell.
Now, prosecutors are looking into pressing charges against Officer Bell.
And they’re considering filing criminal charges against the 59-year-old Parker, who is one of three Chicago cops whose prolific DUI-busting has now come under scrutiny. Dozens of DUI arrests by Parker alone are under review, sources say.
“There is an ongoing investigation, but we are not going to comment in further detail,” said Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
These tapes became public, and the charges were dropped, thanks to actions taken by Bell’s DUI lawyer, who subpoenaed the police department for arrest records and videos of the arrest.
In Illinois, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office has moved to dismiss dozens of DUI cases. This surprising action came after a second Chicago police officer was accused of framing drivers to boost DUI arrests.
Nearly a year ago, another Chicago police officer was charged with perjury, official misconduct and obstructing justice.
Officer John Haleas was accused of failing to follow proper procedure during a DUI arrest in 2005. It was alleged that Haleas failed to perform field sobriety tests and lied in his police report of the arrest.
Cook County prosecutors dropped more than 50 DUI cases that were products of Haleas’ DUI arrests.
Haleas was honored on three occasions by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists as the officer with the most DUI arrests in Illinois. The criminal case against him is still pending.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Officer Joe D. Parker has been given a desk job at the station while an internal police investigation of the DUI arrests he made is conducted.
Parker, 59, is a 23-year police veteran and works in the Chicago Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office is also investigating Parker.
However, this is not the first instance in which Parker has been accused of making false DUI arrests.
In 2005, Parker reportedly arrested Vanessa Davis, a well-known blues singer who suffers from multiple sclerosis, for suspicion of DUI. After the arrest, Davis suffered severe anxiety, which caused severe medical complications.
Davis filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago for wrongful arrest. Her lawyer claimed that because of the arrest she had to be hospitalized for a few days. The city paid Davis $100,000 to settle the lawsuit.
The current investigations into Parker’s conduct began after it was noticed his account of a DUI arrest on a police report was disproved by a review of the dash cam video from his squad car.
Wayne Jackson has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that Parker also wrongfully arrested him for DUI.
Jackson was driving home from work in 2006 when Parker pulled him over. He was given a field sobriety test and claims that he passed; however, Parker wrote on the arrest report Jackson was swaying and slurred his speech.
Jackson also says he passed a Breathalyzer test, but on the arrest report Parker indicated he had “attempted to circumvent” the machine.
Like Haleas, Parker was honored by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists for making 153 DUI arrests in 2006.
On Sunday, millions of people across the country will watch the Super Bowl. The event has evolved into more than just a football game, it’s a shared pop culture event.
There are also parties. Lots of Super Bowl parties. Bars and business, friends and family alike will be hosting and attending Super Bowl parties.
The police are well aware of this, and there are news reports from across the country – from Colorado to Pennsylvania – about local law enforcement units increasing DUI patrols around the Super Bowl.
In fact, many police departments increased DUI patrols around the NFL playoffs. So you can be sure they’ll be watching for drunk drivers this Sunday.
What can you do?
1. Plan ahead. Your Super Bowl party plans should include more than where you’re going and how much you’ll be eating. Make sure you have a safe ride to and from your party. Any safe ride will do: Designated driver, cab, public transportation.
2. Know your state DUI laws. There’s a lot on the line if you drink and drive. Many states now require ignition interlock devices for first offenders. If you refuse a breathalyzer test you may face immediate license suspension.
3. If you are arrested for DUI, contact a DUI lawyer immediately. A lawyer will know the DUI laws in your state, and answer any questions you have about the long-term impact of a DUI.
Be safe this weekend and enjoy the big game!