By John Clark
A key witness testified this week in the trial against a former California police officer who is accused of setting up victims for drunk driving arrests, according to a report from the San Jose Mercury News.
According to sources, former Contra Costa County Sherriff’s deputy Stephen Tanabe is at the center of a police corruption scandal that erupted in 2011.
Tanabe, 50, is on trial in a federal court for seven different extortion and conspiracy charges stemming from his alleged participation in three “dirty” drunk driving arrests in 2010 and 2011. Sources say Tanabe may have been involved in at least a dozen similar incidents.
The star witness for the prosecution, Christopher Butler, a former private investigator currently in prison, testified this week in his red prison outfit, according to reports.
According to reports, Butler told the court that, in November 2010, Tanabe agreed to orchestrate the DUI arrest of David Lane Bauldry, an executive with an Oakland software company, in exchange for 3.5 grams of cocaine.
At the time, Tanabe “was working as a deputy sheriff, and I thought he was no longer ingesting cocaine,” said Butler, who had originally agreed to pay $200 in cash for the arrest. Instead, Tanabe asked for drugs while the two were in his patrol car in a grocery store parking lot.
Butler, according to sources, was the mastermind behind the arrests, and he reportedly paid Tanabe in both drugs and guns during at least three DUI arrests in 2010 and 2011.
The former private investigator was reportedly working for women going through divorces who wanted the father of their children arrested so they could have an advantage in child custody cases, according to reports.
Butler, it seems, had a strange code in his line of work. While on the witness stand, he said, “if there were no children, then I wouldn’t do the DUI sting.” “I don’t know (why), that was just my requirement,” he noted.
According to Tanabe’s defense attorneys, the former police officer shouldn’t be convicted because he never took any payment for his participation in the drunk driving stops. His attorneys also noted that Butler is testifying in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.
Sources say Butler is facing eight more years in prison due to a wide range of infractions, including false arrests, robberies, theft, insurance fraud, and operating a brothel. His testimony, it’s fair to say, may not be viewed as wholly credible by a jury.
By John Clark
This week, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the drunk driving conviction of a man who was initially pulled over by police because snow was covering his license plate, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sources say Mark Haldane was stopped by police in Bozeman, Montana, in January 2011 simply because the police were unable to read the entirety of Haldane’s license plate due to the accumulation of snow and the presence of a poorly placed trailer hitch.
The police were acting pursuant to a Montana state law that requires cars to have “license plates conspicuously displayed.” The law also notes that license plates in Montana “may not be obstructed from plain view.”
As a result, the police had a “particularized suspicion” to pull him over, which is the threshold police must meet before they seize someone’s vehicle by pulling it over.
Haldane challenged the validity of the stop because of the consequences that eventually ensued. After police pulled him over, they noticed that Haldane had “red, bloodshot eyes” and asked Haldane to take a field sobriety test.
Unfortunately for the driver, Haldane failed the field sobriety test and admitted to officers that he had consumed a few beers before getting behind the wheel.
At trial, Haldane was found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI, and was sentenced to a year in jail. The judge, however, suspended most of the sentence except for three days and ordered Haldane to pay a $935 fine.
While Haldane did not challenge the fact that he was drunk, he and his DUI attorney believed that challenging the validity of the stop would invalidate the DUI arrest.
The Montana Supreme Court, however, said that Haldane’s violation of the law prohibiting the concealment of license plates, even if such concealment is unintentional, gave the police enough suspicion to pull him over.
One judge, however, had noted in previous decisions that the simple fact of an obstructed license plate, standing alone, did not give police officers enough suspicion to stop a vehicle. But his judge apparently changed his mind during Haldane’s appeal.
Despite the loss on this count, Haldane did succeed in convincing the court that his inability to pay his fine promptly led to a longer jail sentence.
Sources say the justice told the Bozeman Municipal Court to revisit Haldane’s sentencing because its first decision violated the constitutional principle that “indigency or poverty not be used as the touchstone for imposing the maximum allowable punishment.”
By John Clark
A 19-year veteran of the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol was arrested for a driving under the influence of alcohol while he was on duty in Windsor Township, Pennsylvania, according to a report from TriCounty Record.
The arrested trooper, Kevin Wackley, was driving a marked police car around 8 p.m. on a weekday night when state police received a tip from another officer that Wackley may have been inebriated.
According to Sgt. Wagner, the commander of the station where Wackley worked, he received a call from a “local officer who came into contact” with Wackley.
When Wagner’s unit heard the report, they located Wackley, asked him to pull into a parking lot, and waited for the commander of the Hamburg barracks, the headquarters of Wackley’s unit, to arrive on the scene.
When that occurred, several officers determined that Wackley was indeed drunk, and the veteran police officer was escorted into custody.
The arrest poses some difficult public relations questions for the local police department, which obviously has plenty of information about the criminal suspect but can’t reveal it for privacy reasons.
The police have released some information related to the case that gives reporters a bit of a hint about what happened that night.
For example, Sgt. Wagner would not reveal the exact blood alcohol content of Wackley at the time the officer’s arrest, but he did say that it was over the legal limit, which means it was higher than 0.08 percent.
Of course, the police department’s unwillingness to discuss the matter became more frustrating when officials refused to discuss whether Wackley had ever been disciplined for similar rule violations while he was on the job.
In addition, sources were unable to learn whether he had previously been charged with a DUI, as Sgt. Wagner told reporters that he “can’t release or talk about any of his prior histories, if any.”
To be fair, the public will eventually learn about Wackley’s history, as well as the current case, assuming that charges are eventually brought against the officer.
In the meantime, the public will be left with rumors and innuendo, as it tries to determine why an officer of almost 20 years made such a poor decision.
It’s certainly not unprecedented for a police officer to be arrested for a DUI, but recent cases of drunk police officers have typically involved younger officers, not long-term veterans of a state police force.
By John Clark
A traffic court judge near San Francisco ruled last week that Pinellas County police officers cannot perform a key DUI test off camera, according to a recent report from Bay News 9.
During DUI stops, police officers in Pinellas County keep onboard cameras rolling during the entire arrest process, with one key exception.
Sources say that the officers do not film an important roadside test called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, which is also known as HGN and is considered the most important roadside test to determine a driver’s sobriety.
During this test, officers look at a driver’s eyes to determine whether he or she is drunk. If the drivers are inebriated, their eyes will jerk from side to side during the test. But this test is the only part of a DUI arrest that isn’t filmed.
Last week, a judge ruled that this practice was unlawful after hearing a complaint from Christopher Hastings, who was arrested for a DUI last year and challenged the legality of the arresting officer’s decision to make him perform the HGN test off camera.
At trial, the state prosecutor asked the arresting officer why he chose to perform the test off camera, and the officer claimed he was just abiding by the police department’s policy. This statement proved true, as the police department does ask officers to keep the HGN tests off video.
This practice, however, was attacked by the defendant’s DUI attorney, who claimed that the policy was intentionally implemented to exclude evidence from trial. The DUI attorney also claimed that the policy was “crazy and archaic.”
The judge sympathized with this perspective, and ruled that it is unfair for the police department to exclude proof of the HGN test from trial but still go to court and testify about the results of the test.
As a result, the prosecutor cannot use the results of the HGN test to convict Hastings. Of course, Hastings allegedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.16 at the time of his arrest, so he still faces a tough battle in court.
But Hastings and his attorney may have stumbled into a watershed moment for DUI laws in California, despite skepticism from some law enforcement officials.
Some observers claim that filming the HGN test will not show a person’s eyeballs moving back and forth, but supporters of the new rule claim that the video can show if police violate procedures during the test. This, perhaps, would be the most important benefit of filming the HGN process.
By John Clark
Just one week after one drunk driver made headlines for trying to bribe his way out of a DUI ticket, another intoxicated driver made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase a “get out of jail free” card.
Ashley Anderson, a 21-year-old resident of Orlando, Florida, was pulled over by police for driving while intoxicated at about 3:00 a.m. Thursday morning, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel.
Anderson was initially pulled over for traveling 12 miles per hour about the speed limit. And sources say that she could have simply been charged with a misdemeanor if she had handled the arrest in a responsible fashion. Anderson, however, did not handle the arrest in a wise manner.
After police pulled her over, she refused to leave the car, forcing the officer to ask her multiple times to leave her vehicle.
When she kept refusing to leave her 2008 Nissan Altima, the arresting officer reached for her ignition, grabbed the keys, opened her door, and pulled her out by her left arm. The officer later stated in his report that he feared that Anderson would try to flee the scene.
When he pulled Anderson from the car, the state trooper reported that he smelled an “obvious odor” of alcohol on her breath, and he also claims that she stumbled on the ground when she left the car and had difficulty walking to the police cruiser.
A quick search of the Altima after the arrest revealed a nearly empty bottle of tequila in Anderson’s car. Carrying an open bottle of liquor in a car is illegal in almost every state.
But despite her arrest, and the discovery of the tequila in her car, Anderson was still only facing a misdemeanor DUI charge. That is, until she opened her mouth.
Sources say that when the trooper put Anderson in the back of his car, she made several attempts to offer him $3,000 in exchange for letting her go. According to the police report, she told the officer, “[w]hatever I owe you, I can just pay you in cash.”
In an effort to convince the officer, Anderson claimed that she had escaped a previous DUI charge by giving the officer $2,000, although there is no way to confirm this story.
Needless to say, the officer in this case declined her offer, and prosecutors will now level an extra charge against Anderson for attempting to bribe a law enforcement officer, which is a felony in Florida.
A Chicago driver made life a bit more difficult for himself after he made an unsuccessful attempt to bribe his way out of a DUI arrest, according to a recent report from the Chicago Tribune.
Of course, trying to bribe the police officer may not have been the dumbest move Martin Johnson made on that fateful night.
Sources say that Johnson was arrested after allegedly speeding past a police station while under the influence of alcohol. When police finally caught up to his car, a brief search of the vehicle revealed that Johnson had an open bottle of liquor in the front seat.
Then things got really interesting. According to the police report, after the police pulled him over, Johnson said, “I’ll give you $5,000 if you’ll let me go.”
In response, one of the officers asked Johnson where he planned to get the money, at which point he handed over a flash drive and told the police officers to look into it.
When the police later went through the flash drive, they were surprised to discover extensive lists of credit card numbers, Social Security identities, and other types of sensitive financial information.
When the police asked Johnson where he had obtained the information, he finally made a wise choice, and simply told them to “talk to my lawyer.”
For his actions, Johnson will be charged with one count of bribery, one count of driving under the influence, and another county of driving on a revoked license.
Remarkably, Johnson has been arrested eight times since 2001 for driving with a revoked license, so he may be facing an eventual permanent driving ban if he finds the right judge.
In addition, Johnson has also been arrested for a DUI three times before. These arrests occurred in 2001, 2003, and 2006, according to a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
And Johnson could face further charges stemming from his possession of all the financial information on the flash drive, although police authorities have not yet decided what they will charge him with.
The lesson other drivers can learn from Johnson’s mishap is that, if you are arrested for a DUI, it’s in your best interests to simply be a good sport and not give the police officers any trouble.
Attempts to bribe the police or escape from them altogether almost never have happy endings, and only compound the legal troubles that the arrestee will eventually face.
Police in California’s Santa Clara County reported a 44 percent decrease in the number of DUI citations they issued during this year’s Memorial Day weekend, compared to the number of similar incidents in 2011.
And the DUI statistics in this California county mirrored similar figures in other parts of the country, as holiday travelers were on their best behavior in 2012, according to a recent report from Patch.com.
Of course, the healthy decrease in the number of drunk driving incidents wasn’t solely a result of Californians embracing sobriety. In recent weeks, state officials launched a widespread ad campaign aimed at stopping people from drinking and driving.
And, more importantly, police officers also deployed a series of extraordinary moves for the holiday weekend in order to prevent DUI accidents.
In Santa Clara County, for example, local police added a sobriety checkpoint on a key street, and placed seven DUI control officers on the roadways, according to a press release from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office.
DUI checkpoints have long been loathed by holiday drivers, but many studies show that they successfully reduce the number of DUI accidents where they are used. Santa Clara County’s experience seemed to support this theory.
Over this year’s Memorial Day weekend, officers made only 80 DUI arrest , which is significantly lower than the 144 drunk driving arrests Santa Clara police made during Memorial Day weekend in 2011.
In addition to the reduced number of arrests, the sheriff’s office also reported that this year’s holiday weekend did not have a single DUI-related injury accident or fatality. This, of course, is the purpose of DUI laws and special checkpoints: to keep people safe.
Because of the success of this year’s Memorial Day program, the Santa Clara police department plans to use similar tactics during the weekend of July 4, which traditionally sees a rise in DUI accidents and injuries.
Santa Clara’s success with lowering its rate of drunk driving, however, may not be a sustainable method for police departments in other counties. Santa Clara had the benefit of procuring a special grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Assigning special police officers to detect drunk drivers, and placing limited police resources at DUI checkpoints, can be very costly for local police departments, which often have multiple different crime priorities.
So, an increase in funding at both the local and state levels may be necessary for other counties to match the success of Santa Clara.
Randy Babbitt, the former head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has cleared his name after a Virginia judge dismissed a DWI charge that led to Babbitt’s departure from the agency.
The 65-year-old Babbitt resigned from his post this December after he was arrested for allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road while intoxicated, according to a recent report from Reuters.
Sources say that police administered an alcohol breath test for Babbitt at the scene, but they initially refused to publicly release the results of the breath test. It appears police had a good reason for keeping the results quiet.
Apparently, Babbitt’s initial breath test revealed a blood alcohol level of .07, which is just below the legal limit. After the first test, the police then administered a second test, which showed a reading of .08.
However, according to Babbitt’s attorney, in Virginia police are not allowed to engage in such tactics. In addition to the flubbed breath test, the police reportedly made other errors.
Sources indicate that the arresting officer’s report of the incident said that Babbitt was driving on the wrong side of the road. But video footage of the incident reportedly shows Babbitt making a legal left turn into a parking lot.
On this evidence alone, the judge for Babbitt’s case decided to dismiss the DWI charge after determining that the arresting officer did not have a legitimate reason to pull the man over. The judge criticized the officer for simply acting on a “hunch” that Babbitt was driving while intoxicated.
The case was dismissed so quickly that the state’s prosecutors were not even given a chance to present their case, according to sources.
Randy Babbitt, to his credit, handled the dismissal of his claim and the actions of the police officer with plenty of class. After the dismissal, Babbitt told reporters that the police officer was “acting in good faith,” which suggests that he does not harbor a grudge against the man who caused him to lose his job.
The dismissal of Babbitt’s DWI provides a strong example of the potential merits of challenging an alcohol breath test after a DWI arrest. In addition, it also reveals the value of obtaining police footage of DWI arrests.
After an arrest for drunk driving, many people are concerned that they won’t be able to fight the charges. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
A number of different errors can be made during the DUI process, and a DUI attorney may help alleged drunk drivers challenge several aspects of their arrests.
A survey performed by a state auditor found that DUI checkpoints in California prevent deadly accidents and typically follow the rules that restrict their use, although there are very few rules to follow, according to an article in the Merced Sun-Star.
The auditor’s report observed that DUI checkpoints in California are not governed by any federal or state DUI laws. In addition, the California Office of Traffic Safety does not have to monitor the activities at its checkpoints, despite funding more than 2,000 such checkpoints each year.
Of course, despite some criticism of the checkpoints’ perceived status as existing outside the law, the report observed that fatalities on California roads dropped by almost 12 percent in the least year, which could be attributed to the increase in DUI checkpoints.
According to the director of the traffic safety office, Chris Murphy, the report “speaks volumes to the work” that he and his staff have been doing, and it proves that the checkpoint program “has been running very efficiently and effectively.”
The traffic safety office has a lot invested in the checkpoints, so it’s natural that its leaders are touting the merits of the checkpoint program.
Sources indicate that the office spent almost $17 million for police overtime work at 2,500 different checkpoints during the 2010 fiscal year. All this work led to roughly 28,000 citations for unlicensed drivers, and 7,000 drunk driving arrests.
Much of the criticism leveled at the checkpoints has related to the thousands of arrests for driving without a license.
After such an arrest, police typically impounded the drivers’ cars, often for up to 30 days. In order to retrieve their cars, these drivers had to pay upwards of $1,500 in fees and towing charges. As a result, cars that were worth less than that sum were often simply abandoned at the impoundment lot.
The majority of drivers who lost their cars for driving without a license were undocumented immigrants, who are not allowed to have official driver’s licenses in California.
Critics of the checkpoints observe that the fees gained from checkpoint arrests are a major cash source for local governments. They also claim that the disparity between drunk driving arrests and other, more minor, offenses at these checkpoints show that combating drunk driving is not the main purpose of the program.
Nevertheless, despite these claims, fatal traffic accidents in California are on the decline, so the state will likely continue its current checkpoint practices for the foreseeable future.
The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, but this mantra does not always apply when it comes to people who are accused of drunken driving.
Judges in Northampton County. Pennsylvania have faced scrutiny from private citizens who are concerned about the courts’ practice of revoking driver’s licenses before suspected DUI drivers are actually convicted for their crimes, according to a recent report from The Morning Call, a newspaper in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
In a practice that occurs in states across the country every day, judges in this Pennsylvania county reportedly have been revoking suspected drunk drivers’ licenses before they receive a trial to determine their guilt.
Judge Leonard Zito, who works in Easton, Pennsylvania, has started to revoke the driver’s licenses of people who he believes are dragging their feet in court.
According to Zito, taking these licenses early in the process helps speed up the DUI court process and potentially protects other drivers on the roads.
One DUI attorney, however, has joined several other legal practitioners in criticizing this maneuver, claiming that revoking a person’s license is akin to presuming that person’s guilt.
There are many features of modern trials that enhance the appearance of a person’s guilt. Presence in front of the court, for example, suggests that a person has done something wrong—and there’s little judges can do to dispel this presumption.
The revocation of a license does seem to strongly suggest that a driver is indeed guilty of a DUI, but it does burden them with a consequence that could otherwise be dealt only after a trial, well before that person receives the due process he or she is entitled to under the Constitution.
Of course, while lawyers will continue to challenge such decisions, public safety concerns seem to trump other factors when the merits of revoking driver’s licenses are debated.
Judges simply don’t want the risk of suspected DUI drivers getting into potentially fatal accidents while they await their hearings.
Still, many advocates for criminal defendants claim that the damage such actions do to the presumption of innocence outweigh any real or perceived public health risks.
The debate, it’s fair to say, will likely continue as long as the judges across the country continue this controversial practice.
In a typical DUI case, the suspect is apprehended by police officers who are wearing uniforms, or are otherwise obviously licensed police. Rarely are people suspected of DUIs arrested by civilians.
A recent incident, however, in Bassett, California illustrated what happens when good Samaritans take the law into their own hands.
According to a recent story in the San Gabriel Tribune, the suspected drunk driver—a man in his mid-40’s whose name has not yet been released—tried to flee the scene of a crash on a California freeway but was thwarted by concerned citizens.
The driver had caused a crash around 5 a.m. that clogged morning traffic on the 605 Freeway for more than an hour, according to logs from the California Highway Patrol.
The crash involved the driver’s Honda Pilot and another vehicle and, despite the driver’s high level of intoxication, the crash did not cause any serious injuries, according to an interview with CHP Officer Luis Mendoza.
In the interview, Officer Mendoza said that the drunk driver tried to flee the scene immediately after the accident. In addition, Mendoza admitted that he could not verify some reports that suggested the driver tried to steal another car when he was running away from the scene of the crash.
According to Mendoza, other drivers “saw him kind of staggering, walking away from the scene.” When they tried to hold in place, the drunk driver reportedly became “a little aggressive.”
Despite the driver’s aggressive stance, one passerby was able to handcuff the man with flexcuffs, and then forced the man to sit down. Once the man was handcuffed and seated, several citizens kept an eye on him to ensure that he wouldn’t try to flee again.
Of course, after all this effort, the driver remained uncooperative when police arrived, as he refused to take a sobriety test and did not answer the officers’ questions. Nevertheless, because of his behavior and other obvious signs, the police concluded that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When CHP officers arrived, the suspect was not cooperative and refused to submit to sobriety tests, the officer said. Officers determined he appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Now, the driver will face potential fines, a suspended license, or even jail time as a result of his transgression. If he had injured any of the other motorists, or if he had injured a police officer, the possible sentence he would face would be much worse.
And despite the courage of the other drivers who detained the drunk man, people who are not trained police officers are typically discouraged from taking the law into their own hands, particularly if the situation involves a dangerous person.
Of course, this advice didn’t stop a few brave motorists in California from detaining an obviously inebriated driver.
After a DUI arrest, suspected drunk drivers have several options. They can take a breathalyzer test or refuse to do so, they can bail themselves out or spend the night in jail, and they can determine how they behave in front of the police.
Rarely, though, do DUI suspects take the ill-advised choice of running from the police. This practice, however, seems to be growing more popular, particularly in the town of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
According to a recent report from Sioux Falls’ newspaper, The Argus Leader, local police have had a difficult time with runners, or people who sprint out of the police station while waiting for the results of a blood or breathalyzer test.
The problem is particularly acute in the case of convicted DUI drivers who must return to the police station for a daily blood alcohol test.
After a DUI conviction, South Dakota often orders offenders to participate in a 24/7 sobriety program. For a period of a few months, the offenders must have a blood test taken every day at the police station.
If the individuals pass the exam, they are free to go, and eventually graduate from the program after a certain period of documented sobriety. If, however, the individuals fail the exam, they are immediately placed into jail because they violated the terms of their DUI probation.
One hole in this system in Sioux Falls, though, is that a test-taker must wait in the police department for 15 minutes while the police officer attempts to determine the validity of the initial test.
During this waiting period, the offender waits in the lobby, which is not staffed by a security guard, and the only officer in the room is behind a desk tinkering with blood tests. In other words, it is an invitation for a concerned offender to run.
This occurs fairly frequently in Sioux Falls, according to the report, and recently happened in the case of Brad Lehrkamp. The 28-year-old Lehrkamp was waiting in the lobby and he feared that he had “blown hot,” or failed his blood test.
Lehrkamp’s fears proved accurate, and so, fearing the prospect of going back to jail, Lehrkamp bolted out of the lobby and made a run for it.
His attempt to flee, however, was quickly thwarted when he broke his leg leaping down the police department’s stairs. After being treated at a nearby clinic, a gimpy Lehrkamp was promptly delivered to a local jail.
Of course, dramatic attempts to flee are not the only possible method of escaping South Dakota’s 24/7 sobriety program. Other defendants simply refuse to show up for their appointments, which voids the terms of their probation and also leads to further jail time.
These 24/7 programs have been very popular in many states, because they save the costs of jailing a DUI offender, but also allow law enforcement officials to keep close tabs on people who may act as a danger to others.
The programs, however, also have their critics, many of whom claim that daily blood tests are too intrusive, and that they may not prevent future DUI accidents if they are too loosely enforced.
Highlighting a trend that has grown more common across the United States, several cities in Texas are deciding to force suspected DUI drivers to take blood tests if they refuse to take the less-invasive breathalyzer tests.
The controversial practice—known as “no refusal” testing because suspected drunk drivers cannot refuse the blood tests—has also taken hold in several other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Illinois.
According to a recent report from Fox News, the practice has also upset many civil rights attorneys, who argue that forcing suspected drunk drivers to take a blood test amounts to a violation of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure.
Of course, police departments strongly defend the practice. And the courts seem to think it is fine, as well. In Texas, for example, the court system has uniformly supported police officers’ rights to administer the blood tests, even if the defendant refuses.
Typically, people who are pulled over for a DUI are offered a breathalyzer test, which simply involves blowing into an instrument that provides a rough estimate of the person’s level of intoxication.
Suspected drunk drivers, though, are often not keen on taking the breath test, and some criminal defense experts recommend that drivers avoid them altogether in certain states.
The new policy used by Texas police officers, however, will thwart drivers’ attempts to circumvent the law. The biggest downside, though is that it requires the forceful pricking of a person’s finger to obtain accurate results.
Despite the invasiveness of the procedure and the complaints from civil rights attorneys, police departments often prefer the blood test to a breath test because the blood test often offers more convincing evidence at trial.
Sources indicate that prosecutors across the country find that blood tests help them win DUI convictions in almost 90 percent of their drunk driving cases. And this reality often drives DUI suspects to plead guilty to the charges before a trial even starts.
So, the blood tests appear to offer overwhelming evidence of a person’s level of intoxication, and they are often administered without the driver’s permission. Because of these realities, mandatory blood tests appear to be very bad news for drunk drivers.
Of course, police admit that they would also have mandatory breath tests if it wasn’t so difficult to force someone to blow in a tube (in contrast, it’s much easier to stick someone’s finger with a needle without that person’s permission).
Alas, the police are left without only one mandatory form of blood alcohol testing, although it appears to be a very valuable one.
And as more and more jurisdictions embrace the use of “no-refusal” testing, suspected DUI drivers may continue to see an erosion of their right to privacy. The question remains, though, whether this erosion of privacy is worth the benefit to public health of keeping more drunk drivers off the road.
When people face the indignity of a DUI arrest, they are best advised to refrain from attacking their arresting officers. This advice, unfortunately, has not reached all drivers, as proven by the recent antics of a man in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.
The man, 46-year-old Eric J. Gross, allegedly kicked a state trooper in a police cruiser while they were traveling to the police station after Gross had been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to a report from The Morning Call.
After Gross kicked the trooper, Joseph Wasylyk, the injured officer was able to pull his car over, force Gross outside of the car, and physically restrain the arrestee to prevent future kicking.
The trooper drove Gross to the station, and then retreated to the Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he was treated and released.
Sources indicate that the bizarre incident started at roughly 6:00 p.m. when Wasylyk responded to a report of someone driving recklessly in Washington Township, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, Gross abandoned his vehicle and started walking down a local highway.
When he responded to the scene, the trooper eventually spotted Gross and arrested him for suspicion of drunk driving. It should be noted here that, even though Gross wasn’t driving at the time, his driving earlier that night still made him eligible for a DUI offense.
After the initial arrest, the trooper placed handcuffs on Gross behind his back, and secured Gross in the back seat of his cruiser with a seat belt. His job seemingly done, Wasylyk started to drive towards the DUI Center in Allentown, where Gross would be charged and booked.
While they were driving to the DUI Center, however, Gross started cursing and moving around in the back of the cruiser. To get a better look at the anxious offender, the trooper turned on his interior lights.
Soon, Gross began kicking the armrest and computer printer located inside the cruiser, though when the trooper asked Gross to kindly refrain from harming the equipment, Gross quickly obliged.
This stern warning, however, did not prevent Gross from taking much more aggressive action later in the drive. Sources indicate that Gross lifted his legs and started kicking Gross repeatedly on the right side of his body.
In a feat of physical coordination, the trooper was somehow able to pin the man’s legs against the seat, pull the car over, and restrain Gross before driving him to the DUI Center in one piece.
For his acts of violence, Gross now faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and harassment.
He was held on $20,000 bail and immediately sent to Lehigh County Prison, where the guards will be best advised to watch out for his flailing legs.
The annals of overzealous police behavior are full of shocking tales, but few are as unsettling as the recent allegations that a man was tased 13 times by police officers after a DUI arrest.
According to a recent report in the Santa Barbara Independent, 50-year-old Tony Denunzio was tased repeatedly by arresting officers after being pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.
Both Denunzio and witnesses of the incident claim that officer Aaron Tudor punched, kneed and tased Denunzio after the Tudor pulled him over for DUI Charges, even though Denunzio allegedly did not resist the arrest.
A mug shot of Denunzio taken a few hours after the arrest shows a badly bruised man with a contusion on his right eye and cuts on his forehead and cheeks. During the arrest, Denunzio also suffered a broken nose, broken ribs, and an injured wrist.
While both sides have their own stories—police claim Denunzio resisted the arrest, while he claims that police had no reason to beat him—extra intrigue was added to the case when authorities revealed that the entire episode had been caught on a patrol vehicle camera.
Currently, the police video is not yet available, and information about Denunzio’s level of drunkenness has also not been released, so investigators are left with competing narratives about the night.
According to the story told by police, Tudor pulled Denunzio over after the driver had executed a series of quick lane changes without using his turn signal.
Police further alleged that, after he left his truck, Denunzio started walking away from Tudor. When Tudor grabbed the driver’s arm, Denunzio resisted the physical contact. This forced Tudor to trip Denunzio and apparently slap him several times in the head.
These slaps allegedly did not subdue the driver, so Tudor eventually resorted to punching and kicking the arrestee. When these proved inadequate, and Denunzio continued to resist, Tudor began to use his Taser, which was activated 13 times.
Witnesses, however, offered a different story. According to some people on the scene, Denunzio left his car without knowing that he was being pursued by a police officer.
When Tudor yelled at him to stop, witnesses claim that Denunzio obliged and did not actively resist the arrest. In his defense, Denunzio also claimed that that he did not physically challenge Tudor, and instead “laid down like a kitten” when the officer grabbed him.
In response to public outcry over the incident, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department said that police officials had reviewed the tape of the altercation and concluded that Tudor did not violate police regulations.
While it may take authorities more time to conclude who acted irresponsibly in this incident, it is fair to say that Denunzio could have handled the situation better.
DUI arrests may lead to some fines or possible jail time, but their effects can be compounded by aggressive behavior after the arrest. Other drivers would be well advised to mind their manners in the presence of police.