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.



Virginia DUI Arrest Turns into Funny Money Bust

By Topher

In Prince William County, Virginia, a DUI arrest turned into a counterfeit currency bust when police discovered that the two men being arrested had three odd-looking $100 bills in their possession.

According to the Washington Post, police nabbed the two men on what they thought was a routine suspicion of drunk driving stop. When the police officer searched the men, though, he found several $100 bills that didn’t look quite right.

What tipped him off was a message written next to Benjamin Franklin’s head that read “BILLETE DE LA SUERTE ALASITAS.” According to the Washington Post, it denotes the bill as a good luck ticket for the festival of Alasitas, which is a festival held every year in Peru and Bolivia. At the festivals, bills of this kind are handed out widely in casinos and elsewhere.

Apparently these bills are available on eBay, from a seller operating out of England.

The officer determined that the bills were counterfeit, and police investigated the strange bills further. They found that the driver’s friend had even more of the bills, and when they searched his house they found 59 more.

According to the U.S. Secret Service, these bills have appeared in the Federal Reserve Bank 125 times. In other words, someone has accepted this type of bill as real currency at least 125 times over the years.

Federal prosecutors were not interested in pursuing the case of the drunk drivers who were caught with counterfeit cash, so instead the county will handle the case. County police were not aware of the bills actually being passed as real anywhere.

One man, Jose Portillio, got charged with drunk driving, refusal to take a Breathalyzer test, possession of fictitious bank notes and possession of a false work card. The other man, Ronald Virto, was charged with possessing more than ten fictitious bank notes, passing fictitious bank notes, and drunk driving charges.

Many times DUI arrests lead to additional charges. This appears to be one of those cases, when one offense clues police onto another and a DUI suspect must answer additional charges, too.



DUI Fines Pay for New Cruisers, Breathalyzers

By admin


If you’re drinking and driving in the state of Illinois this holiday season, keep this in mind: When pulled over for DUI, the money you pay in fines will go in part to funding new cop cars and updated breathalyzer machines.

According to a report from the Illinois News Tribune, as much as 20 percent of a DUI fine goes to the arresting county’s police department, while the rest of the fine is distributed to other funds – some of which include new police cruisers and new breath test equipment.

It’s just one more reason to be extra careful on the roads this holiday season – if you don’t get a ticket, you won’t be contributing to state police funding!



Skip Being Carded

By admin

Pennsylvania is working to perfect face scanning technology to use in place of carding people when buying alcohol.

The face scanning kiosk machines will be at local grocery stores and be used by customers looking to buy a bottle of wine. Using your driver’s license, the wine kiosk will use face recognition software to check if the picture matches your face.

It may be possible that a breathalyzer will be added to make sure the customer isn’t too drunk to “match your wine with your meal.”

Originally, the wine kiosks were suppose to be put in stores over the next couple months, but Gov. Ed Rendell has put a hold on the project to make sure the technology will work correctly. The Governor wants to prevent minors from being able to fool the system.

Currently the machines are being used successfully in Japan to monitor beer and cigarette sales.

Source: Digital City



Cell Phone to Call a DUI Lawyer is a Right

By admin

On Monday, July 7, a judge acquitted a man on DUI charges because police denied the suspect the right to call a DUI lawyer on his cell phone.

According to Ontario Court Justice Randall Lalande, Harvey Whidden’s constitutional rights were violated when he was pulled over on June 13, 2008.

Whidden had been waved into a vehicle safety inspection lane operated by the police because his windshield had a crack in it.

When Whidden pulled over, police noticed empty beer bottles in the bed of his pickup truck. Police also noticed he smelled like alcohol, and his speech was slowed.

The police asked Whidden to take a breath test, but the officer didn’t have a breathalyzer with him. While they waited for a breathalyzer to be brought from the station, the police officer didn’t allow Whidden to use his cell phone to call a DUI attorney.

The judge ruled that since the officer knew Whidden had a cell phone, he should have allowed him to use it to call an attorney.

According to the judge, the police waited about three hours when Whidden was at the police station and formally issued a demand for a breathalyzer before allowing him to call a lawyer.

Source: The Sadbury Star



Tougher DWI Laws Proposed on Breathalyzer Refusal

By admin

According to Louisiana DUI laws, refusing a breathalyzer test can help drunk drivers avoid DUI penalties, so state Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, is looking to pass stricter DUI laws to combat this problem.

If a person refuses a breathalyzer today, he or she may face a 180 day driver’s license suspension. The new DUI laws Burns is purposing would suspend a driver’s license for one year for refusing a breathalyzer test the first time.

The bill has been passed by Louisiana lawmakers and is waiting Governor Bobby Jindal’s signature. The law would become effective Sept. 1.

“The tide has really shifted in this issue,” Burns told the press. “It wasn’t that long ago that you could have open containers in the cars, and that’s slowly been gotten rid of, and I think as we move to a society and a state that’s more conscious of this issue, it’s just trying to provide for the public safety of it’s citizens.”

The bill has been criticized by some for infringing on people’s civil liberties, but it is receiving support in most communities.

A response was sent by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, supporting the bill. MADD expressed that eventually, the group would like to see breathalyzer refusal a criminal offense.



Should You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

By Mary Ann

A fascinating read from  the Austin American-Statesman looked at state DUI records for recent years and found that 100% of elected officials – from state senators to judges to commissioners – refused to submit a breathalyzer test when pulled over for drunk driving.

From the story:

“Among the general public, the refusal rate is about 50 percent, but at the Capitol, the refusal rate is about 100 percent,” said Shannon Edmonds, governmental relations director for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

Police and prosecutors say politicians fall into a larger category of savvy citizens — such as Longhorn baseball coach Augie Garrido, who declined to give a breath sample when he was arrested Jan. 17 on suspicion of DWI — who know that while there technically are consequences to saying no, they are often mitigated with skilled legal advice.

In Texas, just like in most states, there are penalties for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. Typically, refusal results in an automatic driver’s license suspension. But simply refusing doesn’t mean a driver is off the hook for DWI.

Police can obtain a search warrant to force DWI suspects to give blood, considered the gold standard for proving intoxication. In recent years, some jurisdictions have begun hauling detained drivers to hospitals or jails for blood draws.

Since 2005, Dalworthington Gardens, outside of Fort Worth, has trained its police officers to draw blood from DWI suspects. Last week, Williamson County announced it had hired full-time phlebotomists for that purpose. This evening, Austin police are enforcing their third “no refusal” initiative, for which a magistrate and nurse will be on standby for DWI arrests.

Keep in mind: The statues in every state are different. If you’ve been charged with a DWI or DUI, or you lost your license because of a breathalyzer refusal, you may want to speak with a DUI lawyer. A lawyer can help explain the specifics of your case, answer your questions and tell you about the DUI laws in your state.



Disputes Over Breathalyzer Use Continue

By Mary Ann

As police departments continue to use Intoxilyzer 5000 and Intoxilyzer 8000 to analyze drivers’ blood alcohol level the courts continue to struggle with the admissibility of the results.

The Intoxilyzer machines are made by Kentucky-based CMI, and the company is very protective of their source code, which details how the machines operate.

Many DUI lawyers are arguing that if their clients are to receive a fair trial then they should be allowed to examine the source code to ensure the breathalyzer machines are operating accurately and properly.

The result? In Florida, a judge dismissed more than 100 DUI cases because the source code couldn’t be reviewed. In Arizona, a judge tried but was unable to order CMI to release the code.

For a good summary on the debate, check out Lawrence Taylor’s DUI Blog, which mentions that issues have arisen in Minnesota as well.



Blow into Your iPod Please – test your BAC with the new iBreath

By Mary Ann

The latest gadget for the iPod is the iBreath, allowing your iPod to tell you if you are drunk.

The attachment is a compact breathalyzer and FM transmitter. It features a BAC range of .00 to .10% and allows your iPod to play music through your radio.

If you have been out drinking, using the product can help you decide if you should be driving. According to the instructions, you unfold the blow wand and exhale for five seconds.

After about two seconds, the iBreath gives you your blood alcohol level. You can also set up a timer that will remind you when it’s time to take the next test.



This Week on Total DUI

By Mary Ann

State Law Provides Illinois DUI Memorial Signs

Under a new Illinois DUI law, memorial signs for those killed in drunken driving accidents may be requested by the victims’ families. A sign with Caitlin’s name and the date of the accident that took her life was the first to be requested under “Tina’s Law.” The law is named for Tina Ball, a construction worker with seven children who was killed by a drunken driver while working on I-57 during September 2003. Read more.

Study Shows Felony Wisconsin DUI Offenders are Avoiding Prison

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that lawmakers intended to get repeat Wisconsin OWI (DUI) offenders off the road. However, an analysis of Wisconsin DUI sentencing has shown that less than half of the people who are sentenced for fifth-offense drunken-driving in Milwaukee County end up serving time in prison. View the full article.

Drug Testing Drivers Could Become as Simple as Breath Tests

The National Institute of Health has recently released research guidelines that may lead to the development of new testing methods for drug abuse that can be used as routinely as breath tests. These guidelines were published in the August journal Addiction. Read on.



Arizona Judge Reverses Ruling on Breath Test Evidence

By Mary Ann

According to the Tucson Citizen, a Tucson City Court judge threw out breath test evidence in 19 alleged DUI cases.

On September 8, Judge Margarita Bernal ruled that testimony from a Superior Court case changed her mind about allowing the breath tests to be used in the trials.

In a statement given by Toby Hall, president of CMI, the company that makes the Intoxilyzer 8000, he cites anomalies, errors and issues that can have an impact on the machine’s reliability and credibility.  The Intoxilyzer 8000 machine and software is used in Arizona.

Recently, breath tests in more than 100 DUI cases in Tucson have been thrown out because of problems with CMI and the breathalyzer.  Many of these cases have been dismissed.



Show Your Tickets at the Prom then Step in Line for a Breathalyzer Test

By Mary Ann

This school year, Albert Lea High School students in Minnesota will be taking a breathalyzer test before they are admitted into the prom.  School officials are taking to new measures in hopes of cutting back on teen drinking.

Students attending the prom will have to blow into a preliminary capture column of a breathalyzer.  A warning light will go on if alcohol is detected on someone’s breath.  The student will then be taken aside to have a preliminary breath test.

Those students who pass the first breath test will win a prize, and their name will be entered into a drawing for more prizes.  The school hopes to promote a safe and chemical-free prom.



Geosat 6 with Breathalyzer Now Available to the Public

By Mary Ann

Italian GPS equipment manufacturer AvMap announced on Thursday, August 14 that the Geosat 6 Drive Safe satellite navigation system is now available to the public.

Originally developed for the Peugeot 107 Sweet Year, the navigator features the largest 16:9 widescreen available, Bluetooth and a built-in breathalyzer to help drivers figure out whether it is safe for them to drive and tell them if they are above the alcohol limit.

The compact 133 x 83 x 21mm device also include such functions as text-to-speech, stop planner and trip computer.



Was Your DUI Breath Test Fair?

By Mary Ann

In many DUI cases, the results of the breath test administered at the time of arrest are considered strong evidence.

But how accurate are breathalyzers, really? Maybe not as accurate as you (or your arresting officer) once thought. Read about DUI breath tests.



Breathalyzers in High School–Now There’s a Thought

By Mary Ann

An article published last October in USA Today recounts the increasingly common sight of breathalyzers administered at high schools social functions such as sports events and dances.

High school administrators have found the small breath test devices to be a cheap and publicly-visible way to deter students from trying to attend social events drunk or with alcohol.  Peer pressure, the shame of testing positive in front of friends, is touted as a motivating factor behind the effectiveness of the portable breathalyzer.

While civil rights groups warn that if students are tested without “reasonable suspicion” and prior approval, it may be a violation of civil rights, schools often draft consent forms that students sign if they are to have the privilege of attending social functions.