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.
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.