By Mary Ann Gorman
Breathalyzers are typically used at traffic stops when police suspect that someone has been driving under the influence of alcohol. Rarely, though, are breathalyzers used on young people who are not driving.
A 13-year-old boy, however recently discovered that police have several applications for breathalyzers, which are simple devices used to detect a person’s blood alcohol content.
According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against police in Livonia, Michigan after the police allegedly forced a teenager to take an alcohol breath test while on a school field trip.
At the time of the incident, the boy and his classmates were on a field trip celebrating their eighth grade graduation at Livonia’s Rotary Park.
The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the boy and his friends had walked into nearby woods for a brief walk when an assistant principal, who had followed them into the woods, found them and accused them of drinking alcohol.
The assistant principal based his allegation on a liquor bottle that was found near the boys, though they claimed it did not belong to them and that they had not been drinking.
When the police arrived, they forced the students to take a Breathalyzer test. To the embarrassment of school officials and the officers, each boy blew a 0.0, proving that they had not had alcohol.
The boy’s lawsuit focuses on the officers’ breach of his Fourth Amendment right to not be subjected to an unlawful search. The Fourth Amendment is designed to protect innocent people from obtrusive searches by the police.
According to the ACLU, federal and state courts have ruled police officers must have a search warrant to administer a breathalyzer test to someone who is not driving.
The lawsuit also claims that, not only did the police officers not have a warrant to lawfully administer the blood alcohol test, they also did not have any probable cause of wrongdoing that might have given them a reason to pursue a search warrant in the first place.
As the lawsuit stated, “[w]hen there is no evidence that a child has done anything wrong, he should never be subjected to this degrading and embarrassing procedure in front of his teachers and peers.”
As mentioned above, these types of situations are relatively uncommon. Breathalyzer tests are usually given to adult drivers when they are suspected of driving under the influence.
Even under these circumstances, however, breathalyzer tests are not infallible. In addition to the tests’ potential for making mistakes, police must also follow a strict set of guidelines when they give BAC tests.
If these police fail to follow proper procedures, or the results of the BAC test are unreliable, a DUI lawyer may help a person arrested for a DUI fight the charges.
As of Sept. 1, people in Louisiana who refuse to take a breath test will have their driver’s license suspended for one year. The penalty is twice as long as the current penalty for breathalyzer refusal.
“Now … it’s worse if you refuse the test,” said DWI attorney Robert Fleming.
Under Louisiana DUI law, a driver who refuses a blood alcohol test on a first DUI offense will have his or her driver’s license suspended for six months and 18 months for a second refusal.
The new law that Gov. Bobby Jindal signed on June 1 doubles the first offense penalty and suspends the offender’s license for two years on a subsequent offense.
Supporters of the new DUI law feel that it will give drivers the incentive to cooperate with police during a DUI stop.
Many supporters say that currently the common thought among many DUI offenders in Louisiana is to refuse the breathalyzer test.
“The problem was that drivers were refusing to take the test” on the advice of DUI attorneys, said Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr.
According to Donna Tate, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Louisiana has one of the highest refusal rates in the country. In 2005, 39% of drivers pulled over for drinking and driving refused a breathalyzer, when the national average was 22.4%.
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
With the dangers of drunken driving so obvious, it’s no surprise to often come across stories in the media about the latest efforts to curb DUI and bolster arrests and convictions.
The latest story involves a device that records the eye movements of DUI suspects during the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test — more commonly thought of as when an officer tracks the eye movements of a DUI suspect.
While the story does a nice job of describing what this device does, it does miss on an important point: that such technology is far from a slam-dunk in terms of proving a DUI offense, despite what some may claim.
When it comes to field sobriety tests like HGN, the One-Leg Stand Test and the Walk and Turn (WAT) test and how they may apply in your case, getting in touch with a local DUI attorney is a smart way to gauge truth from fiction.
Last November, Lawrence Trujillo needed a drink, so he and friend stopped a downtown bar and had a few. Unfortunately, he did not get a cab.
About six blocks from his home, he ran over a family, killing two children and their mother. Trujillo then drove home. When police arrived four hours later, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.17. The father escaped serious injury.
Trujillo was charged with 13 counts, including vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and child abuse.
In a surprise, Trujillo pled guilty to all counts. According to the Denver Post, his DUI attorney, Rob Bernhardt, said Trujillo had wanted to plead guilty since the day after the accident, but Bernhardt wanted to review the prosecutor’s evidence first.
Prosecutors had offered him a deal to 40 to 60 years in prison, but Trujillo decided to skip the deal and plead straight up.
Trujillo faces 16 to 176 years in prison. KTVD reported that Denver District Court Judge Morris Hoffman told Trujillo his practice is to impose consecutive sentences.
The family father, Frank Bingham, said that while Trujillo’s plea brought some degree of closure, “if Mr. Trujillo ever comes out of prison, he should be quite an old man when it happens.”
A Washington state trooper pulled over an SUV that was driving erratically. The driver was charged with DUI and embracing while driving.
His passenger was cited for possession of alcohol after the trooper saw her trying to hide a wine bottle.
The trooper told the Seattle Times that there were “some acts intimacy going on in the vehicle that were best saved for not driving down the freeway.”
He warned people that being distracted is as dangerous as being impaired, adding “I can’t think of anything more distracting as this.”
The driver should get a DUI attorney to see if embracing while driving is an actual law in Washington.
Nicole Richie’s lawyer appeared on her behalf and entered a plea of not guilty in Richie’s California DUI case. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 2. She was arrested in December after a 911 caller reported seeing her car heading the wrong way on a freeway in Burbank California. Richie volunteered that she had smoked marijuana and taken the prescription painkiller Vicodin. She was arrested after failing a field sobriety test.
Richie is facing her second DUI conviction. She has a prior DUI conviction in June 2003. California law specifies that if convicted of DUI twice within 10 years, a person can be sentenced to between 90 days and a year in jail, fined between $390 and $1,000, and have driving privileges suspended.
Getting arrested for a DUI can be a pretty stressful experience for anyone. Enlisting the help of a local DUI attorney is usually easier than handling your DUI charge on your own. It can be difficult for most people to navigate the court system and you shouldn’t have to suffer when an experienced DUI lawyer can assist you with the entire process. After talking with a DUI attorney, you might find out you don’t have to just settle with receiving the maximum penalties. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, your case might have some weaknesses that a DUI lawyer can argue in order to possibly get the charges reduced.