Teenagers, alcohol, and late-night driving are a recipe for disaster, as was recently shown in a tragic DUI-related accident that recently occurred in northern California.
According to the San Mateo County Times, Sean Quintero, a 19-year-old resident of San Francisco who had been drinking and partying on that fatal night, was involved in a serious car accident that killed one of the passengers in his car.
Sources indicate that the teenager was driving along Highway 101 towards the southern part of San Francisco with a blood alcohol content of .16, which is twice the legal limit of .08 for adults over the age of 21.
Apparently, Quintero was driving home from a party and loudly discussing music with the four passengers in his car when he failed to notice that traffic ahead had come to a stop. The traffic had stopped because of an unrelated car collision minutes before the Quintero accident.
Tragically, Quintero noticed the stopped cars too late, and rammed his Toyota, which was his mother’s car, into the back of another vehicle.
When the accident occurred, Quintero’s friend, 17-year-old Margaret Qaqish was pressed against her seatbelt and suffered severe internal injuries. The force of the accident was so powerful that she suffered fatal damage to her internal organs.
Qaqish, who was a senior at a San Francisco high school, had been sitting in the rear middle seat of the car, so she may have also struck the back of another seat or another person. Fortunately, though, the other three passengers in the car were not seriously injured.
The accident occurred around 3:20 a.m. and all the occupants of the car had allegedly been drinking that night. Quintero, to his credit, has expressed serious remorse for the tragic accident, according to his DUI attorney.
Quintero has accepted responsibility for his actions, as he recently pleaded no contest to charges of drunk driving and causing a crash with a fatality.
The felony charges could put Quintero in prison for up to four years and four months, though his sentence will not be determined by a local judge until this January. Until then, Quintero will have to await news of his fate.
In addition to the possible prison sentence, the teenager could also face severe financial penalties. He is currently being held in jail on a 325,000 bond.
Historically, young males have disproportionately higher rates of drunk driving accidents. And DUI accidents tend to be more dangerous as the drivers grow younger and more intoxicated.
For teenagers who are out drinking and do not want to alarm their parents, there are still plenty of ways to get home without endangering friends or other drivers.
For example, public transportation, including buses or trains, and taxis offer safe, reliable ways to get home.
A few years ago, Curry Todd, a state representative in Tennessee, gained national notoriety for sponsoring a law that allowed people to carry handguns in bars and restaurants.
While this law seemed to be misguided to many observers, it did come with a key caveat: those carrying handguns could not drink alcohol while they were packing heat.
This important distinction, however, recently came into play when Todd himself was arrested for a DUI while he was carrying a loaded weapon.
According to an Associated Press report, police stopped Todd in his GMC Envoy and detected a strong odor of alcohol in his vehicle. Police said that Todd had bloodshot eyes and had difficulty speaking.
Todd refused to take a breathalyzer test, but he allegedly failed a roadside sobriety test administered by the arresting officers. The police report says that Todd claimed he only had two drinks before being arrested.
After his arrest, police search Todd’s car and discovered a loaded .38-caliber pistol in a holster resting between the driver’s seat and the center console of the car.
The discovery of the handgun was particularly troubling to the arresting officers, who said Todd was unable to stay on his feet and was “obviously very impaired and not in any condition to be carrying a loaded handgun.”
Predictably, critics of Todd’s handgun law have embraced the irony of his arrest. They have also claimed that Todd’s actions show the futility and inevitable danger of allowing bar patrons to carry handguns.
In his defense, Todd released a statement claiming that he was sorry for the incident, but he also refused to make any further public comments on the advice of his DUI lawyer.
Some observers are speculating that Todd’s days as a lawmaker are numbered, but Todd has shown no signs of leaving his legislative post.
He has, however, entertained the notion of stepping aside from his post as the chairman of the Tennessee legislature’s State and Local Governance Committee. Todd plans to announce his future intentions after meeting with the Republican leaders of the state legislature.
In addition to his sponsorship of the controversial handgun law, Todd gained national fame last year for fearing that illegal immigrants would “go out there like rats and multiply” if undocumented women were given publicly financed prenatal care for their children.
After the remark, Todd compounded the public’s anger by saying that, instead of the quip about rats, he simply meant to use the term “anchor babies,” which many see as an equally indelicate phrase.
Later, Todd would renounce both claims, and issued a formal public apology. Thus, while Todd’s lawmaking days may be short-lived, he at least has gained valuable practice in the art of the formal public apology.
California often seems to be on the forefront of embracing new laws, and it recently flexed its innovation muscles with the enactment of a new DUI law.
Under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week, police officers in California will no longer be able to impound cars from sober but unlicensed motorists who are stopped at drunk driving checkpoints.
While this seems like a logical decision, and a victory for sober drivers, one key constituency has the most to gain from the new law.
Apparently, police in California have been using drunk driving checkpoints as a cover in an effort to catch illegal immigrants, rather than people driving under the influence of alcohol.
Previously, California had a law which allowed police to impound cars that belonged to unlicensed drivers for up to 30 days.
After 30 days, however, the accrued impoundment fees can reach thousands of dollars. The high level of fees often caused the car to be worth less than the driver owed to the police, leading many drivers to simply relinquish the car.
Because of these extraordinary police powers, illegal immigrants who were unfairly targeted at drunk driving checkpoints often lost their vehicles, even if they were perfectly sober when they were driving.
These questionable police tactics raised the concern of Latino legislators in California, who joined together to pass the latest bill in the state legislature.
Under the new law, which was written by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles, sober drivers who are caught at DUI checkpoints without a driver’s license do not immediately lose their car.
Instead, law enforcement officials are now required to release the car to a licensed driver representing the owner of the car.
In situations where a licensed driver cannot be found immediately after the driver is stopped at a checkpoint, police may take the car to an impoundment lot. However, the police must release the vehicle to a licensed driver whenever one appears.
It is Cedillo’s hope that the new California DUI law will prevent police from unfairly targeting illegal immigrants for driving without licenses at checkpoints that are allegedly designed to stop drunk drivers.
It should be noted, of course, that the law does nothing to limit the power of police to stop drunk drivers.
In fact, by eliminating the distraction of targeting illegal immigrants, the bill may also have the side benefit of funneling more police resources to targeting drunk driving, as police spend less time worrying about immigrants who are driving without licenses.
A bill advancing through the New Jersey legislature could make DUI testing mandatory in any fatal or serious car crash.
According to NJ.com, the legislation was prompted by a fatal one-car crash in Southampton, New Jersey in July 2007. Anthony Farrace, a passenger in the car, was killed when it hit a tree, and his body was tested for drugs and alcohol like in any autopsy.
The seventeen-year-old driver, however, was not required to submit to testing and was cited for careless driving and received a $200 fine and her license was suspended for six months. The accident incited Farrace’s father to push for a change in the New Jersey DUI laws.
Currently, drivers can only be tested when there is evidence or a strong suspicion that the driver is under the influence.
The new DUI law would require drivers to submit to a breath test or a blood test. If drivers refused to submit, then they would be subject to the same penalties as drivers who refused to submit in a DUI stop. First offenders could face fines of up to $1,000 and have their licenses suspended for up to two years.
A similar law is currently being considered in Illinois.
According to the New Jersey News Room, the bill is being sponsored by Democrats Nelson Albano and Paul Moriarty. Albano believes that the bill “makes common sense,” and that police would be able to “determine whether a driver was under the influence, and would be able to insure that impaired drivers don’t get back behind the wheel and will face serious charges.”
Moriarty is quoted as saying that “ testing for potential alcohol or drug use should be the rule when accidents result in death or serious injury, not the exception.”
The opposite side, of course, is that this is a bad road to head down. Landline, a magazine for truckers, points out that this expansion of implied consent laws and repudiation of probable cause is troubling, and would open the state to numerous headaches down the road because it is so invasive.
However, the article also notes that this is the second bill, and an identical effort died a year ago in committee.
This time around though, things look like they’re going differently. The New Jersey Assembly’s Law and Public Safety committee approved the measure in June, and forwarded it to the full Assembly in June, but a date for a final vote has yet to be decided.
What do you think? Is this an appropriate measure that will protect citizens and should be more widely adopted? Or is it an invasion of privacy which New Jersey should avoid putting into law?
When the newly adopted Leandra’s Law goes into effect, New York will be the 10th state to require that anyone convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunk driving will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car, the New York Times is reporting.
An ignition interlock device keeps a car from starting until the driver proves, via a breath test, that he or she does not have any alcohol in their system. The new law in the state is Leandra’s Law, named for a young girl who was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver. Her father, Lenny Rosado, became an outspoken advocate of tougher DUI laws after he lost his daughter.
The law will also make it a felony to drive drunk with a child under the age of 16 in the car.
Those required to install the ignition interlock device will have to keep it installed for a minimum of six months. The device must be installed at the driver’s expense. They are leased to drivers for a monthly charge of $70-110, according to the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives. Installation of the devices can be free, or can range in cost to up to $100.
According to the director of the OPCA, Robert Maccarone, an average of 25,000 drunk driving convictions come down every year in New York State – 4,000 of which occur in New York City.
The ignition interlock devices, which must be purchased from one of several state-contracted manufacturers, have a very low tolerance for alcohol levels in the breath of drivers. A car with the device won’t start if it registers anything that is above a .025 percent blood alcohol content. The legal limit is .08 percent.
There are a number of ways to deter falsified tests, as well. To keep a sober accomplice from blowing into the device, they have rolling retests, which administer another test every 5 to 15 minutes. This means that, to cheat the device again, the drunk driver would need to have the same sober friend with them.
When a retest fails, the horn starts to beep, and then a loud noise is admitted from the ignition interlock device.
There are also devices that snap a photo of the driver at the time the test is administered. Devices can also be configured to limit the hours a driver can drive the car, and they can resist hot-wiring and push-starting.
Denna Cohen, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Long Island chapter, says that the new law going into effect will save lives. “This is absolutely effective,” she said. “One drunk driver is all it takes to wreak havoc on a family.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees that the devices are effective. “We know that alcohol interlocks do work to reduce recidivism, and strengthening interlocks to include first offenders is the logical step to curb alcohol-impaired driving,” said Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the group.
Maccarone said that, in New Mexico, a similar program reducing repeat DUI offenses by 37 percent between 2002 and 2008.
Starting soon, Ontario will initiate the most strict age restrictions on DUI and drunk driving in Canada.
The new DUI laws will kick in on August 1, according to an article in The Waterloo Region-Record.
Under the new laws, drivers under the age of 22 won’t be able to drink a drop of alcohol, or take a single sip, before they drive a car.
The announcement came down from Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne. Drivers under 21 won’t be allowed to have any alcohol in their blood while they are driving, regardless of what type of driver’s license they have.
Canada has a graduated series of licenses leading up to the G license, which allows drivers to operate any car, van or small truck and trailer up to a certain size. The G1 license allows a driver to drive in the presence of a fully licensed driver who has at least four years of driving experience.
A G2 license allows a driver to drive without accompaniment, but it comes with other restrictions on the number of passengers and the time of night they can carry passengers.
Even before the new legislation goes into effect, G1 and G2 drivers were not allowed to have any alcohol in their system when they are behind the wheel. With the new laws, only G license holders who are over the age of 21 are allowed to have alcohol in their system that does not exceed the legal blood-alcohol limit of .05 percent.
The legislation is only now taking effect, after having been passed back in 2009.
There was dispute surrounding the legislation, and lawmakers removed a provision that would have limited the number of passengers that a teenage driver could have in the car.
Drivers who are caught violating the new law will have their license immediately suspended for 24 hours, and they will face a future suspension and a possible fine of up to $500 Canadian dollars.
Emna Dhahak, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation, told The Waterloo Region-Record that the legislation is “based on sound research and analysis.”
16-year-old Easton Page agreed with the law. “Mixing alcohol and young drivers doesn’t usually work out,” he said. “If you’re going to be behind the wheel you need to be completely in the right mind and focus on what you’re doing. You can’t have that taken away from you.”
Another young person felt that the law may single out young people. “I think that it’s a really good idea for people who are just learning to drive,” said Meghan Garber. “But I think it’s unfair how they target the younger people.”
Andy Murie, who is CEO of MADD Canada, offered that skeptics should check the numbers.
Those aged 16 to 24 represent 13 percent of the Canadian population, but account for 33 percent of DUI deaths. “They don’t just kill themselves,” said Murie. “They kill passengers, their friends, and they kill innocent people. They don’t get to choose when this is their performance.”
Accord to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the peak ages for DUI collisions are between 19 and 21.
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 State of Wisconsin is working hard to overcome its perceived culture of intoxication by imposing tougher DUI penalties.
Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking and drunk driving crashes, according to numbers cited in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
But a new push has led to a new series of DUI laws that take effect on July 1, 2010. The new laws include stiffer penalties for drunk drivers found with young passengers, a high blood alcohol content and multiple offenses on record.
The new Wisconsin DUI laws include additional penalties for the following offenses:
- First DUI Offense: A person convicted of a first or second DUI offense who has a passenger under the age of sixteen in the car faces a fine of $350-$1100 or jail time ranging from five days to six months. If a first time offender DUI offender has a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.15 then an interlock ignition device will be installed.
- Third DUI Offense: A person convicted of a third DUI offense will receive at least 45 days in prison. The sentence used to be 30 days.
- Fourth DUI Offense: If an offender is convicted a fourth time within five years, it will be considered a felony. There will also be a fine will between $600 and $10,000, and possible jail time will range between six months to six years.
- Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Offense: A person convicted of this many DUIs will serve at least three years in jail for each offense.
- Tenth Offense: A person committing a tenth offense would receive at least four years of jail time.
- Repeat DUI offenders: Repeat DUI offenders convicted of DUI causing injury would receive up to six years in jail or would be required to pay up to $2,000 in fines. This punishment would be doubled if there was a minor in the car at the time of the offense.
- Offenders with a lower BAC will face the same penalties: Under the old regulations, offenders with a blood alcohol level below .10 but still above the legal limit were subject to lighter penalties, but that is no longer the case.
The bill is expected to cost Wisconsin an extra $12.8 million per year, largely due to the costs required to house inmates. This cost is expected to be offset by the introduction of higher fees to reinstate revoked or suspended licenses, as well as by a program that would allow judges to decrease jail time in return for offenders completing a drug or alcohol abuse course.
Supporters of the bill say that this will not only drive the cost of the bill down, but decrease the rate of repeat offenders, saving Wisconsin money in the long-term.
Polls indicate that the Wisconsin public is firmly behind the change in the drunk driving laws.
Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College conducted a survey of 400 people, 85 percent of whom support the bill. Fifty-five percent also support using a higher liquor tax to help finance the bill, though that idea was struck down by Wisconsin Assembly Democrats before the bill was passed.
British Columbia officials have announced that they have proposed a tough new drunk driving law that includes swift DUI penalties for anyone convicted.
The proposed DUI laws would allow police to quickly suspend and fine drivers whose BAC level is as low as 0.05, according to the Vancouver Sun.
Billed as the toughest drunk driving law in Canada, the new law is designed to change the behavior of drivers in a dramatic fashion.
“We believe we need penalties that are clear, swift and sever,” said Solicitor-General Mike de Jong.
According to de Jong, the problem of drunk driving in British Columbia is on the rise. He cited the need to prevent others from putting people’s lives at risk.
“I hope that drivers will consider the seriousness of these sanctions while they’re sober, before they go out.”
The new law would, if enacted, enables an immediate three-day driving ban for drivers found to have a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08, which the article called the “warn range.”
The offense could also lead to vehicles being impounded and fines and fees up to $600.
If a driver was caught in this blood-alcohol level range multiple times, they could face a ban of up to 30 days and $800 in fees and fines.
Currently in British Columbia, police issue a 24-hour suspension for those with a blood-alcohol level in that range.
The new law would also be tougher on those found driving with a BAC level above the 0.08. There would be an immediate 90-day driving ban and $3,750 in fees and fines. The DUI offender would also have to use an ignition interlock device for one year.
“Under the new laws, drinking drivers will spend more money, more time, more effort earning back their driving privileges,” said de Jong.
De Jong made a speech about the bill on the legislature steps, invoking the memory of four-year-old Alexa Middelaer, who was killed in 2008 by an allegedly impaired driver as she fed horses in a field just off the road.
Canadian Premier Gordon Campbell himself stressed the importance of stronger laws. He was arrested for DUI while on vacation in Hawaii in 2003.
“The lesson that I learned … is that you should not be drinking and driving, period,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to do everything we can to make our streets as safe as possible for people.”
A proposed DUI law working its way through the New York senate and assembly would close a loophole and make it more difficult for drunk drivers to avoid prosecution.
The bill is commonly known as Jack Shea’s law after the Olympic medalist in the skeleton who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002. It has moved through the New York Senate, and now it must pass the assembly to go into effect.
Senator Charles Fuschillo, a supporter of the legislation, told the Legislative Gazette he was confident it would pass the assembly.
The new legislation revolves around Section 1194 of the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. This section defines who is allowed and qualified to take a blood sample at the scene of an accident from a person suspected of drunk driving.
In 2002, the driver who killed Jack Shea was able to avoid charges because of a loophole in this section. The argument that got him out of prosecution was that a physician had to directly supervise the drawing of blood samples.
In the Shea case, a police officer had requested that an emergency medical technician take the blood sample without a doctor present. Instead, a registered nurse and physician’s assistant oversaw the drawing of blood.
The blood sample had shown the driver to have a .15 blood-alcohol level at the time of the blood test.
Based on this loophole, however, the court had to dismiss the case, even in appeal.
The new legislation would take away the need for a doctor to be on the scene, and it would broaden the options for those with the authority to draw blood to nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and other professionals with a license to draw blood in New York.
When time is essential in many DUI cases, the ability of emergency first responders to draw blood could mean the difference in some situations. As it stands now, the law could discount blood drawn by EMTs and tested for blood-alcohol content.
Also, often in rural parts of the state, a doctor is not available to oversee blood drawing within a sufficient time period.
“This is another measure to strengthen provisions to get DWI drivers prosecuted,” said Fuschillo. He has been working on the bill since 2006.
DUI Offenders in Maryland may soon be easy to spot.
Delmarvanow.com, the online arm of the Salisbury Daily Times, is report that state legislators have introduced a bill that would require repeat DUI offenders to place a special license plate on their vehicle.
Maryland delegate Marvin E. Holmes Jr., of Prince George’s County, has introduced the bill each year for the last several years. He has thus far been unsuccessful in getting the bill passed.
The bill proposes that those who have been convicted of three or more DUIs would be required to use a brightly colored license plate on their cars. Currently, repeat DUI offenders are subject to higher insurance rates, jail time and fines. Delegate Holmes, however, would like to see something more publicly visible in place.
Holmes called the proposal “another tool in the toolbox.” He told DelmarvaNow.com that there were several reasons to implement the highly visible license plates. One was the social stigma that would result from it, which would deter potential offenders in a kind of “scarlet letter” effect.
The second effect would be to enable police and fellow drivers to take caution when approaching a vehicle with such a license plate.
According to Caroline Cash, who is executive director of Maryland’s chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there are more than 25,000 people in the state of Maryland who would qualify for such a license plate.
Wicomico County Sherriff Mike Lewis told Delmarvanow.com that there were hundreds of people in the Lower Shore region of Maryland with three or more DUI offenses that would qualify.
Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio are states that already have such laws in place regarding special license plates as DUI penalties for repeat offenders, said Melissa Savage, program director with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Such bills have been introduced in other states like Iowa, New York and Virginia, but they did not pass.
Rather than supporting the idea, Mothers Against Drunk Driving are supporting ignition interlock devices that require a breathalyzer before the operator can start a vehicle.
“While we appreciate the idea and efforts of Delegate Holmes, we feel that the ignition interlock is the best way to avoid allowing drunk drivers in Maryland,” Cash said.
Holmes stated that he also supported ignition interlock laws, and that he thought the special license plate would add to the arsenal of deterrents.
In 2007, a Minnesota man was arrested after police found him asleep at the wheel of his car, parked in his designated spot in front of his own apartment building. According to the Star Tribune, Daryl Fleck was drunk, and he was subsequently charged with driving under the influence.
Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a jury’s drunk driving conviction of Fleck. The court determined that there was enough evidence for the jury to conclude that Fleck was in control of his vehicle when he was arrested.
Fleck’s conviction was his fourth for DUI, and he was sentenced to four years in prison. The conviction had already passed through the state’s Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and paved the way for the state Supreme Court appeal.
G. Tony Atwal, Fleck’s appellate lawyer, did not agree with the court’s decision to uphold the conviction. He told the Star Tribune, “Presumably, if you’re in or about your car, the county attorney could now charge you with a physical control DWI.”
Atwal explained his decision to pursue the various appeals because there was not evidence to suggest that Fleck had actually driven the vehicle that he was found in. According to Atwal, the car’s engine was cold to the touch, and a police officer wasn’t able to start it at all.
Atwall also noted that the fact that the car was parked in a parking lot near Fleck’s home made a great deal of difference. Had it been parked by the side of the road, for example, the situation would change.
According to the Star Tribune, the Supreme Court did not agree. The decision handed down read, “Mere presence in or about a vehicle is insufficient to show physical control; it is the overall situation that is determinative.”
The decision, written by Justice Alan Page, did acknowledge that the circumstances of this situation were not typical of the more common “physical control” drunk driving cases.
The “physical control of a motor vehicle” law is intended to prevent drunk people from getting in a position to operate a motor vehicle, but rather to enter vehicles only as passengers.
Last year, New York state saw about 12,000 DUI-related deaths, according to local CBS news.
As a result, the state has recently enacted strict new DUI laws to help decrease the number of fatal accidents. State Governor David Patterson signed the Child Passenger Protection Act, which outlines some of the toughest DUI laws in the country – according to the governor.
Patterson hopes it will help provide police officers with the tools they need to better prosecute DUI offenders.
The Child Passenger Protection Act is also referred to as Leandra’s Law, for an 11-year-old girl named Leandra Rosado who was killed as a passenger in a drunk driving accident.
Leandra was in a car with a friend’s drunk mother, Carmen Huertas, behind the wheel. Huertas caused a car accident, causing the car to flip. Leandra was flung from the vehicle, and later died from head and chest injuries. All other passengers survived the accident.
According to a local CBS report, Huertas was charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, DUI and assault.
Under Leandra’s Law, anyone driving a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while a child under 16 is a passenger can be charged with a felony, and may serve up to four years in jail if convicted – even if it is a first DUI offense.
Drunk drivers who cause serious injuries to a child could be charged with a Class C felony – punishable with up to 15 years in prison.
If a child dies as a result of drunk driving, the offender can be charged with a Class B felony and spend up to 25 years in prison.
In addition to increased DUI penalties, parents caught driving under the influence will be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Leandra’s Law also makes it mandatory for any convicted drunk driver to have an ignition interlock device in their car.
Interlock devices require the driver to breathe into them before the vehicle will start. If any alcohol is detected in the breath test, the car will not start.
These new laws are meant to curb all future DUI fatalities – not just those of children. Hopefully drivers will think twice before getting behind the wheel after one too many drinks.
Questions about personal responsibility are prevalent in discussions about DUI arrests and offenses, especially in reference to bars and restaurants serving alcohol to customers who are later arrested for DUI.
Should an establishment that serves alcohol be legally responsible for the actions of someone consuming alcohol at that bar? State DUI laws vary, and Connecticut is one state in which police follow-up investigation of alcohol-serving bars and restaurants is available as a legal option.
Recent reports, however, indicate that following a crackdown on DUIs, police in Connecticut may not have followed up with the establishments where DUI suspects claimed to have been drinking.
In Connecticut, the state Liquor Control Commission has the authority to fine or suspend the liquor license of bars and restaurants based on their connection to DUI suspects. In the course of a DUI arrest, law enforcement officials often record the bar or restaurant that served those arrested for suspicion of a DUI offense.
Recently, journalists in Connecticut investigated the follow-up of these bars and restaurants, finding that police did not submit a single establishments’ information to the Liquor Control Commission in the several months of a crackdown and for weeks afterward.
The crackdown came after a rash of DUI-related accidents and deaths in Northeast Connecticut, as police increased patrols along the interstate highway, in an effort to catch more drunk drivers and to decrease alcohol-related accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Extra patrols dedicated to weekend DUI coverage, in addition to those regularly scheduled, led to more than 80 arrests. As a part of the arrest process, officers routinely asked DUI suspects where they had consumed alcoholic beverages and noted it in a standard form.
Following the crackdown, which occurred in the spring of this year, the investigation revealed that officers were not following up with the establishments in question after making an arrest, even as they gathered the necessary information to do so.
After a DUI arrest, wherein the driver tells the police where he or she drank the alcohol, police can forward that information on to the liquor commission, along with a police report.
In a response to the assertion that police weren’t pursuing this option, a police spokesperson claimed that police do follow up with the restaurants or bars that arise during the course of the arrest, noting that the context and particular details of a given incident determine the implementation and nature of the investigation.
Whatever your opinion about the responsibility of bars and restaurants in DUI cases, it would appear based on these investigations that the police in Northeast Connecticut are not taking that route. Why that may be is another question.
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.