N.J. toughens drunken driving penalties for those who kill

John Ruocco, Chief Executive of Interceptor Ignition Interlocks, does a demo of the device called the Interceptor by blowing into a breathalyzer in this 2010 file photo (Jennifer Brown | The Star-Ledger)
John Ruocco, Chief Executive of Interceptor Ignition Interlocks, does a demo of the device called the Interceptor by blowing into a breathalyzer in this 2010 file photo (Jennifer Brown | The Star-Ledger)
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TRENTON — No more short stints in jail for drunk drivers who kill people in New Jersey.

Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed a bill that requires a prison sentence of at least three years for drunk drivers convicted of homicide.

Known as Ralph and David’s Law, the measure creates a new crime – third-degree strict liability homicide – for causing a death by driving a car or operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The legislation was in response to the outcry over light sentences that some drunken drivers have received because their crimes didn’t rise to the level of the state’s first- or second-degree offenses addressing driving under the influence. Until this new law, the only other offense jurors, judges and prosecutors could consider was drunken driving, which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail.

Attempt to change N.J.’s drunken driving law hits roadblock at Christie’s desk

Third-degree crimes generally do not require jail or prison time for a first-time offender but Ralph and David’s Law calls for mandatory incarceration of between three and five years.

The law was named for David Heim and Ralph Politi Jr., whose cases highlighted the loopholes in New Jersey’s drunken driving laws.

David, 13, of Hampton, was killed when he was hit by a drunken driver as he was crossing Route 206 with his mother and siblings in 2014. The motorist, not charged with vehicular homicide, was convicted of drunken driving and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Politi, an East Hanover business owner and community activist, was killed in 2012 by a drunk driver who swerved out of her lane and hit him as he stood by his parked pickup truck. The driver was charged with aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide, but was found not guilty in March of 2016.

The new law allows prosecutors to charge offenders with strict liability vehicular homicide or reckless vehicular homicide, depending on the circumstances. Reckless vehicular homicide would involve negligence on the part of the driver or boat operator.

What Can And Can’t You Do Under Washington’s New E-DUI Law

Texting or holding a phone to your ear while driving is already illegal in Washington state. But starting Sunday, Washington state troopers and local police will begin enforcing a toughened law against distracted driving.

This spring, the legislature expanded the distracted driving lawto forbid handling a phone behind the wheel for any reason, even when stopped in traffic or at a red light.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said you can also get a ticket for eating, sipping coffee, starting a video or grooming if a trooper sees you driving badly as a consequence.

The citation for being “dangerously distracted” by something other than an electronic device could only be enforced as a secondary offense, meaning another infraction such as an improper lane change would need to be observed to pull you over.

“It’s a hands-free situation,” Batiste said. “Before you get in your vehicle, if you’re going to use GPS, get that started before you turn the key. If you’re going to listen to music, get that all programmed and started before you head off down the roadways.”

Using voice commands to make a phone call or get directions while the phone is in a cradle or connected to your car via Bluetooth is still allowed. Hands-free devices must not take more than “minimal” finger touches to activate or deactivate.

Using a CB radio is OK. Picking up the phone to call 911 in an emergency is a permissible exception.

Batiste said troopers are likely to give more lectures than tickets during the initial three to six months under the toughened law.

“Our first effort is to educate folks as we typically do with new laws,” Batiste told reporters in Olympia Monday. “We go on a heavy emphasis of educating folks. So we’ll give out a lot of warnings.”

Another change from current law highlighted at a photo op and media event in Olympia Monday was that cell phone violations will be reportable to auto insurance companies from now on. Previously, cell phone tickets were exempted from disclosure to your insurance company.

A first ticket for driving under the influence of electronics—or E-DUI—will cost you at least $136. A second violation within five years will cost at least $236.

The stiffer consequences were welcomed by Tina Meyer of Arlington, who tearfully recounted how her 23-year-old son Cody was run down by a distracted driver in 2015 while he was working as a flagger in a construction zone near Issaquah. Cody eventually died from his injuries.

“By making this change in the law, it is going to save a lot of lives,” Meyer said.

http://kuow.org/post/what-can-and-cant-you-do-under-washingtons-new-e-dui-law

Is a New .05% Law Coming to Your State?

On January 15th of last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Board (NHTSA) issued the following news release:

Feds Want to Lower the Legal Limit to One Drink

Washington, DC. Jan. 15 – The National Transportation Safety Board wants to decrease the legal driving limit to one drink, lowering the legal limit on blood-alcohol content to 0.05 “or even lower.”…

The agency issued the recommendation while admitting that “the amount consumed and crash risk is not well understood.”

“We need more and better data to understand the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of countermeasures,” they said….

A 0.05 BAC level would reduce the number of drinks an average-weight man of 180 pounds could have to two, according to Blood Alcohol Calculator. Women could only have one drink before they exceeded the limit. A 100-pound woman reaches .05 BAC with just one drink, but two drinks would put any woman under 220 pounds at or above the government’s desired limit.

Under the current level of 0.08, an average weight man can have four drinks until reaching the limit.

On the next day, I posted the following on this blog:

To give all of this some context, let me offer a history of this focus on the lowering of blood-alcohol limits rather than on the more important issue of alcohol-caused impairment….

The original drunk driving laws were simple and fair: Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Then, many years ago, law enforcement came up with crude devices to measure alcohol on the breath of drunk driving suspects. But what did, say, a .13% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) mean? They turned to the American Medical Association which, in 1938, created a “Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents”. At the same time, the National Safety Council set up a “Committee on Tests for Intoxication”.

After some study, these two groups came up with their findings: a driver with .15% BAC or higher could be presumed to be “under the influence”; those under .15% could not. That’s right: .15%. And that recommendation lasted for 22 years. But prosecutors and certain groups of “concerned mothers” were not happy with the low DUI arrest and conviction rates.

Under increasing political pressure, the committees “revisited” the question in 1960 and agreed to lower the presumed level of intoxication to .10%. Had the human body changed in 22 years? Had the AMA been negligent in their earlier studies? Or were politics and law once again trumping scientific truth?

Well, the arrest and conviction rates shot up, but there were still too many people escaping the DUI net. Then MADD was formed. Soon after, legislation began appearing in many states that created a second crime, in addition to driving under the influence: driving with a BAC of .10% or higher.

This new crime did not require the driver to be affected by alcohol: even if sober, he would be guilty if his blood-alcohol was .10%. In effect, it completely ignored the questions of intoxication, driving impairment and individual tolerance to alcohol. And, despite questions of double jeopardy, the individual could be charged and even convicted of both the traditional DUI and the new .10% crimes! This gave police and prosecutors a powerful new weapon, and drunk driving arrests/convictions jumped once again.

This was not good enough. Under increasing pressure from an ever more powerful MADD, in 1990 four states lowered the blood-alcohol level in DUI cases to .08%; others soon followed and, ten years later, federal politicians (with one eye on MADD) passed an appropriations bill in effect coercing all states into adopting the new .08% BAC standard.

Since I wrote this, three months ago Utah enacted a new law lowering the blood-alcohol level drunk driving to .05%. See Jon Ibanez’ DUIblog post Utah Lawmakers Vote to Lower State’s BAC Limit to 0.05%.

Interestingly, on June 17th — shortly after the new .05% law was enacted — the Salt Lake City Tribune published the following comments from the original founder of MADD, Candy Lightner:

Founder of MADD Says Utah’s New Drunk Driving Law is an Unhealthy Distraction

Salt Lake City, Ut.  June 17 – While drunk driving remains a serious concern, other threats are mounting on our roadways. According to a recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 43 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for some sort of drug, legal or illegal. And with the rise of smartphones and other gadgets, people are distracted more than ever while driving.

As the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) I can attest that there is a new kind of madness on the roads. And new approaches are needed to save lives.

Unfortunately, the necessary debate on how to solve these new challenges isn’t happening in earnest. The traffic safety community is distracted by an issue that will do little to save lives: lowering the drunk driving arrest threshold from .08 to .05.

Back in the early years at MADD we focused on getting serious drunk drivers off the road…In the more than 35 years since MADD’s founding, we have fought drunk driving ferociously and saved countless lives in the process.

But today, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction — with government agencies pushing states to arrest people for having little to drink before driving instead of pursuing strategies to tackle serious distraction and impairment. Anyone who works in traffic safety knows that most highway deaths are not caused by drivers with low blood alcohol content levels, but are the result of drivers with substance abuse disorders. Focusing finite resources on casual drinkers instead of drug and alcohol abusers is a miscalculation with deadly consequences…

Maybe it’s time for the decades-old “War on Drunk Driving” to redirect its fixation away from alcohol and towards the real problem today:  drugs and distracted driving….

Source: DUI BLOG : DUI Laws, Lawyers and Law Enforcement

3rd dui-what can I expect to pay if I hire a lawyer?

Leaving the scene of the accident. I refused roadside or breath/blood tests. I understand it’s mandatory jail but what can I expect to pay if I hire a lawyer? Just in hopes of shorter jail/work release.

You should possibly hope for more. The attorney fees we charge are minimal if we settle your case without trial. They depend on how far the court is away from our office. We have traveled to Rifle, Burlington, Greeley-Ft. Collins, Trinidad and courts in between. Since you refused all testing you may want to go to trial if you have chances at an acquittal.

Walks Into a Bar… Karate Chop

A huge guy walks into a bar, approaches a little guy and karate chops him in the back. When the little guy gets up, the huge guy says, “That was a karate chop from Korea.”A little later, the huge guy walks back over to the little guy and karate chops him in the back. The huge guy says, “That was a karate chop from China.”The little guy leaves the bar, comes back and hits the huge guy on the back. The huge guy lies unconscious on the floor. The little guy tells the bartender, “Tell him that was a crowbar from Sears.”

Source: Funny Jokes | Walks Into a Bar… Karate Chop Joke | Comedy Central

Problems persist with police drunken driving data, auditor says

Updated: 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, 2017 |  Posted: 4:34 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Highlights

Police routinely changed queries used for drunk driving stats, producing unreliable statistics, auditor says.

Auditor’s report found many of the same issues first identified by 2016 Statesman investigation.

Police data can be essential for police and policymakers to figure out how to enforce laws, protect safety.

The Austin Police Department has changed how it tallies drunken driving wrecks, now using the Texas Department of Transportation’s database, according to a new report by the city auditor’s office.

That change alone increased the average annual number of drunken driving wrecks in Austin by 52 percent — more than 600 collisions — when compared with numbers pulled from the Police Department’s own database, the auditor’s report found.

In the past, the department routinely changed how it crunches drunken driving statistics — key data used to help shape law enforcement decisions made by city and police officials, according to the report.

The American-Statesman spotlighted the Police Department’s statistics problem in May 2016 — during the closing days of the $10 million fight over Austin’s ride-hailing regulations — when the department provided contradictory counts on drunken driving crashes in the city.

A subsequent analysis by the Statesman in August found significant deficiencies in how authorities have analyzed cases of driving while intoxicated — findings echoed in the city auditor’s report released this week.

“APD has routinely changed the techniques used for analysis of DWI data,” the audit report said. “These changes … have resulted in fluctuations in both the overall DWI arrest and crash statistics used for research and/or reported to stakeholders during the scope period October 2013 through March 2017.”

RELATED: Police revise drunken driving crash stats key to Prop 1 campaign

The report also plainly laid out the importance of the data: “These changes affect the accuracy of DWI incident data used by the department for decision-making and the consistency of reporting on DWI incidents.”

The department didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to questions about what — if any — changes it made in how it produces DWI counts, in the wake of the Statesman’s investigation and the auditor’s review.

However, the auditor’s report says the department made a key change the month after the Statesman published its investigation into the department’s DWI statistics.

The drunken driving data became a critical part of a political campaign seeking to overturn Austin’s ride-hailing regulations during the spring of 2016.

At the time, police data showed a 23 percent drop in drunken driving wrecks from 2013 to 2014, when ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft began to officially serve the city — a figure they used to support Proposition 1, which would have repealed City Hall regulations that required drivers be fingerprinted.

But, in the closing days of the campaign, the police provided the Statesman with a second set of figures that showed the drop was just 12 percent.

Uber and Lyft went on to lose by 12 percentage points.

Then, just days after the election, the police sent the Statesman a third set of numbers that showed the drop was 17 percent.

“The data that was given to us in the heat of the battle turned out to be wrong,” said District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, who requested the review. “To the extent that we can control for some of this, we should be controlling for some of this.”

Pool said she will raise the issue of the Police Department hiring a full-time statistician during upcoming budget talks this summer as one way to reduce such errors in the future.

The Statesman investigation that followed identified key deficiencies in the Police Department’s statistics unit and how it crunches the drunken driving data. Like this year’s audit, the Statesman found that the department failed to standardize the criteria it used to pull and crunch the statistics from its database.

The investigation also found the department’s statistics unit had no formal system for storing these queries or the results they produce, depriving it of a key way to check its work, and that its staff has little formal training in computerized mapping, databases or statistics when they were hired.

“A tip of the hat to (the Statesman),” Pool said, for uncovering the shortcomings.

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/problems-persist-with-police-drunken-driving-data-austin-auditor-says/VimprZAYiwVhv45ZqAMB3N/


Arizona DUI Center – Arizona Marijuana DUI

Marijuana DUI cases present a real risk of prosecuting people driving while not impaired. A primary reason is legislation that contradicts what science tell us it true about the drug. However, recently much of the scientific reality about marijuana has made its way to a number of higher courts.  This includes the Arizona Supreme Court.  As a result, the current state of Arizona law provides that prior marijuana use should not, alone, support a DUI conviction.However, while many of the myths about the meaning of a positive marijuana test result have been discarded – the world views of the people that previously prosecuted such cases still remain.  These world views are plainly evident in the way some jurisdictions now prosecute alleged marijuana DUI cases based upon junk science.While no reasonable person would advocate for a person to drive while impaired by a drug, what should be equally concerning is the wrongful prosecution of someone based up an scientific sounding opinion lacking any basis in real science.  After all, the American justice system was founded on the fundamental principle that “it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 372, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 1077, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 (1970).There are many legitimate signs and symptoms that a person may be impaired marijuana, but unfortunately investigations often go well beyond actual science.  For example, law enforcement will often testify they a green tongue means a person is impaired by marijuana.  This proposition has no basis in science yet it taught by the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration to officers across the United States.  One court that looked into NHTSA’s green tongue theory found:State has presented nothing, no scientific studies and no case law or other authority, to support the reliability of the trooper’s concern regarding the condition of Hechtle’s tongue. Cf. State v. Wheeler, No. 24397–1–II, 100 Wash.App. 1062, 2000 WL 646511, *2 n. 2, 2000 Wash.App. LEXIS 779, *7 n. 2 (Wash.Ct.App. May 19, 2000) (“Although we assume the officer’s assertion to be true for the purposes of this opinion, we are nevertheless skeptical as to its accuracy. We find no case stating that recent marijuana usage leads to a green tongue.”). State v. Hechtle, 2004 UT App 96, ¶ 13, 89 P.3d 185, 190Even the Arizona Court of Appeals has held the mere “scent of marijuana, standing alone, is insufficient evidence of criminal activity to supply probable cause for a search warrant.” State v. Sisco, 2 CA-CR 2014-0181, 2015 WL 4429575, at *1 (Ariz. Ct. App. July 20, 2015)DEFINING SOME TERMSTHC – also known as “Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol” is the main psychoactive constituent in marijuana.Hydroxy THC – the primary metabolite of THC.Carboxy THC – the metabolite of Hydroxy THC.  Carboxy THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion. State ex rel. Montgomery v. Harris, 237 Ariz. 98, 346 P.3d 984, 988 (2014). The presence of this metabolite provides no evidence of impairment.Cannabinoids – the active constituents in cannabis.HOW THE DRUG EFFECTS THE HUMAN BODYIt is common knowledge that the higher your alcohol concentration, the more severe your intoxication. However, marijuana does not affect you the same as alcohol. The highest levels of the active part of marijuana (THC) are usually in your blood within about 3 to 10 minutes following inhalation. This does not mean the concentration of the drug will be at its highest level in that time frame. The concentration of THC in a blood sample simply has no correlation with a level of impairment.Marijuana’s maximum influence on your performance usually manifests in 20 to 40 minutes after inhalation, yet this is also during the time period when the your THC levels are rapidly falling. (Sewell et al., 2009).Science has yet to meaningfully quantify how and to what extent marijuana impairs us.  While it is “well established that alcohol consumption increases accident risk, evidence of cannabis’ culpability in on-road driving accidents and injury is far less robust” (Armentano, 2013).In sum, presence of marijuana in your blood is simply not a reliable indicator of psychomotor impairment.Keep reading by clicking here, or you can contact the firm directly by calling (602) 494-3444 for a consultation.

Source: Arizona DUI Center – Arizona Marijuana DUI

State transportation worker suspended after OUI arrest in R.I.

A MassDOT electrician arrested Wednesday for allegedly driving under the influence in Providence has been suspended without pay after he reportedly struck multiple cars in his state-owned vehicle after leaving a North Attleboro job site, according to an official’s account.

Rhode Island State Police arrested the man, identified in e-mails between senior MassDOT officials as Robert Chaves, on suspicion of drunk driving in the vicinity of the Lower South Providence neighborhood.

MassDOT officials were notified of the arrest at around 12:25 p.m. after Chaves was ordered off a job site Wednesday morning when he got into a verbal altercation with a state contractor over that worker’s “method of installation,” according to a written description by a MassDOT official of the sequence of events.

The details of the incident were revealed in a chain of e-mails between MassDOT management inadvertently sent to the News Service as they discussed the latest information available to them and a public response should they get questions from the media.

The Rhode Island State Police confirmed Chaves’s arrest to the News Service early Wednesday evening on charges of operating under the influence, and said the prisoner was still being processed as additional charges were considered. Damage to the vehicles hit by Chaves was minor, according to police, and no one was injured.

Acting Massachusetts Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, District 5 Highway Director Mary-Joe Perry and MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard were among the officials on the e-mail chain.

Goddard, when contacted by the News Service, declined to discuss the details of the incident or the identity of the state employee involved.

“MassDOT is aware of this incident of very serious and unacceptable behavior, and has taken immediate steps to suspend the Highway Division employee in question from work without pay until the results of the law enforcement investigation become available,” she said in an official statement.

MassDOT District 5 engineer Bill Travers relayed one version of the morning’s events in an email to other MassDOT management as told to him by Chaves’s supervisor Michael Mulkhern. Based on that account, Chaves was working on a traffic loop installation project in North Attleboro Wednesday morning when he began “yelling and cursing” at one of the contractors.

Mulkhern “de-escalated” the situation and ordered Chaves back to the electrician’s depot in Middleborough.

After the incident was reported to the District 5 office, Mulkhern relayed orders to Chaves that he report to district offices in Taunton, but Chaves showed up again near the job site in North Attleboro before being told a second time to go to Taunton.

Instead of going there, it appears that Chaves drove to Rhode Island and Rhode Island State Police called the District 5 office to report that he had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after striking several vehicles, according to Travers’ e-mail.

According to Travers, the MassDOT vehicle Chaves was driving sustained “minor damage,” but was towed by state police to a lot in Providence because it had run out of gas.

Chaves, according to the e-mails, has been employed as a MassDOT electrician since August 2016.

Source: State transportation worker suspended after OUI arrest in R.I. – The Boston Globe