Archive for May, 2008

Can A Personal Breathalyzer Save Your Life?

Brian Thomas and Lauren Sonkin met us at Tulene’s South Side Saloon in Johnstown to put the BacTrac Personal Breathalyzer to the test. We asked them how they know when to stop drinking. Thomas said, “I just drink until I feel like I reached my limit, then I stop.” Sonkin said, “I just basically feel it out. If I feel like I’m losing control of myself or I’m not thinking straight, then I’ve probably had too much to drive.”

Both also travel in groups of friends that have a designated driver or call a cab. They agreed the BacTrac personal Breathalyzer would be very useful. Sgt. John Herdman of the Richland Police Department helped administer the test. “We give a series of field sobriety tests. The last test we give is the breathalyzer and we use that as a pass-fail type thing.”

Both Breathalyzers work the same way, but the personal one doesn’t have a mouthpiece. Sonkin drank two cranberry and vodkas over an hour and a half. Thomas drank three beers in an hour. With the personal Breathalyzer Sonkin blew a 0.02 percent and Thomas blew a 0.11. The legal limit in Pennsylvania is 0.08. Herdman had Thomas and Sonkin blow into his police-issued Breathalyzer. Sonkin blew a 0.03. “That’s pretty close,” Herdman said. It was Thomas’ turn; he blew a 0.045. “That’s a big difference, ” Herdman said.

Brian used the personal Breathalyzer again and blew a more accurate reading of 0.07.”Any type of personal breathalyzer you use is going to be a different reading than an actual Breathalyzer or blood test,” Herdman said. “If you see that you’re over the limit are you going to say, ‘Hey, I need to get somebody to drive me home,’ or are you going to say, ‘Well, they might be wrong. I’m going to drive anyhow.”

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Lindsay Is The Poster Girl For Breathalyzers

Lindsay Is The Poster Girl For Breathalyzers

USA Today ran this ad from the American Beverage Institute featuring none other than our favorite celebrity drinker and driver Lindsay Lohan. Apparently there’s a petition by activists to try and get a breathalyzer installed in every car in America. The American Beverage Institute is saying it’s only necessary for major screw-ups like Lindsay, and not for most people, who like to have a glass of wine or two or eight at dinner and then drive home.

Lilo’s lawyer Blair Birk, is outraged over the ad, saying: “USA TODAY is idiotic for running such an irresponsible advertisement, suggesting that drinking and driving is some kind of American “tradition” we should protect. Not identifying that this ad was paid for by the liquor industry is profoundly reckless.

Drunk, old, white businessmen, drunken cougars out for girls night out, and drunk wedding parties should be kept off the roads of America. Lindsay Lohan fully endorses ignition interlock devices that have been well-proven to save lives.”

While it is funny to see Lindsay’s face plastered on this ad, it’s kind of old news. They should have done a montage of Heidi Fleiss, Gary Dourdan, and Mischa Barton. Get with the celeb DUI times!

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Kroeger appeals conviction

The lead singer of the rock band Nickelback has appealed his conviction on drunk driving charges, arguing a compulsory breathalyzer violated his rights.

The appeal, filed last month, argues the breathalyzer evidence should have been excluded from Chad Kroeger’s trial after the judge found the test was issued without “reasonable suspicion,” Kroeger’s lawyer, Marvin Stern, said.

Kroeger was found to have nearly double the legal limit of alcohol in his blood when he was pulled over for speeding in June 2006.

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Alcohol breath tests in Tucson questioned

The Breathalyzer is a pretty common way police can find out if a motorist has had too much to drink, but a Tucson City Court judge has tossed out alcohol breath tests in 49 of his cases, and there could be more.

Defense attorneys just want to make sure the breathalyzer used by Tucson Police properly measures alcohol content, but the company that makes the device won’t release information on how it works, and that’s causing problems for at least one Tucson judge.

The device is called the Intoxilyzer 8000. “The machine basically is supposed to test the blood alcohol in a subject,” says Criminal Defense Attorney Alfred McDonald. Breathalyzer tests are common sights at DUI checkpoints, but attorneys who deal with DUI cases still aren’t convinced the breathalyzer used by TPD does what it’s supposed to.

McDonald says, “Obviously if it doesn’t, that’s something they’d be interested in. And if it does, we’d want to know how it works and if it’s working properly so that we can go back and check the software to make sure it’s accurate.”

The company that makes the Intoxilyzer 8000 is C.M.I., but the problem is that C.M.I. doesn’t want to share it’s software program with defense attorneys like McDonald. “C.M.I.’s position is that this is proprietary, meaning we’ve created this and we don’t want our competitors to go out and start making this type of machine using our software,” McDonald says.

Now a Tucson City Court judge has ruled that if C.M.I. won’t share information, then alcohol breath tests are inadmissible, a decision that Kelly Larkin of Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn’t agree with. “It’s unfortunate that a judge is letting a defense attorney use these tactics,” she says.

But Larkin says at least the breathalyzer isn’t the only determining factor in a DUI case. “Officers don’t just pull people over and give them a breathalyzer, they are looking at physical signs as well as mental signs of intoxication,” she says.

As for what happens next with the Intoxilyzer 8000 and the cases affected by it, that’s up to the courts to decide. McDonald says, “At this point there’s a lot of litigation that will trickle down and eventually you’ll get one ruling that will apply.” He says the appeals process could take anywhere from several months to a year.

Meantime, the Tucson Police Department says they’ll continue using the Intoxylizer 8000 until they see the results of the appeals process.

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Police charge man with twelfth DWI

Police charge man with twelfth DWI

He’d been busted driving drunk 11 previous times and Friday night police say their suspect was again behind the wheel and so drunk that he passed out in the back of a squad car.

Apolino Lopez, 42, was pulled over last night for speeding, but Los Lunas police say it soon became clear the man was drunk again behind the wheel.

Authorities say they found empty beer cans inside Lopez’ car and that he refused field sobriety tests.

When officers arrested the man and took him to the station for a Breathalyzer test, they say Lopez passed out in the back of the police car.

Officers say Lopez refused to take the breath test, which means he was automatically charged with aggravated DWI.

They say they found 11 previous DWI arrests on his record and that they are glad he is off the road.

At the time of his arrest, Lopez was on bail for another DWI. He is now being held without bail.

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Breathalyzer challenge

PROVIDENCE — A state prosecutor and a former House speaker last week debated whether new, harsher penalties apply to those who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests — or whether the penalties enacted in 2006 were wiped out when the governor signed a budget bill containing the law’s old language.

The arguments, which took place before the Rhode Island Supreme Court, prompted one justice to say, “The public should not know how sausages or laws are made.”

Before the penalties changed, nearly 85 percent of motorists suspected of drunken driving in Rhode Island were refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer test, while the national average was 25 percent.

But in 2006, the General Assembly passed a law aimed at cracking down on those that refuse to take the tests. For first offenses, the law doubled the minimum license suspension to six months, and it made subsequent offenses criminal rather than civil. For second offenses, the law provided penalties of up to six months in prison, fines of up to $1,000 and up to 100 hours of community service.

Governor Carcieri signed the bill on June 28, 2006. And two days later, the governor signed the annual budget bill, which added a $200 assessment for refusing a Breathalyzer test but did not include the stiffer penalties contained in the other legislation.

Three men charged with Breathalyzer refusal — Theodore H. Such Jr., Eric Ahlborg and Robert MacDonald — asked then-Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Fortunato Jr. to declare “which of these amendments would control in penal actions brought by prosecutors against them.” And in January 2007, Fortunato, who has since retired, ruled that the budget bill was “the controlling statute.”

The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold, pending the appeal that was argued on Wednesday.

John B. Harwood, a Pawtucket lawyer and former House speaker, argued on behalf of Such, and Tiverton lawyer Richard S. Humphrey argued on behalf of Ahlborg. They said the budget bill was signed into law after the Breathalyzer refusal bill and therefore amended the penalties back to their prior level — except for adding the $200 assessment.

“A law doesn’t become a law until it reaches the governor’s desk,” Harwood told the high court.

Supreme Court Justice Francis X. Flaherty asked, “Aren’t you ceding legislative control to the governor?” Harwood said, “Absolutely not.”

Harwood said legislators could have “taken 10 minutes,” said “we made a mistake” and amended the budget bill to include the harsher penalties. But they didn’t, so the old penalties apply, he said.

Prosecutors disagreed. Special Assistant Attorney General Michael W. Field told the Supreme Court that “in a perfect world” the budget bill might have been amended to reflect the new penalties. “But in the world of the General Assembly or any legislature… ,” he said, without finishing the thought.

Flaherty then paraphrased Otto von Bismarck, saying, “The public should not know how sausage or laws are made.”

Field emphasized that under House rules, words are underlined or placed in italics to show how a bill amends a law, and words are crossed out to show what is being deleted from a law. The remainder of the law is reproduced merely to show the context for the changes.

In the budget bill, the only underlined words regarding Breathalyzer refusals had to do with the new $200 assessment, Field said. The language about other penalties was not underlined or crossed out, “so it indicates no intent to amend or repeal it,” he said.

Supreme Court Justice Paul A. Suttell, a former state representative, said members of the House are free to ignore their own rules.

“We suggest they have done that now and again,” Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg added wryly.

Flaherty said, “We used to have a [House] Speaker who would turn the clock back so it would never hit the 61st day.”

“Present company excluded,” Goldberg added, indicating Flaherty was referring to another former House speaker and not Harwood.

Harwood looked up, saying, “I may have done that.”

Field said legislators passed the Breathalyzer-refusal bill after they had approved the budget bill, so the budget contained the Breathalyzer-refusal language as it stood at the time.

When Field began addressing when the governor signed the bills, Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams interjected, saying the governor has a lot of public bill-signing ceremonies that “don’t mean a tinker’s damn” from the perspective of the legal questions the court is facing in this case.

After the hearing, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch issued a written statement, saying, “For too long, Rhode Island has had the disgraceful but unfortunately well-deserved reputation as a leader in the percentage of DUI-refusal cases and total deaths caused by drunk drivers. The bill that the governor and I introduced before the 2006 session of the legislature, and that became law in June of 2006, however, is working, and the public should realize that we are holding drunk drivers more accountable.”

The percentage of motorists refusing Breathalyzer tests has dropped from about 85 percent to about 50 percent, Lynch said. “The reason is, if they refuse a Breathalyzer and are convicted, they’ll lose their license for twice as long — for at least six months and potentially for as long as a year,” he said.

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Prom breathalyzer – CNN Video

Prom Breathalyzer

Seniors at Whitnall High School in Wisconsin have to pass a breathalyzer test to be allowed into the prom.