Archive for the ‘ DUI News and Information ’ Category

An Alisal Union School District bus driver was arrested today after he finished his morning route and was found to be under the influence of alcohol, police said.Frankie Mata, 48, who had driven about 50 students to school, tested positive for alcohol with a blood-alcohol content of .12 when district officials conducted a random drug and alcohol test of bus drivers, said Cmdr. Bob Eggers.

District officials notified police about 12:40 p.m. who arrested and booked Mata into Monterey County jail on allegations of driving under the influence and 50 counts of child endangerment.

Eggers said Mata was tested by officers two hours after the initial test done by the district and was found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.07. In California the presumed level of intoxication is 0.08.

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WINNIPEG — The 23-year-old son of a Manitoba woman killed in a crash with an off-duty police officer says he was angry when a prosecutor told him that drunk-driving charges would be dropped.

Crystal Taman was driving north of Winnipeg on a sunny day in February 2005 when her tiny car was rear-ended by a pickup truck driven by Derek Harvey-Zenk.

Charges against Harvey-Zenk initially included impaired driving causing death and refusing a breathalyzer.

But he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death in a controversial plea bargain that is now under scrutiny at a judicial inquiry in Winnipeg.

Jordan Taman told the inquiry that Crown prosecutor Marty Minuk informed his family there wasn’t enough evidence to prove alcohol was a factor in the crash.

The son also said his father was angry at the news because the family had hoped the alcohol-related charges would send a message.

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Spurs guard Johnson arrested on DWI charge

Police arrested Spurs guard DerMarr Johnson over the weekend and charged him with driving while intoxicated.

Johnson, 28, was released Sunday morning after posting $1,000 bail. A breath test showed the 6-foot-9 basketball player had exceeded the legal limit of 0.08 percent, police said.

“I just had a few cups of wine,” Johnson said as he left the city’s detention center.

About 11:30 p.m. Saturday, a traffic officer pulled over a black SUV on Loop 1604 near Interstate 10 West because it was traveling 20 mph over the speed limit, weaving and following other vehicles too closely, police spokesman Joe Rios said.

The officer noticed that Johnson, the driver, smelled of “intoxicants” and his speech was slurred, Rios said. After a field sobriety test, Johnson was taken downtown, where he submitted to a breath test.

“He was very cooperative,” Rios said.

Asked if he believed the arrest would affect his position with the Spurs, Johnson said, “I don’t know. Probably so.”

Tom James, a spokesman for the Spurs, declined to comment, citing a lack of details.

“At this point, our main focus is working to gather more information,” he said.

Johnson’s career has been bumpy. Two years after joining the Atlanta Hawks as a first-round draft pick, he crashed a Mercedes-Benz into a tree and broke his neck in 2002. The injury kept him off the court for more than a year, and Atlanta let him go. Police said alcohol was not a factor in the wreck.

Last year, police stunned Johnson with a Taser and charged him with resisting arrest and interfering with police during a disturbance outside a Colorado nightclub, according to the Associated Press. A lawyer for Johnson at the time said he had been breaking up a fight between two women.

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Woman at .462 after tree crash

A WOMAN was a record nine times over the legal blood-alcohol limit when she crashed her car into a tree, a court heard yesterday.

A lawyer for Heather-Ann Higgins told Frankston Magistrates’ Court Ms Higgins would plead guilty to seven driving offences after recording .462 – believed to be an Australian record reading for a female driver.

Ms Higgins, 49, allegedly told police she drank four cans of a vodka-based mixed drink shortly before she hit a tree and rolled her car on a road in Moorooduc, on Mornington Peninsula, on February 15.

The force of the impact was such that her hat ended up in a tree at least 6m off the ground.

Ms Higgins’ blood-alcohol level was tested after a sample was taken while she was treated at the Frankston Hospital.

Constable Phil Frith said outside court the reading was believed to be the highest recorded for a woman in Victoria.

“I was dumbfounded, to put it politely,” Constable Frith said.

“I rang forensic science straight away to confirm it and they said it was definitely correct.”

Ms Higgins, of Somers, appeared in court yesterday on charges including reckless conduct endangering life, careless driving, driving under the influence, exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol and driving in a dangerous manner.

Her lawyer, Neil Falconer, indicated she would plead guilty and asked the court for an adjournment to allow her to be psychiatrically assessed and medically treated.

A police statement before the court alleged Ms Higgins’ car veered on to the wrong side of Stumpy Gully Rd, Moorooduc, before it hit a tree, rolled and landed on its roof.

Pictures of the mangled car wreckage were included with the police statement.

Constable Frith, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene, said the woman was trapped in the wreckage and police helped an ambulance crew free her.

He said she was very lucky to be alive.

Ms Higgins broke down in tears as she left the court after magistrate Ross Betts adjourned the hearing to July 15.

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Suspected drunk drivers who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test might soon be required to have their blood tested for alcohol on the spot.

County Attorney Bill Moore will meet with all Johnson County law enforcement agencies on Wednesday to discuss implementing a plan to cut down on drunk driving.

The plan would require a blood test for suspected drunk drivers who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests. Law enforcement officials would have the authority to do a blood test through a search warrant issued by a local magistrate.

“Local law enforcement agencies have voiced support of using search warrants for blood to enforce the driving while intoxicated laws,” Moore said in a press release.

The goal is to develop standard procedures for implementing the blood-testing plan legally on a countywide basis, he said.

“Recently the Burleson Police Department implemented a policy of mandatory search warrants for blood for all DWI refusals,” Moore said in a press release. “Under this policy, if a DWI suspect refuses to provide a breath specimen, the police officer obtains a search warrant for blood from a magistrate. A specimen of blood is taken from the suspect that will be tested to determine the alcohol concentration of the suspect’s blood.”

Moore spoke with the Johnson County commissioners Tuesday during a meeting. Commissioners indicated support for Moore’s plan to institute a magistrate search warrant policy countywide.

“That, I think, is going to be a big step in getting people off the road and getting a conviction,” said County Judge Roger Harmon.

“This is a win-win situation,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Beeson.

The program might also help cut down on DWI caseloads in local courts.

“If you’ve got good evidence, you don’t go to trial,” Moore said.

If a DWI suspect has a blood alcohol level higher than the legal limit and it’s been verified by a blood or Breathalyzer test, the suspect is less likely to want to go to court, Moore said.

“Five hundred and ninety misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases were filed in Johnson County last year,” Moore said. “Probably 50 percent or more are refusal cases.”

Refusal cases are much harder to prosecute, he said.

When a city or county implements a magistrate search warrant plan, a local judge must be on call to issue search warrants 24-7. Then officers can take blood from those who refuse a Breathalyzer.

The blood tests will be sent to outside labs for analysis, and prosecution will depend on the results.

“It will give us scientific evidence whether or not the person intoxicated,” Moore said.

Being able to issue search warrants on the spot would help prosecutors convict intoxicated drivers, Moore said. Normal processing for suspected drunk drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer can take hours, which means more time for the blood alcohol level to approach legal levels.

If the driver refuses a Breathalyzer, a magistrate’s search warrant can be issued quickly so the officer can bring the driver in for a blood test to measure blood-alcohol level.

Local magistrate Toni Driver has agreed to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to issue the search warrants, Moore said.

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A New York teenager came up with a creative excuse after police pulled her over for failing to maintain her lane last Friday night. Police found 17-year-old Gianna Vigliotta to be drunk and after administering a breathalyzer it was determined her blood-alcohol was nearly twice the legal limit yet the teen insisted she had not had a drink all night. Vigliotta then told the officers that she had been kissing her drunk boyfriend and that impaired her motor skills. After searching the car police found four bottles of beer under the passenger seat and an empty can in Vigliotta’s purse.

She is scheduled to appear in court June 18.

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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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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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