Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tis the Season for DUIs

by Joyce Tremel

Since New Year's Eve is only days away, I thought it would be a good time to re-post this (especially since we had four DUI arrests on Sunday alone!) Keep this in mind if you're out partying. If you've had more than one or two drinks over the course of the evening, make sure someone else drives please!

The following is FICTION, but details what a typical DUI arrest might be like. Definitely not great literature by any means, but you'll get the idea.

I flicked the switch for the overhead lights on my patrol car when the Ford Taurus that I’d been following for half a mile crossed the center line for the third time. When the car didn’t pull over, I turned on the siren. The Taurus slowed down, drifted toward the curb and stopped.

I pulled behind the car, leaving enough of my unit in the travel lane for safety. I notified dispatch of my location and gave them the registration number.

Dispatch repeated the plate information and my location. Another unit answered and said he was on his way to back me up.

I grabbed my flashlight and got out of the car. When I reached the Taurus, I pressed on the trunk. It was closed tight. No one in there. Not that there ever would be, but I didn’t like to take chances.

The driver spoke before I did, asking me why he was pulled over. His words were slurred and he reeked of alcohol.

I told him why. I shined the flashlight quickly around the inside of the car. There were four empty beer cans on the floor of the passenger side and an open can in a cup holder.

The driver fumbled with his wallet, passing over his license three times before he found it and handed it to me. He didn’t know where his registration or insurance card were.

I took his license back to my patrol car and entered the info into the MDT. His license came back DUI suspended. Surprise, surprise. Dispatch informed me his vehicle registration was also suspended. I had them notify the towing company.

As I went back to the Taurus, my back up arrived and I filled him in. He stood by while I spoke to the driver again. I asked if he had anything to drink tonight.

He assured me that he’d only had one beer with his dinner.

I suppressed a smile. Why was it they always only had one? Just once I’d like someone to say, “Hell, yeah, I’ve been drinking all night.”

I asked him to step out of the car. He swayed so much he almost fell. I asked him if he had any illness or disability which would preclude him from taking a field sobriety test. He said no and agreed to submit to the test. We moved to a well-lit parking lot nearby. I demonstrated the first one—the finger to nose test. Instead of listening to my instructions, he tried to do it at the same time as I did. The ability to listen to instruction was actually part of the test. He touched his upper lip with his left hand twice and the bridge of his nose, then the side of his nose with his right.

The second test was worse. I showed him how to hold his leg straight in front of him, six inches off the ground. He didn’t even make it to the count of one thousand two on either leg.

The third test was the straight line walk. He not only couldn’t walk heel to toe, he couldn’t even stay on the line. I placed him under arrest, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of my patrol car. The officer backing me up inventoried his car and waited for the tow, while I took the prisoner back to the station.

In the booking room I turned on the Intoxylizer machine to let it warm up while we waited the required twenty minutes before I could test his breath. In the meantime I read him the Chemical Testing form, which explained that if he refused to submit to testing, his license would be suspended for an additional year. Probably didn’t matter to him—he was suspended already and still driving.

He signed the form and I showed him how to blow into the machine. On his first reading, he blew a 0.25 and on the second, a 0.21. I gave him a copy of the reading and asked if there was someone he could call to pick him up. He arranged for his wife to get him. When she arrived at the station, I explained that he would be charged with DUI by summons and he’d be notified of the preliminary hearing. If he failed to appear, a warrant would be issued for his physical arrest and he’d be taken to the county jail.

That was one off the road. At least for tonight.


Gina said...

Thanks for the reminder, Joyce, but I never drink and drive. Drinking, you see, makes me fall asleep, and I don't think it's a good idea to drive and sleep at the same time.

Joyce said...

Yeah, the cops generally frown on that.

Lee Lofland said...

Joyce, are you guys finding defense attorneys challenging the Intoxylizer results in cases involving automobile accidents where the airbags are deployed? It seems the powder on the bags is inhaled which can give a false blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. Go figure...

Joyce said...

I haven't heard anyone mention that Lee. I wonder if that's why they go to have blood drawn most of the time instead of using the intoxylizer. Isn't it just corn starch on the airbags? How would that raise the BAC?

I don't think too many of our DUIs actually go to trial. Most of them plead and go for ARD (alcohol rehab). If they do that, they almost always get their record expunged.

Gina said...

Come on, Joyce. You know ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition, or something like that. It's supposed to be available to first time offenders who get their records expunged if they successfully complete the ARD (which typically includes alcohol rehab if their offense if DUI). The big question, though, is how does anybody know these folks are first time offenders? What if they've been through ARD before and their records were expunged??

Lee Lofland said...

It's a defense that's working for attorneys and their clients.

I don't think it actually raises the BAC level, it just produces inaccurate results. And you know that raises a reasonable doubt.

Joyce said...

I've always wondered about that too, Gina. Are there repeat offenders out there who have had more than one expungement? Or do the courts keep some kind of record even though it's been expunged elsewhere?

ARD provides for expungement of a person's criminal record after alcohol assessment and treatment, completion of probation, and suspension of the person's driver's license for a short time. Some offenders don't complete their ARD and are not eligible to have their records expunged.

Cathy said...

I'm very grateful for the officers who remove the drunk drivers from the road. Two of my friends were hit by intoxicated drivers and severely injured. Society and the arrested person all benefit from this service.

Thanks for this informative post, Joyce.

Felicia Donovan said...

Not too long ago, I was sitting outside a courtroom waiting to be called as a civilian witness to a DUI in another township which ended up being plead out.

It was bad enough to watch this person drift across the lane forcing the other driver off the road but when she was finally pulled over the responding unit saw she had her young child in the car with her.

A timely reminder to not only think twice about even that one drink before getting behind the wheel, but a reminder to be extra alert to other drivers who may have made not made the best choice.

Felicia Donovan