Kansas Considers DUI Legislation Overhaul

This week, Kansas senators began overhauling existing drunk driving legislation. The goals: write new laws that are more stringent on offenders and replace a defunct law after a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the constitutionality of state-compelled blood tests.

In 2016, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law allowing warrantless breath tests was valid, but a blood test without a warrant was unconstitutional. Consequently, Kansas must come up with new legislation because the state’s law dictates that driving a vehicle counts as implied consent for getting one’s BAC tested without a warrant.

Kansas City Democrat, Senator David Haley, stated that the purpose of a proposed overhaul DUI bill is to find a way to compel suspected drunk drivers to take a test without overstepping the right to privacy.

Haley said, “I think the problem with this entire topic if you look at the big picture is to find a way to balance public safety within the definitions of driving impairment laws and the rights to privacy that no one gives up just because they have a driving privilege. That’s the balance that’s trying to be struck here.”

Another facet of the proposed overhaul bill is to count offenders’ prior infractions in other states. It also would instate a zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence of controlled substances, in which a driver could be charged with a DUID for any amount of a controlled substance, not just an intoxicating level.

Leave a comment read more

Tennessee DUI Fees Ruled Unconstitutional

A landmark decision came from the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals on Tuesday with the opinion that Tennessee’s DUI conviction fee system is unconstitutional. The fee system awards $250 to the Bureau of Investigation for every successful DUI conviction.

The appeals court wrote in their statement, “We cannot ignore that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) receives a fee for each conviction where a blood or breath test is preformed but does not receive a fee if a defendant’s charges are dismissed or reduced or if the defendant is acquitted.” The court concluded that the fee system violates a defendant’s rights to a fair trial in cases that use blood or breath tests.

Chattanooga Attorney Jerry Summers and his client Rosemary Decosimo challenged the court in Decosimo’s DUI case. Decosimo was arrested for DUI in 2012 and pleaded guilty in 2017. Summers argued that the TBI had an incentive to produce positive test results. The TBI refuted a conflict of interest, as did prosecutors who rely on blood and breath test evidence during most DUI cases.

Fees for blood and breath tests began in 2005, when the legislature introduced a $100 fee. The fee increased to $250 in 2010 after a proposal from the TBI. The TBI collects approximately $3 million annually from the fee.

After the challenge from Summers, the judges agreed in a joint decision that the fees did form a “fee-dependent system” but stated that the blood and breath tests for DUI cases should not be suppressed.

Consequently, Summers appealed the decision, arguing that a high proportion of people plead guilty to their DUI charge because they don’t have sufficient resources to get their blood independently tested. According to Summers, this violates the right to a fair trial and creates due process concerns.

The appeals court did agree with Summers on this issue: “Under the scenario suggested by the state, the defendant is forced to obtain an independent test, to pay for an attorney to defend him, and to hire an expensive expert to challenge the [blood alcohol content] result in order to do what an unbiased TBI forensic scientist should have done from the beginning.”

It’s not clear if this ruling, which will influence many Tennessee DUI cases, will be upheld. Prosecutors could still appeal the ruling and bring the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Leave a comment read more

Long Beach Bartender Killed in DUI Crash

Over the weekend, a 49-year-old Long Beach woman was killed in a crash with a suspected drunk driver. Bridget Ingham, a long-time yoga teacher and Seal Beach bartender, lived on Fourth Street in Long Beach. “Probably one of the most outstanding characteristics about her was her dedication to people,” said her uncle, Tom Ingham.

Ingham was well known as a bartender at the Seal Beach Irish pub, O’Malley’s on Main, where she worked for more than twenty years.

Long Beach police reported that Ingham was driving through the intersection of 8th Street and Euclid Avenue when a suspected drunk driver in a Toyota Tacoma broadsided her car around 7:50 p.m. The driver, 50-year-old Richard Roberts, was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Ingham was on her way to a friend’s house for a movie night, and was just a few blocks away from her destination when the crash occurred. According to her uncle, her friend went outside to look for Ingham after she was late. The friend initially thought Ingham was stuck in traffic from the crash, walked closer, and then saw rescuers taking Ingham out of her vehicle. Paramedics took her to the hospital, where she passed away.

On Monday, O’Malley’s paid its respects to Ingham on its website and social media: “Our sadness and sense of loss cannot transfer across mere words, but our heartfelt condolences go out to her family and all of her friends, of which there were many. Bridget was a familiar sight in Seal Beach before O’Malley’s first opened its doors and was a bright smile and friendly word behind the bar since.”

Leave a comment read more

Designated Driver Charged with California DUI

A man claiming to be a designated driver for his three passengers was arrested this week in Riverside on suspicion of a California DUI.

Riverside police spotted Jeffrey Kirk, 41, of Brookfield, driving a 2007 Volkswagen sedan going 57 in a 30 mile-an-hour zone and stopped him. Upon stopping Kirk, officers smelled alcohol on his breath and noticed that his speech was slurred. Kirk told the officers that he and his passengers were out drinking, but that he was the designated driver and was not drunk.

Kirk’s blood alcohol content, however, turned out to be 0.182 percent, more than two times the legal limit.

Kirk was charged with two counts of drunk driving and one count of aggravated speeding.

Just because someone says that they’re a designated driver, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sober.

A 2013 study by the University of Florida found that about 35 percent of people claiming to be designated drivers actually admitted to drinking alcohol at some point in the evening. About 17 percent of designated drivers registered blood alcohol contents of between 0.02 and 0.049 percent. About 18 percent of designated drivers registered blood alcohol contents of 0.05 percent or higher.

Let this be a warning to all those out there who will be relying on a designated driver this upcoming Super Bowl Sunday. Being a designated driver means being a sober driver.

Leave a comment read more

Drunk Tesla Driver Says Car was in Autopilot

California Highway Patrol (CHP) arrested a driver who was found passed out behind the wheel of his Tesla automobile on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last week. According to CHP, the driver’s blood alcohol content was more than double the legal limit. The man claimed he wasn’t responsible because the vehicle was on autopilot.

Although Elon Musk and the innovative people behind the cutting-edge Telsa vehicles are at the forefront of automobile technology, this driver got a tad bit ahead of himself.
While fully autonomous vehicle may be in the offing, no major car manufacturer has yet put out a fully autonomous vehicle for public consumption. In fact, Tesla warns that its autopilot features are not fully autonomous. “Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,” a Tesla spokesperson told The Washington Post. Rather, autopilot systems are designed to detect obstructions in the road and, if necessary, bring the vehicle to a halt if the driver does not respond in time.

“We aimed for a very simple, clean design, because in the future – really, the future begins now – the cars will be increasingly autonomous,” Musk said this past July. “So you won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: You’ll be able to watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep.”

…or get home if you’re drunk. But not quite yet.

The San Francisco CHP posted the incident on Twitter and said that the driver was arrested and charged on suspicion of DUI. It also said in jest that the car was “towed (no it didn’t drive itself to the tow yard).”

Leave a comment read more