Newer kid on the block: Alcohol anklets in DWI cases

Here comes the alcohol anklet, just as use of the ignition interlock device has been gaining more and more favor among judges in drunk-driving cases. The ignition interlock is a device that is installed on the cars of those who have been convicted of DWI; ignition interlocks prevent the car from starting up if the would-be driver has been drinking.

The alcohol anklet, on the other hand, monitors a person’s alcohol levels through the skin. The anklet monitors alcohol levels 24 hours a day. It’s not a new thing – some judges have been ordering use of the alcohol anklet for years – but overcrowding of jails and repeat DWI offenses have led some groups to advocate its use.

As Niko Kyriakou reports for the San Francisco Examiner, the leader of one such group says, “DUI and hardcore drunk drivers are filling our jails. If we are able to use these tools for people and keep them clean and sober in their home and in the community, the odds of them getting out of the criminal justice system are improved.”

Maryland Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2011 increases use of ignition interlock devices

According to a report on Southern Maryland Online, the Maryland Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2011, which went into effect in October, “expands” the ignition interlock program by as much as 66 percent, with more than 9,000 Maryland drivers convicted of DWI currently required to install and operate the device.

The ignition interlock device prevents your car from starting up if you’ve been drinking. Advocates of the device, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, view it as a direct measure in preventing repeat drunk-driving offenses.

As Southern Maryland Online reports, one police officer said, “Unfortunately, Maryland police officers deal almost daily with the tragedies caused by a drunk driver. One of the most frustrating experiences for police officers is to arrest a drunk driver for repeating the same offense. This new law will reduce the opportunity to re-offend, while helping us decrease injuries and deaths and increase safety on Maryland roads.”

There are currently five approved vendors of the ignition interlock device. Those court ordered to install the device must generally do so at their own cost, as well as take a training and send in periodic monitoring data to authorities.

 

Source: Southern Maryland Online, “Maryland’s Drunk Driver Ignition Interlock Program Requires More Participation,” 11/2/11

NBC correspondent arrested for drunk driving

NBC correspondent Jay Gray was recently arrested for drunk driving after “getting wasted” at a party hosted by Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer Joe Amendola. For those who haven’t heard the news, Jerry Sandusky has been charged with crimes alleging molestation and sex assault perpetrated against young boys.

Sandusky was a well-known assistant football coach who served under famed Penn State head coach Joe Paterno (Paterno was subsequently fired amid allegations that he did nothing in response to Sandusky’s alleged sexual activities).

The latest news involves Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s lawyer, who hosted a party at his house, to which he invited a number of reporters from different media. These reporters, as TMZ reports, were apparently trying to get an interview with Sandusky, and NBC correspondent Jay Gray was among them.

Having left the party and driving home, Gray was pulled over for a traffic stop that apparently was not related to the ultimate DWI arrest; according to police records, the arrest happened on Dec. 12 at roughly two in the morning.

It’s not clear whether one lucky reporter has been chosen to interview Sandusky; either way, Gray now faces his own drunk-driving charges (admittedly, less serious than the 40 counts of sex crimes against Sandusky, Gray’s hopeful interview subject).

In Maryland, more than 20,000 people are arrested for DWI every year. These are all kinds of people, including minor celebrities like NBC correspondents. Truly, DWI is a crime that can happen to anyone.

MADD scores Maryland three of five in DWI report

As far as administrative driver’s license revocation, roadside sobriety checkpoints, and child endangerment laws go, the state of Maryland has scored a three out of five points for its laws against DWI, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

MADD started its “Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving” in 2006; part of the campaign focuses on reducing alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths, and highlights how far each state has gone in its efforts to reduce these deaths.

What Maryland doesn’t have, according to MADD’s Report to the Nation, is the “no-refusal” policy that has gained much notoriety in Texas, in which on-call judges are ready to issue search warrants for blood draws – on nights and weekends – as well as nurses in mobile units to withdraw blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who refuse the breath test.

Maryland also doesn’t require the ignition interlock device for all first-time DWI convictions; MADD argues that Maryland allows diversion practices that allow defendants to get around the ignition interlock requirement, and that its ignition interlock law doesn’t go far enough.

Why the Decline in Recent DWI Arrests?

Criminal defense attorneys know that police officers aren’t shy about stopping drivers suspected of DWI.

But here are some surprising statistics: In the past five years there has been a 30 percent drop in DWI arrests, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DWI arrests are actually at their lowest mark in two decades.

What explains this?

There are several possible reasons for the decline in DWI arrests.

First, it could be that with the down economy, fewer people are frequently the bars, opting instead to drink at home.

Second, DWI laws continue to get harsher. People may be starting to realize that the consequences of a DWI conviction – especially a repeat offense or a conviction arising out of an alcohol-related car wreck – aren’t getting any lighter, and range from indefinite driver’s license suspension to significant time behind bars.

Third, DWI is expensive. From paying for the ignition interlock device on your vehicle, a device which prevents the car from starting up if you’ve been drinking, to an alcohol anklet that monitors your blood-alcohol content 24 hours a day (and, possibly, your whereabouts), the penalties for drunk driving are getting more and more intrusive and more and more expensive.

All of these factors combined could be causing people to be a little more careful before they get behind the wheel.

Untreated blackened eye leads to loss of eyeball

A major reason to avoid jail – whether you’ve been convicted of anything from a sex crime to drunk driving – is to avoid the violence that often occurs inside correctional institutions.

As Cameron Langford reports for Courthouse News, 62-year-old Isaac Rojas learned first-hand about jail violence. But he also learned about negligence on the part of employees of correctional institutions.

Rojas was punched in the eye during an altercation (Langford doesn’t get into why the altercation occurred) and then placed in solitary confinement. Despite his pleas for help, doctors, nurses and guards did nothing to address the fact that his eye was blackened and swollen shut.

According to the complaint, Rojas was finally treated a number of days later. “[I]t was too late. Mr. Rojas could no longer see out of his left eye and needed to undergo surgery to remove the eyeball altogether so as to prevent additional harm.”

If you are facing criminal charges, contact a Maryland criminal defense lawyer before you talk to police or anyone else.

Ever heard of legislative immunity for crimes?

As Rachel E. Stassen-Berger reports for the Star Tribune, a group of college students in Minnesota have proposed a bill – which now has some support in the legislature in that state – that would eliminate legislative immunity for lawmakers accused of drunk driving while the legislature is in session.

Many states have had a history of some form of legislative immunity, including Maryland. Legislative immunity started in the “struggles between the English Crown and Parliament,” wrote the author of a legal treatise on immunity, where in one case a king passed a death sentence on a lawmaker for his bringing a bill to lower how much the royal household spent.

Legislators have been known to joke about “free passes,” but in some places arrested legislators have actually demanded their free pass. In Arizona, for example, just last year one lawmaker demanded that the cops take off his cuffs after he got arrested for a domestic violence incident, and in Georgia one lawmaker was arrested for DWI but tried get his free pass by citing his legislative immunity.

One Minnesota state legislator, referring to the college students’ bill, said, “I don’t think any political person is above the law when it comes to breaking the law. I can’t think of one legislator that wouldn’t be willing to vote for this.”

Man suffering PTSD, brain injury pleads not guilty in DUI case

A Marine who is facing charges of DUI manslaughter has pleaded not guilty because he was suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder when the fatal DUI crash occurred.

The man was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan four times. While on deployment, he suffered multiple injuries and experienced emotional trauma and stress. The 38-year-old man received three Purple Hearts for injuries and one Bronze Star for heroism while abroad in combat zones.

The man was finally sent back to stay in the U.S. after suffering a traumatic brain injury, however he was still labeled as cognitively fit for combat.

The man was sent to a post in Florida, and a few days before reporting he was in the DUI crash. The man was self-medicating through alcohol abuse because he had not received the medical help he needed from the Marines. His attorney says that the man suffered a dissociative episode and blacked out when the crash occurred.

A 48-year-old man was killed in the accident and his wife was injured. The deceased man’s wife agrees with the defendant’s attorney that the Marines did not do enough to help him before he caused the fatal accident. The Marine is now in a psychiatric ward in jail.

The Marines have investigated the incident and investigators are actually recommending to upper ranks that they do more to help soldiers with PTSD, especially if they are also suffering from a brain injury. The report recommends that evaluation and treatment be more proactive, rather than waiting for marines with mental health issues to diagnose themselves and ask for help.

Whether you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving for the first time, or for the third or fourth time, you need to speak with a DUI lawyer in Baltimore to protect your legal rights.

Online mug shots: Guilty till proven innocent?

Is “shaming” good criminal justice?

Many of those who operate so-called mug shot websites and take-down services would probably say yes. As Susanna Kim reports for ABC News, Web businesses are making money off of people who have been arrested for things like impaired driving, posting the freely-available mug shots online, despite the fact that a mug shot is not evidence of guilt.

In other words, people are paying a price for a crime they’ve been accused, but in many cases have not been proven, to have committed. “First, it’s close to extortion,” says one law professor, as Kim reports, “although not quite because there is not a threat to harm reputation, but to improve it. Second, it’s fraudulent in the sense that there is little value in paying to have the mug shots removed from the commercial site when they can be googled on a sheriff’s department website.”

Nonetheless, it seems that certain people are being targeted and profiled. White, blonde women, reports Kim, are frequent targets, and are said to be eager to pay to have their mug shots removed after a DWI arrest.

What do you think? If you were arrested for drunk driving, but you were ultimately found not-guilty, would you be okay having your mug shot distributed across the Internet?

 

Source: Businesses Charge Hundreds To Remove Mug Shots Online

Police cameras in dashes and on lapels

“Some agencies start with specific vehicles or units, such as traffic patrol, DWI units or criminal patrols,” says prosecutor (and former police officer) Jim Kuboviak, as Bruce Goldfarb and Andrew Metcalf report for the Laurel Patch.

Kuboviak is referring to police cameras, typically mounted on the dash in cruisers, which provide crucial evidence in many DWI cases and other traffic stops – showing “what we do right and what we do wrong,” according to the chief of operations for the Maryland State Police.

Cameras can either help or hurt, depending on the case and depending on who you ask. But not every police cruiser is equipped with a camera, often because of the cost.

As Goldfarb and Metcalf report, Baltimore City and Baltimore County do not employ cameras in police cruisers. The same goes for cruisers in Anne Arundel County. It’s not clear why, but it costs more than $5,000 to install camera equipment in each cruiser, which can be cost-prohibitive for many police agencies.

“It would be a big chunk of change to outfit a large department,” said Kuboviak.

And as technology improves, some people are starting to discuss the possibility of putting cameras on the lapels of police officers, or on a helmet.

 

Source: HoCo Police: Dash Cams Not Used in ‘Daily Patrol Activities’