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"DUI Chemical Testing and Breathalyzer Challenges"

One or more scientific tests presently are conducted in all jurisdictions on driving-while-intoxicated suspects for the purpose of (1) bolstering and corroborating police opinion testimony of intoxication and, (2) in those states that set presumptive blood-alcohol intoxication levels, to demonstrate that the defendant's blood-alcohol level exceeded the permissible. Use of evidence of blood-alcohol concentration helps standardize the opinions of experts and minimizes reliance on the traditional evidence of intoxication on which opinions can vary so widely. Where a scientific test has been made on the defendant, it often is the main weapon of the prosecution, with all other evidence being used to corroborate the test results.


There are four basic scientific tests which may be conducted to determine the degree of intoxication: blood, urine, breath, and saliva tests. The results of urine, saliva, and breath tests for alcohol must be converted into a blood-alcohol reading in order to be useful in determining whether the subject was intoxicated.

Cases:

Confrontation Clause challenges to lab reports: Toxicology data generated by lab machines from testing of defendant's blood sample, indicating that defendant's blood contained phencyclidine (PCP) and alcohol, did not constitute "hearsay" evidence, subject to the Confrontation Clause, in prosecution for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as the machines were not persons or declarants within the meaning of the hearsay rule. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 6; Fed.Rules Evid.Rule 801(c), 28 U.S.C.A. U.S. v. Washington, 498 F.3d 225, 74 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 332 (4th Cir. 2007), petition for cert. filed (U.S. Dec. 14, 2007)


In People v. Superior Court (1972) 6 Cal 3d 757, 100 Cal Rptr 281, 493 P2d 1145, defendant, who had been in an automobile accident but had not been arrested, was awaiting emergency treatment in a hospital and he signed, at a police officer's request, a written consent authorizing the taking of a blood sample for purposes of a blood-alcohol test. The Supreme Court of California rejected the People's contention that the taking of a blood sample in a medically approved manner but without consent does not violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendments where there is probable cause to arrest, even though the taking is not pursuant to a search warrant or incident to a lawful arrest. The court disapproved several appeal court decisions insofar as they were inconsistent with this opinion and observed that the taking of a sample under the state implied consent law is expressly conditioned on a lawful arrest for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and upon the reasonable belief of the peace officer that the arrestee was, in fact, so driving. The Supreme Court noted that the burden of justifying the taking without a search warrant had not been met, since evidence sustained the trial court's determination that the consent, the only justification offered by the People, had not been free and voluntary.


A compulsory seizure of blood for a blood-alcohol test, without a warrant, is permissible if the procedure (1) is done in a reasonable, medically approved manner, (2) is incident to a lawful arrest, and (3) is based on a reasonable belief that the arrestee is intoxicated. Thus, the lack of informed consent did not make the withdrawal of blood from a driver arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol an unreasonable seizure, where the sample was taken at the police station without the driver's consent but without force, by a licensed clinical technologist, using a standard procedure and materials obtained from a local hospital. Withdrawal of a blood sample from a driver arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol at the police station without his consent, but without force, by a licensed clinical technologist using a standard procedure and materials obtained from a local hospital, did not deviate so far from reasonable medical practices as to constitute a constitutionally impermissible seizure. Thus, the municipal court did not err in dismissing the driver's motion to suppress the blood sample. The technologist certified the procedure used was medically approved; the technologist was described by his supervisor as "an outstanding phlebotomist"; apart from the issues of consent and authorization, defendant did not object to the manner in which the blood was withdrawn; and nothing suggested that performing the test in a jail rather than a hospital was unsafe or unsanitary. The seizure was not unreasonable per se merely because no injury or accident was involved or because of the misdemeanor nature of the offense. Given the seriousness of the threat posed by drunken driving, the fact that defendant was charged with driving with a blood-alcohol level of.08 or greater, and the evidentiary value of a blood test in such a prosecution, the community's need for evidence outweighed defendant's interest in privacy and security. People v. Ford (1992, 6th Dist) 4 Cal App 4th 32, 5 Cal Rptr 2d 189, 92 Daily Journal DAR 2757, review den (May 21, 1992).


In prosecution for driving under influence of alcohol, felony hit and run, and vehicular manslaughter, police officers were not required to obtain search warrant to forcibly extract blood sample from defendant's arm, where defendant, arrested for felony drunk driving, refused to provide sample of blood or urine so that his blood alcohol level could be determined and where defendant was under arrest, probable cause existed for taking blood and facts presented type of emergency situation in which there was no need for warrant; further, police officers did not violate defendant's due process rights, where officers used only that degree of force reasonably necessary to overcome defendant's combativeness and where withdrawal of blood was accomplished in medically approved manner. Carleton v. Superior Court (1985, 4th Dist) 170 Cal App 3d 1182, 216 Cal Rptr 890.


Drivers' consent to an alcohol breath test was not voluntarily given, where after being arrested for DUI, each driver submitted to a breathalyzer test after being informed of the implied consent warnings that if they failed to submit to an approved chemical test, their drivers' licenses would be suspended and evidence of refusal would be used at trial, but when it appeared that the intoximeter had been substantially modified and the modified instrument had not been recertified, drivers argued that their consent had not been voluntary, and that the results of the tests should be suppressed, because the changes were so substantial that the instrument required full recertification; additionally, since consent was based on misinformation that the chemical test was by an approved instrument consent was not voluntary. State v. Polak (1992, Fla App D1) 598 So 2d 150, 17 FLW D 1014.


Substantial evidence supported finding that officer complied with statutorily required 20-minute observation period before administering breath alcohol test; officer testified that he began observing defendant at 11:13 p.m. and administered the test beginning at 11:36 p.m., despite fact that jail records indicated defendant was admitted at 11:22 p.m., jailer testified that person admitting defendant probably took log-in time off of the computer screen in admission room, and that jail made no efforts to synchronize computer clock and intoxilyzer clock, Intoxilyzer Instrument Printer Card, which documented the testing of defendant, included officer's handwritten notation, "Observation Began at 2313 hrs", and printer card contained computer printout line stating "Subject Test.223 23:36 EDT". 500 Ky.Admin.Regs. 8:030 § 1(1). Eldridge v. Com., 68 S.W.3d 388 (Ky. Ct. App. 2001)


Noncompliance and refusal: A driver's act in not blowing into a breath testing machine and by blowing around the mouthpiece to prevent the necessary quantity of air to proceed into the machine may be considered a refusal to submit to a chemical test, so as to support revocation of driver's license. V.A.M.S. § 577.041. Tarlton v. Director of Revenue, State, 201 S.W.3d 564 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2006)


Tampering charge: A person's blood alcohol content, as it exists inside their body and within their control, does not constitute "physical evidence," or a "thing presented to the senses" for purposes of statute making tampering with evidence a crime; potentially measurable amounts of blood still within the human body do not constitute evidence, and until one's breath or blood has been obtained or collected for analysis, it cannot be considered either "physical evidence" or a "thing presented to the senses.” Thus defendant who had three double shots of whiskey and half a beer following truck accident but before highway patrol officer asked defendant to take blood alcohol level (BAC) tests did not tamper with the evidence, as BAC level while still within defendant's body was not "physical evidence." Montana Code § 45-7-207. State v. Peplow, 2001 MT 253, 307 Mont. 172, 36 P.3d 922 (2001)


Allowing State to establish foundation for Intoxilizer result through annual certification form for Intoxilizer, which was hearsay, without calling records custodian for certification form, did not violate defendant's confrontation rights; annual certification form was not substantive evidence used to prove charged offense, and thus certification form was not offered or admitted under state crime laboratory hearsay exception, but merely offered as part of foundation required for admission of other substantive evidence. Fed R Evid Rules 104(a), 803(8); Mont.Admin.R. 23.4.214. State v. Delaney, 1999 MT 317, 297 Mont. 263, 991 P.2d 461 (1999)


In State v. Fuller, 24 NC App 38, 209 SE2d 805, the court granted new trial after a conviction for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquors and resisting an officer, holding that the failure of the state to establish that the defendant was accorded his statutory right as to advice that he could have another blood alcohol test administered rendered the results of a breathalyzer test inadmissible in evidence, its admission over objection constituting prejudicial error.


Allegation that blood sample of defendant charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (DUI) was improperly refrigerated before hospital conducted blood alcohol content (BAC) tests was insufficient to require state to provide additional evidence to prove reliability of BAC test, since allegation was a general and speculative allegation of testing error. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547(c). Com. v. Demark, 2002 PA Super 170, 800 A.2d 947 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002)


Chemical intoxication tests—Statutory presumptive intoxication levels

Forensic scientists in the employ of the state and national safety organizations have attempted to establish that, at a certain level of alcohol in the blood, any individual would be intoxicated. Interestingly, there is some difference in state legislation as to the exact percentage considered to establish that the individual was intoxicated, ranging from a low of 0.08 percent to no set limit. Probably 0.15 percent is the most generally accepted limit, but 0.10 percent is gaining support. In several areas, the state's experts now will testify that 0.10 percent of blood alcohol places the subject "under the influence," whereas the same experts previously testified that it took 0.15 percent.


All states presently set presumptive intoxication levels in terms of blood-alcohol concentration. Expert witnesses generally are not required to interpret the results of chemical intoxication tests enumerated in statutes creating presumption or other inference of intoxication from specified percentages of alcohol in the system. Despite a test result creating a presumption of intoxication, the jury may acquit if the defendant's guilt is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In most states, an agency of the state government has responsibility for determining the appropriate methods of handling chemical intoxication tests and for certifying testing operations.


Statutes generally establish presumptive levels of intoxication in terms of blood alcohol patterned after the Uniform Chemical Test for Intoxication Act § 7. Uniform Chemical Test for Intoxication Act § 7 provides that if chemical analysis indicates 0.05 percent or less alcohol by weight in a person's blood such fact is prima facie evidence that the person was not under the influence of intoxicating liquor, that if the concentration of alcohol was in excess of 0.05 percent but less than 0.15 percent by weight such fact was relevant but not to be given prima facie effect in establishing that the person was or was not under the influence of intoxicating liquor, and that if 0.15 percent or more alcohol by weight was disclosed by the test such fact was prima facie evidence that the person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor.


Chemical intoxication tests—Automatic or per se DWI statutes

Cases:

Driving under the influence (DUI) statute that prohibited persons under age 21 from driving with a blood alcohol level of .02 or more, while prohibiting persons 21 and over from driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more, did not violate equal protection rights of younger group; statute was rationally related to the proper governmental purpose of prohibiting underage drinking and driving. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14; Code 1975, §§ 28-1-5, 32-5A-191. Jolly v. State, 858 So. 2d 305 (Ala. Crim. App. 2002), cert. denied, (Mar. 28, 2003)


In order to support a charge of "traditional DUI", the State must prove that a defendant was driving or in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor; in contrast, to support a charge of "per se DUI," the State need not prove that the defendant was under the influence while driving or controlling a vehicle, as it suffices to prove that, within two hours of driving or controlling a vehicle, the defendant had an alcohol concentration at or exceeding the statutorily determined rate. Arizona Revised Statutes § 28-1381A1, 2. Guthrie v. Jones, 202 Ariz. 273, 43 P.3d 601 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2002)


Because state chose to prosecute driver for violation of "per se" paragraph of drunk-driving statute, and not for violation of "under influence" paragraph, proof of properly administered chemical test showing blood-alcohol level higher than statutory standard of 0.10 percent was conclusive proof of violation, without need for proof that defendant's driving was impaired. State v. Edmondson (1994, Idaho App) 867 P2d 1006.


"Zero tolerance law," which makes it a crime for anyone under age of 21 to drive with blood alcohol content of 0.02 percent or higher is rationally related to a legitimate legislative purpose of reducing teenage traffic fatalities and protecting all members of the public and thus does not violate equal protection rights of those prosecuted under that law. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14; Const. §§ 1 to 3; KRS 189A.010(1)(e). Com. v. Howard, 969 S.W.2d 700 (Ky. 1998).


Evidence supported conviction for violation of per-se drunk-driving statute forbidding driving with blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more, where breath test whose proper administration was disputed showed 0.09 percent, test had barely sufficient margin of error of 0.015 percent to support defendant's claim that blood-alcohol level could have been below 0.08 percent, and ample evidence of erratic driving supported inference that level was 0.08 percent or more. State v. Weeks (1993, Me) 634 A2d 1275.


Minors: Statute, by imposing strict liability upon driver under age of 21 who has alcohol concentration of 0.02 or more, regardless of whether his ability to drive is impaired, does not create conclusive burden-shifting presumption that violates Due Process Clause; statute does not create factual presumption with respect to when illegal alcohol concentration is present, and impairment is not element of crime. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14; Montana Code § 61-8-410. State v. Luchau, 1999 MT 336, 297 Mont. 415, 992 P.2d 840 (1999)


Trial court in prosecution for driving under influence of alcohol erred in instructing jury as to statutory presumptions arising from various blood alcohol levels (less than 0.05 percent, presumed not intoxicated; 0.05–.10, blood alcohol level may be evidence of intoxication; more than 0.10, presumed under influence), without also instructing that presumed fact (driver under influence) allowed by third presumption must nevertheless be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and where jury returned general guilty verdict without distinguishing between traditional "under influence" charge based on presumptions and "per se" offense based on blood alcohol level alone. Long v. State (1993, Nev) 853 P2d 112.


Where the defendant's blood alcohol content was measured at.141 percent about 2 hours after his arrest, the blood alcohol content did not represent a substantial departure from the permissible limit and could have been below.10 percent when he was stopped and risen above the limit during the substantial delay prior to testing and, therefore, the inference of guilt was too weak to support the defendant's conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of.10 percent or greater in the absence of evidence relating his blood alcohol content test results back to the time of driving. Commonwealth v. Loeper (1995, Pa) 663 A2d 669.


Driving under the influence of alcohol statute (DUI) merely created a permissive evidentiary inference, rather than a mandatory presumption, that a driver had a blood alcohol content of.10 percent or more at the time of driving if a test, conducted within three hours after driving, indicated a blood alcohol content of.10 percent or more, and thus, statute did not create the unconstitutional prospect of conviction for innocent conduct, in that it did not preclude a defendant from admitting evidence that his blood alcohol content was below the legal limit at the time of driving. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3731(a)(1). Com. v. Murray, 2000 PA Super 84, 749 A.2d 513 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2000)


Witness's testimony at trial for intoxication manslaughter that results of lab tests on defendant's blood showed a blood alcohol content of 0.18 was based on scientific testing that was sufficiently reliable to prove matter asserted, namely that defendant's blood alcohol content exceeded "per se" level of 0.10, even though defendant challenged precision of lab's measurements of his blood alcohol level; lab tests were accurate to within plus or minus 10%, and potential error in reporting defendant's blood alcohol content at 0.18 did not create a risk that his actual blood alcohol content was lower than "per se" level. V.T.C.A., Penal Code § 49.08; Rules of Evid., Rule 702. Morris v. State, 214 S.W.3d 159 (Tex. App. Beaumont 2007), petition for discretionary review granted, (Sept. 12, 2007)


Chemical intoxication tests—Implied consent laws; effect of refusal to submit to test

All fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes authorizing the admission in evidence of the results of chemical intoxication tests. These statutes are commonly referred to as "implied consent laws"; they generally declare that driving is a privilege subject to state licensing, with one of the conditions for obtaining a license that the driver submit to a test for intoxication on request. The police must have probable cause to request a chemical intoxication test. Because of differences in language among the state statutes, it is necessary for counsel to consult his state's statute and to refer to supportive case decisions to ascertain the full rights of his client respecting submission to these tests.


Differences in statutory provisions include such matters as sanction or the lack of sanction for refusal to submit to a test, admissibility as evidence of the fact of refusal to submit to test, the type or types of tests that can be made, whether the police or the defendant can choose the type of test to be administered, the qualifications of the persons who give or supervise the tests, the predicate that must be laid for the introduction of results of the tests, whether the defendant is entitled to his own independent test in addition to the one administered by the police, and whether a dead, unconscious, or disabled person may be tested without permission. Implied consent statutes ordinarily do permit the person tested to have a physician of his own choice administer a chemical intoxication test in addition to the one administered at the direction of the police.


The refusal of a motorist to submit to a chemical intoxication test generally constitutes grounds, under implied consent statutes, for the suspension or revocation of his driver's license. In most states, acquittal of the charge of driving while intoxicated does not preclude revocation or suspension of the motorist's license for refusal to submit to the test. However, the motorist generally has a right to a hearing on the question of the reasonableness of his refusal to submit to the test before his license may be revoked or suspended. Currently, the States of Texas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and North Carolina do not penalize the driver for refusing to submit to the test if a driving while intoxicated case is dismissed or there was a finding of not guilty.
Cases:


Implied consent law applied broadly and generally to those who drive, and did not require proof of actual driving immediately prior to lawful arrest for driving while under the influence; thus, under statute providing for suspension or revocation of driver's license based on refusal to submit to chemical testing under implied consent law, proof that arrestee was driving immediately prior to the arrest was not required; abrogating Weber v. Orr,274 Cal.App.2d 288, 79 Cal.Rptr. 297; Medina v. Department of Motor Vehicles,188 Cal.App.3d 744, 233 Cal.Rptr. 557; Jackson v. Pierce,224 Cal.App.3d 964, 274 Cal.Rptr. 212. West's Ann.Cal.Vehicle Code §§ 13353, 23612. Troppman v. Valverde, 40 Cal. 4th 1121, 57 Cal. Rptr. 3d 306, 156 P.3d 328 (2007)


Police dispatcher who observed driver's refusal to consent to breath alcohol test over a closed circuit television did not "witness" the refusal, as required to endorse police officer's report of the refusal under the implied consent statute; when a person is observing via closed circuit television, she is completely reliant on the image, and perhaps sound, supplied by the camera in the other room, and as a consequence, there is no guarantee that she will be able to see and hear fully what is happening. C.G.S.A. § 14-227b(c). Winsor v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 101 Conn. App. 674, 922 A.2d 330 (2007)


Defendant's proclaimed fear of needles was not sufficient cause for his refusal to submit to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, following his arrest for driving under influence of alcohol (DUI); defendant indicated to officers that he simply "preferred" to have a breath test rather than a blood withdrawal, while defendant expressed general fear of needles, and generally referenced risk of contracting Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), defendant admitted that he had received shots, he denied ever having seen a psychologist for his fear, and he never identified any mental or medical conditions that would be adversely affected by administration of blood withdrawal. Halen v. State, 136 Idaho 829, 41 P.3d 257 (2002)


Testing after "accident": Intoxicated motorist who had been driving vehicle in an out of control manner and who eventually came to a stop in vehicle with a tire missing and damage to vehicle rim, was in an "accident" for purposes of automobile exception to physician-patient privilege contained in implied consent statute, and thus results of blood test taken from motorist were admissible in prosecution for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. M.C.L.A. § 257.625a(6)(e). People v. Green, 260 Mich. App. 392, 677 N.W.2d 363 (2004), appeal denied, 471 Mich. 873, 685 N.W.2d 669 (2004)


"Confusion doctrine," under which drunk-driving arrestee might assert confusion arising from proximate advice by arresting or booking officers as to both Miranda right to counsel and implied-consent law that does not allow counsel for decision whether to submit to chemical testing of blood alcohol level, would apply, if at all, only where Miranda warning precede implied-consent warnings. Blomeyer v. State (1994) 264 Mont 414, 871 P2d 1338.


Defendant's due process rights were violated, even though he consented to withdrawal of blood, when he was shackled to hospital bed and held down by six persons while another person withdrew his blood at direction of police officers while defendant was resisting. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14; Const. Art. 1, § 10. State v. Sisler, 114 Ohio App. 3d 337, 683 N.E.2d 106 (2d Dist.Clark County 1995).


Motorist's fear of invasive medical procedures, including injections and tests using needles, and concern about risk of contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) did not justify refusal to submit to blood alcohol test. Jacobs v. Com., Dept. of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing, 695 A.2d 956 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1997), appeal denied (Pa. Aug. 13, 1997).


Motorist's refusal to sign waiver of hospital-liability form, because he had lost his eyeglasses and was unable to read it, did not constitute refusal to take blood test for purposes of license suspension under implied-consent law, where motorist testified that he did not refuse to take blood test but refused to release hospital from liability by signing form, and waiver of hospital liability was not same as hospital consent form, which did not constitute impermissible precondition to chemical testing so as to excuse motorist's refusal to submit to blood test. Stump v. Department of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing (1995, Pa Cmwlth) 664 A2d 1102.


Motorist's fear that needle to be used to obtain blood sample was not sterile was not valid justification vitiating his refusal to submit to blood-alcohol test. Stenhach v. Department of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing (1994, Pa Cmwlth) 651 A2d 218.


Defendant failed to establish that she was physically unable to provide an alcohol breath test sample, and thus the Commonwealth was under no duty to prove that it offered defendant a blood test, during prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI); defendant provided no medical records or witness testimony to substantiate her claim that she had a chronic lung condition, she had successfully completed breath tests on two prior occasions when she was convictions of two prior DUI's, and police officer testified that defendant provided an adequate breath sample when he stopped her vehicle, that she failed to provide an adequate breath sample after he brought her to the police station, and that he believed that she "was not trying to give him a proper breath." West's V.C.A. § 18.2-268.2, subds. A, B. Sawyer v. Com., 43 Va. App. 42, 596 S.E.2d 81 (2004)

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"Operation Elements of DUI Cases"

Rhode Island DUI, Rhode Island DWI, and RI Driving Under the Influence cases require that the prosecution prove that the suspect was actually operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyers are accustomed to reviewing police reports and interviewing witnesses in an effort to determine if the “operation” element of a DUI case can be proven by the prosecutor.

Rhode Island’s statute defining the offense of driving while intoxicated requires that the defendant exert some type of control over the vehicle. If a question exists concerning such control, the defense attorney should certainly investigate the matter. Also, the place where the vehicle was observed in operation is very important. Many statutes prohibit the operation of vehicles by an intoxicated driver only on certain types of public property. If any reasonable question exists as to the public character of the property, the defense attorney should consider the use of surveyors and title attorneys, if necessary, either to prove the private character of the area where the vehicle was operated, or to create reasonable doubts as to its public nature. Read More...

"Cross Exam of Prosecution Witnesses"

Cross-examination is the Defense Attorney’s primary tool in rooting out faulty testimony
in Rhode Island DUI and DWI cases. Often times, a Rhode Island Drunk Driving investigation
can only be held invalid by way of the concise and direct questions of the Defense Lawyer.
Preparation by the Rhode Island defense attorney for the cross-examination of prosecution
witnesses must take into account the probable testimony of such witnesses as policemen, experts,
and laymen. A Rhode Island Defense Lawyer should not overlook the possibility that the
bartender serving the defendant prior to his arrest might be a witness for the prosecution.

Counsel should note, during direct examination of prosecution witnesses, all primary
facts observed on which each witness bases his conclusion of intoxication. He can then
separately challenge the validity of each of these facts as establishing intoxication. However,
counsel should ignore facts testified to that he is unable to challenge, since cross-examination as
to these facts would simply emphasize the strength of the prosecution case to the jury. Instead,
counsel should question the witness whether separate primary facts on which he based his
opinion of intoxication might have been attributable to a cause other than intoxication.

Defense counsel should preliminarily ask the policeman to define intoxication. If a proper
definition is given, no harm is done since the jury figures that the witness was supposed to
know it. If an improper one is given, on the other hand, the fact can be very effectively used in
arguments to the jury.
Read More...

"Breathalyzer Elements for Admissibility"

A Rhode Island DUI Case will often times include evidence of breathalyzer or breath test results. Defense counsel should inform himself of the foundation that the prosecution must lay in order to qualify the particular intoxication test. In the absence of an adequate foundation, defense counsel should object to admission of results of the test. Although all states do not require proof of the same matters, items from the following list could reasonably be required by any court as a predicate, and defense counsel should be prepared to object to admission of the test results if any applicable items are not established by the prosecution:

1. That the subject was legally arrested for driving while intoxicated prior to the demand for the test;

2. That the operator of the device was properly trained and licensed;

3. That the operator and the device were under adequate supervision by an expert;

4. That the chemicals used were compounded properly;

5. That the test was administered in accordance with the test methods directed by the state agency that supervises intoxication test results.

6. That nothing alcoholic was in the subject's mouth for 15 to 30 minutes before the test;

7. That the person interpreting the results of the test was qualified to do so; and

8. That the reading of blood-alcohol content showed a violation of the state statute creating a presumption of intoxication.
Read More...

"In a RI DUI case, the attorney of record should have an in depth knowledge of the constitutional requisites for the admissibility of evidence."

In a Rhode Island DUI, DWI, or Driving Under the Influence criminal defense, the attorney of record should have an in depth knowledge of the constitutional requisites for the admissibility of evidence. All possible violations of the defendant's constitutional rights should be investigated. These would include (1) whether the police had probable cause to stop the defendant, (2) whether a legal arrest was made, (3) whether constitutional and statutory warnings were given, (4) whether probable cause to request a breath-alcohol or other scientific test existed, (5) whether a legal search and seizure occurred (6) whether the defendant's right to counsel was violated, and (7) whether a confession was legally obtained. In a Rhode Island Drunk Driving, DUI arrest or DWI prosecution, a criminal defense attorney should also be keenly aware that “operation” is an important element for the prosecution to prove. In other words, the prosecutor in Rhode Island must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the DWI, DUI suspect actually was operating the vehicle while under the influence. Some of these issues follow: Read More...

"A first offense of driving while intoxicated can carry more than the six months' jail penalty"

With respect to a Rhode Island DWI, Rhode Island DUI or Rhode Island Drunk Driving or Driving under the Influence case, a first offense of driving while intoxicated can carry more than the six months' jail penalty measure set by the United States Supreme Court in the Miranda case as the point from which it may be determined that "substantial" rights of a suspect are involved which would require the giving of constitutional warnings prior to interrogation. Consequently, the police ordinarily do give constitutional and statutory warnings regarding the rights of a suspect when they make an arrest for driving while intoxicated.

In jurisdictions where previous driving-while-intoxicated convictions enhance the penalty, the arresting officer normally does not know whether the conduct observed in the instant case constitutes a misdemeanor or felony violation, and will not know until the suspect's record has been checked. Consequently, it would seem that good police procedure in these jurisdictions should entail the giving of constitutional warnings as soon as an arrest is made in any driving-while-intoxicated case. In an RI DUI, DWI, or driving under the influence prosecution, the police will read the suspect their “Rights for use at scene, which is essentially the equivalent of “Miranda” Rights.
Read More...

"A majority of DUI and DWI arrests for driving while intoxicated are made without warrants and are based on personal observation of the suspect's conduct by the arresting officer."

With respect to a Rhode Island DUI, DWI, driving under the influence, or drunk driving prosecution, a majority of arrests for driving while intoxicated are made without warrants and are based on personal observation of the suspect's conduct by the arresting officer. This raises the constitutional issue, in nearly every case, of whether probable cause existed for the arrest. If probable cause to arrest did not exist when the police initially stopped the suspect, an illegal arrest was made and all evidence gained after the arrest would be inadmissible. While probable cause to arrest is rather apparent when a suspect was driving recklessly and a strong smell of alcohol on his breath was evident to the officer or the suspect got out of the automobile with a bottle of liquor in his hand, probable cause is not so apparent where an individual is stopped for a routine driver's license check or similar reason, and the officers smell alcoholic odors but do not detect further evidence of drunkenness. State courts divide on the question of probable cause to make an arrest under the latter fact situation. A Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer will generally analyze probable cause before they review other issues in the DUI or DWI case.

Currently, traffic safety proponents are urging that a police officer be authorized by statute to make a misdemeanor arrest for driving while intoxicated where the crime was not committed in his presence but where, after personal investigation, he finds reasonable grounds to believe that the person did commit the offense. These traffic safety people believe that such increased authority in the area of arrest would be helpful in the investigation of traffic accidents in which it is apparent that one driver was intoxicated but where the officer did not observe the accident.

In a few cases, a charge for driving while intoxicated may be filed solely on the basis of the complaint of a private citizen, and the police fear that the suspect is about to flee the jurisdiction. In these situations, whether a warrant must be issued to make a misdemeanor arrest, or whether the police may make a felony arrest without a warrant on the ground that there is insufficient time to secure a warrant depends on whether the suspect is still intoxicated at the time he is approached by the police. Of course, if some action occurs in their presence that gives them probable cause to stop him, the police may make a valid arrest without a warrant. However, if the suspect is not still intoxicated, and the police are not certain that a felony is involved, a warrant must be secured unless one of the police officers knows of previous convictions of the suspect that would raise the instant offense to a felony level. Consider the following cases:
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"In a Rhode Island Drunk Driving, DWI, DUI prosecution, a criminal defense attorney should always attempt to prove the incompetent administration of field sobriety tests."

In a Rhode Island Drunk Driving, DWI, DUI prosecution, a criminal defense attorney should always attempt to prove the incompetent administration of field sobriety tests.  Some of the following cases provide examples of this pursuit. 

Results of field sobriety tests did not provide probable cause to arrest motorist for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), where city police officer administered the tests incompetently and in ways that could completely undermine their reliability; for example, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required minimum of 32 seconds for horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test and minimum of 12 seconds for vertical gaze nystagmus (VGN) test, but officer performed the tests in 19 seconds and 3.5 seconds, respectively, and officer also did not comply with NHTSA standards for administering one-leg stand test and walk-and-turn test. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 4. Strickland v. City of Dothan, AL, 399 F. Supp. 2d 1275 (M.D. Ala. 2005); West's Key Number Digest, Automobiles 349(6).

Administering a breathalyzer test and having a defendant perform the field sobriety test on videotape after a DUI arrest are nothing more than the collection and preservation of physical evidence, and they do not constitute a crucial confrontation requiring the presence of counsel. State v. Burns (1995, Fla App D5) 661 So 2d 842, 20 FLW D 1942.

Exclusion of the results of driver's blood alcohol test and DUI videotape on relevance grounds was reversible error, where driver who had been arrested on a DUI charge sued officer for false arrest, and after a jury verdict for officer, contended that the test results and the videotape made 2 hours after her arrest were relevant and should have been admitted. Tracton v. Miami Beach (Fla App, 1992) 616 So 2d 457, 18 FLW D 86.

Admission of videotape of defendant's arrest did not violate defendant's right to privacy in prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI), where videotape captured defendant's actions on a public street. State v. Ditton, 2006 MT 235, 333 Mont. 483, 144 P.3d 783 (2006); West's Key Number Digest, Automobiles 354(6).

Videotape of defendant's police station booking was relevant evidence in prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI); videotape showed defendant walking and talking, and jury might have found videotape useful to determine whether defendant was intoxicated. N.R.S. 48.015. Angle v. State, 942 P.2d 177 (Nev. 1997). Read More...

"In Rhode Island, DUI, DWI, Driving Under the Influence, and Drunk Driving cases seem to provide motorists with minimized constitutional protections under the law."

In Rhode Island, DUI, DWI, Driving Under the Influence, and Drunk Driving cases seem to provide motorists with minimized constitutional protections under the law. Most police agencies now take the position that the court-recognized status of a driver's license as a privilege, coupled with the statutory authorization for chemical intoxication tests in driving-while-intoxicated cases, amounts to a waiver of a suspect's constitutional rights against self-incrimination and the right to counsel prior to questioning and the giving of the test, unless otherwise provided by state law. Consequently, the normal order of police routine involves (1) a demand on the suspect to take the test, (2) extensive questioning, (3) performing the test, and finally, (4) an offer of an opportunity to the suspect to consult counsel.

   
In cases where the police should have recognized that the cause of the apparently intoxicated behavior was not alcohol, but was instead a medical condition from which the subject was suffering, a cause of action may exist against the police for failure to assure that the defendant was immediately delivered to a hospital for medical treatment.  Of course, it becomes very important to provide alternate reasons for the suspect’s failure to properly perform standardized field sobriety tests. 

   
In one Federal case, officers had probable cause to arrest motorist at roadblock, and such seizure did not violate his civil rights, where officer received report that possibly intoxicated driver was slumped over steering wheel of vehicle parked on shoulder of interstate, motorist's appearance indicated that he had been drinking, motorist declined to answer officer's questions and drove away without explanation, motorist failed to stop when officer engaged his emergency equipment, bumped motorist's vehicle,and shot out his tires, and motorist swerved to prevent officer from passing him. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 4; 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. Latta v. Keryte, 118 F.3d 693 (10th Cir. 1997). Read More...

"Rhode Island DWI or DUI charge usually falls into one of two categories"

A Rhode Island DUI or DWI charge is defended against differently depending on whether a suspect agreed to take the chemical test or whether they refused.  Once a suspect has agreed to take the test, and performs above the requisite blood alcohol level for intoxication, a criminal defense attorney must focus on attacking the admissibility of the subject test.

One or more scientific tests presently are conducted in all jurisdictions on driving-while-intoxicated suspects for the purpose of (1) bolstering and corroborating police opinion testimony of intoxication and, (2) in those states that set presumptive blood-alcohol intoxication levels, to demonstrate that the defendant's blood-alcohol level exceeded the permissible.  Use of evidence of blood-alcohol concentration helps standardize the opinions of experts and minimizes reliance on the traditional evidence of intoxication on which opinions can vary so widely. Where a scientific test has been made on the defendant, it often is the main weapon of the prosecution, with all other evidence being used to corroborate the test results.

There are four basic scientific tests which may be conducted to determine the degree of intoxication: blood, urine, breath, and saliva tests. The results of urine, saliva, and breath tests for alcohol must be converted into a blood-alcohol reading in order to be useful in determining whether the subject was intoxicated. Read More...

"In Rhode Island, the prosecution can prove the elements of a DWI or DUI charge without the admissibility of a chemical test"

In Rhode Island, the prosecution can prove the elements of a DWI or DUI charge without the admissibility of a chemical test. These cases are referred to as “observation” cases. As one can imagine, it is more difficult for the prosecution to prove the elements of a DUI without an empirical analysis of the suspect’s blood alcohol content; however, it can be done in a variety of different factual scenarios. Objective signs of intoxication, those ordinarily testified to as having been observed by the arresting officer or other prosecution witness, include the odor of alcohol on the breath, slurring of speech, inflamed and watery eyes, a ruddy complexion, an unsteady gait, and poor coordination. Usually, one or more of these observed signs comprise the basis for the officer's probable cause in making the arrest. However, as is discussed in the section that follows, a variety of conditions affecting an individual's health can present the same or similar symptoms. Read More...

"A trial on a charge of driving while intoxicated may raise constitutional issues"

A trial on a charge of driving while intoxicated may raise constitutional issues, such as whether there was probable cause for the arrest, whether adequate warnings were given to the suspect as to his rights, whether there was an intelligent waiver of rights, whether there was duress sufficient to raise a defense of self-incrimination, and whether there might have been a violation of equal protection and due process guarantees. The various constitutional questions noted above are necessarily left largely unanswered, because few of such questions have been satisfactorily answered by the courts in the context of prosecutions for driving while intoxicated. Decisions of the United States Supreme Court on these constitutional issues have been rendered in cases involving felonies such as murder, burglary, theft, and possession of narcotics, but the application of such decisions to driving-while-intoxicated cases are not always clear in most instances. Read More...

"Not only are driving under the influence arrests more plentiful, they are becoming more difficult to effectively defend."

Not only are driving under the influence arrests more plentiful, they are becoming more difficult to effectively defend.  Within the last few years, many of the once famous "loopholes" have been tightened in an effort to successfully prosecute DUI suspects.  Rhode Island's Pimental case stands for the proposition that sobriety checkpoints are violative of the Rhode Island Constitution; however, even well established case law such as this will likely change in the years to come.  With a legislature that is more and more educated about drunk driving statistics and a Supreme Court that is generally more conservative in composition than those of the past, DUI laws will inevitably evolve to obviate legal arguments that once existed.  As this happens, Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyers will need to become more vigilant about analyzing current laws, regulations and cases that impact the legal and constitutional rights of their clients.
 
Check out this great article on
projo.com:
Drunken driving accidents, arrests plentiful in R.I.
http://www.projo.com/news/content/2009_drunken_driving_12-29-09_09GSOV7_v48.3cf7196.html