DUI Roadblock set for tonight at 53rd and Ashland

From DNAInfoChicago:

Chicago Police are setting up a DUI checkpoint in Back of the Yards this weekend.

Police will stop cars and check for drunken drivers and other violations starting at 7 p.m. Friday at 53rd Street and Ashland Avenue, police said. The operation will end at 3 a.m. Saturday.

Proposed new law will help Chicago Police to conduct preliminary field tests of suspected narcotics

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is about to get a bill passed that will save police and prosecutions all the time and effort of accurately determining whether someone actually possesses narcotics before charging them with a felony.  If the law passes, they will be able to get felony charges approved using the results from less accurate field kits.

From the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin:

SPRINGFIELD — A proposal to equip Chicago police with field drug tests is one step closer to becoming law.

The legislation, which passed unanimously through the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee on Wednesday, would create a pilot program for Chicago police officers to test suspicious controlled substances at police stations instead of waiting for a result from a crime lab.

It would also deem the tests — which can check for marijuana, heroin and cocaine — admissible to establish probable cause in preliminary trial hearings.

Under current law, probable cause hearings in illicit substance cases cannot happen until an Illinois State Police chemistry lab sends drug test results back to a state’s attorney.

That process, according to the bill and Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney John P. Carroll Jr., takes about two weeks.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael J. Zalewski, D-Riverside, said implementing the field tests would not only expedite that process, it would also lessen crime labs’ burdens so they can focus on more important tests such as rape kits…

Carroll said field-testing benefits would be twofold.

Administering a field test could potentially allow a defendant to leave the police station as soon as it indicated a negative result, he said, and it would save money because the Cook County Department of Corrections spends $143 per day per defendant to hold someone while awaiting the same results from a crime lab.

He pointed to 2013 preliminary court hearing numbers to highlight the time that could be saved by allowing field drug tests. About 6,000 of that year’s 22,000 preliminary hearings resulted with a no probable cause finding.

He said a vast majority of those cases involved low-level narcotics.

“I think this represents a really good bill that would move low-level narcotics cases through the system much faster,” he said

While the bill would allow the tests to establish probable cause in a preliminary hearing, an official lab test would still be necessary for trial. Once a field test comes back positive and establishes probable cause, Carroll said, only then would the state’s attorney call for an official lab report from the state police.

A President’s Day post with details of George W. Bush’s 1976 DUI

To honor President’s Day and keep it on topic, here are some new details that recently emerged about George W. Bush’s 1976 DUI arrest.  From Fox Sports:

Australian tennis legend John Newcombe revealed new details about the drunk driving incident that threatened to derail George W. Bush’s bid for presidency when it emerged just four days before the 2000 election.

The seven-time singles Grand Slam title winner was George W’s drinking partner that fateful Labor Day weekend in 1976 when the future president was arrested for DUI. Newcombe told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and W., whom he called “a bit of a party boy in those days,” had engaged in a beery drink-off at a local Kennebunkport, Maine, bar before the arrest.

“I noticed that George was sort of eyeing me off,” Newcombe recalled. “So I put on a bit of a pace and he’d keep pace with me.”

“After about four of these [beers], I picked the glass up in my teeth without my hands and skulled it straight down and I said, ‘What are you made of, George?’ And so he had to do that.”

The egging didn’t stop there. Newcombe recalled drinking another beer from the wrong side of the glass. “I looked at him and go, ‘Have you got any guts, George, or what’s your story?’ So he did that.”

The Aussie then said his wife had offered to drive, but W insisted he was fine. Newcombe also recalled W. being “a bit cheeky” with the arresting officer before it was revealed that he was the son of George H.W. Bush, the then-director of the CIA.

George W. Bush pled guilty to the DUI, was fined $150 and had his driving privileges suspended in Maine. He later said he gave up drinking altogether during the 1980s.

Some more thoughts on that Tribune story about suspended drivers

If you just read that heading and said “more thoughts?  Where are the first thoughts?” then head over to this link to a blog piece I wrote for my firm’s website.

For those of you that have never driven while suspended, or with an expired license, I congratulate you.  You are a careful and responsible motorist.  We should have more motorists like you.

You may not even understand how it is that a person can get their drivers license suspended.  If you are curious, you can take a look at the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code here.  You will find 18 reasons to cancel a license in Section 5/6-201, 18 reasons to revoke in Section 5/6-205, and 47 reasons to suspend a drivers license in Section 5/6-206.  There are other grounds to cancel, suspend or revoke in other provisions.  Threatening your drivers license has become a popular way for our government to induce you to comply with various laws, such as parking restrictions, child support, or having a false ID.  It is so much easier for a politician to vote to raise revenue by increasing the court costs for a traffic ticket than an outright increase in income tax.

The most common reason that people get their licenses suspended is a result of financial problems.  Instead of living in a suburban home with a two car garage and driveway, they live in an apartment building with few available streetside parking spots, and they rack up parking tickets.  They have problems paying their bills and let their car insurance lapse.  They get a traffic ticket and can’t afford the exorbitant fines and costs.  They get behind on child support and can’t ever get caught up.

And each conviction for driving while suspended or revoked extends their period of suspension or revocation.

Why do they drive without a license?  Usually because they need to get to work or take their kids to school, and in the moment, they are willing to take the risk rather than lose their job or have their kids miss school.

And the overwhelming majority of people driving without a valid license are not causing accidents.  If you don’t believe me, just sit in any traffic courtroom and you will see that most people are stopped for having no valid registration, or a broken tail light, or some minor moving violation.

Keep in mind that liability insurance will not cover drivers who do not have a valid drivers license.  So do we want laws that tend to encourage people to drive illegally without valid insurance, or laws that give them a chance of at least a driving permit, conditioned on maintaining liability insurance, which will result in a higher percentage of insured drivers on the road?

So the question becomes:  what is the best policy to deal with this?  On the one hand, we can take the position of the Riverside police chief:  send them to prison, and extend their drivers suspensions and revocations for a decade.  Or we can take another position:  stop using people’s need to drive to support themselves and their families as a way to extort them into paying for government and stop making harder and harder for these people to get a legal license.

What do you think?

Lions’ Nick Fairley found Not Guilty of DUI by Alabama Jury

From ESPN.com:

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley was found not guilty of driving under the influence in 2012 by a jury in Mobile County, Alabama, television station WKRG reported Friday.

The case had taken more than two years to reach trial but lasted less than three days between jury selection, both arguments and the jury’s deliberations. Initially, according to WKRG, the jury came back at an impasse, but Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart sent them back for more deliberations.

Fairley was found guilty of reckless driving, according to WKRG, and will have to pay a $500 fine.

Fairley was driving 100 mph in his Cadillac Escalade at the time he was pulled over in May 2012. He did not take a Breathalyzer test at the time, and the state trooper on the scene said he had failed field sobriety tests. The trooper, according to AL.com, said Fairley had admitted to drinking and driving.

During the trial, Fairley’s girlfriend at the time, Fatima Alhassan, refuted the statement by the state trooper and said the cup of alcohol was hers and that Fairley had not had a drink in many hours prior to being pulled over, according to a report in AL.com.

Feds release flawed report stating that drunk driving is down, drugged driving is up

First, here is the key quote from a story in today’s Chicago Tribune:

There are fewer drunk drivers on the road, but their place has been taken by people high on marijuana and prescription drugs, according to two reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number of inebriated drivers has declined by almost a third since 2007, but in a 2014 survey nearly 1 in 4 on the road tested positive for a drug that endangered them or others, NHTSA said.

“The latest roadside survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

The survey is a voluntary, anonymous effort to collect information from regions across the country. Road signs tell drivers that a data-collection site is ahead of them, and those who wish to participate pull over. The survey has been taken five times in the past 40 years.

The 2014 survey found that about 8 percent of people on the road on weekend nights had alcohol in their system, and slightly more than 1 percent were above the legal limit. That was 30 percent below the 2007 figure, NHTSA said, and an 80 percent drop since the first survey was taken in 1973.

But the number of people with drugs in their system was found to be on the rise. It jumped from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent of weekend nighttime drivers in 2014. Drivers with marijuana in their system soared by almost 50 percent.

So why do I say that this study is flawed?  Because it equates the mere presence of drugs in one’s system with impairment, which is untrue.  A person could smoke marijuana and test positive for it a month later.  So all this study is showing is that more people are driving around with the residue of drugs in their system, not that they are necessarily driving while impaired from narcotics.

Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell gets probation for DUI, faces 2 game suspension

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will spend 15 months on probation stemming from his arrest on marijuana possession and DUI charges.

Bell, 22, entered into a court-mandated program Friday that, if completed, will result in the charges being dropped from his record.

Bell was arrested on Aug. 20, 2014 in Ross Township, a suburb just north of Pittsburgh, after being pulled over by a police officer. The officer said he smelled marijuana coming from the car, and Bell was charged with driving under the influence and possession of the drug. Police found 20 grams of marijuana in the vehicle.

In the car with Bell was former teammate and current New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, who also was arrested. Blount completed 50 hours of community service in Boston and had his marijuana charge dropped last week.

The program Bell is entering into is called the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, which is for first-time non-violent offenders. It’s a 15-month program that will require Bell to refrain from using drugs and alcohol. Bell’s driver’s license will be suspended for 60 days.

Defense attorney Robert Del Greco Jr. said Friday that Bell likely faces up to a two-game NFL suspension.

“I think it would be fair to say that he was relieved to have the hearing, eager to comply with the court’s conditions, and hopefully he will do so in a way that he’ll earn a dismissal and his expungement,” Del Greco said.

Bell finished the 2014 season with 1,361 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.