Some thoughts on Week Two of TLC’s D.U.I. show


1.  Officer’s Negative Attitudes towards DUI suspects.   

I was stunned when one of the officers said something to the effect that “when someone starts making excuses for why they aren’t doing well on the field tests, I know that they are DUI.”

In fact, the NHTSA manual for “DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing” states that “the original research indicated that certain individuals over 65 year of age, with back, leg or middle ear problems, or people who are overweight by 50 or more pounds had difficulty performing” the one-leg stand and walk and turn tests.  That really should be pretty obvious — someone with a bad back isn’t going to be able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds without using their arms to balance, swaying or putting their foot down momentarily.

So when someone informs an officer that they may have a problem with a field test because of a bad back or other problem, the officer should be less likely to make a decision based on a field test result, not more.

Perhaps this ties into another thing that I noticed — in both weeks so far, one out of the four featured cases were dropped by the prosecutor after the results of blood or urine testing came back — a rather high error rate, if you ask me.

Also note that there was no follow up on the results of blood testing in the ATV crash.  The show presumes that these people were intoxicated, but were they?

I should also mention the excessive force that was used against one person who moved his arms a little bit when an officer tried to handcuff him.  This person was slammed into a car trunk, then again onto the ground, well beyond what was necessary to process the arrest.

2.    CDL drivers put their careers in jeopardy when they drink and drive.
In this episode, truck driver Wes worries about losing his job and his home after getting a DUI.  It turns out that he did well enough on his blood test that his case was dismissed.

But Wes had reason to worry.  In Illinois, if you have a CDL, you are looking at a one year disqualification for a first DUI, and a lifetime disqualification for a second one.  Moreover, many companies will refuse to hire a truck driver with a DUI on his or her background.  Good thing for Wes that he blew under 0.08.

3.    Alcoholics and drug addicts are always in danger of relapse.
Both episodes this week featured addicts — Keshia who had been in rehab and drug court for three years, and John, who was arrested for his fourth DUI.  Keshia’s story is familiar to anyone who knows an addict.  She had been clean and sober for three years, until she decided to break her sobriety at a bar on her way home from work.  She was stopped after driving on the wrong side of the highway.  Thankfully, she did not kill anyone.
John had been drinking daily for two years.  He ran into a roadblock on his way to pick his wife up at the airport.  He probably didn’t even feel particularly intoxicated.
At the end of their episodes, both have been through additional treatment and seemed a lot better.  But, as Keshia’s story shows, their sobriety is a tenuous thing, and they may fall off the wagon at any time.

4.    More ways in which Oklahoma DUIs are different from Illinois DUIs

— Fourth offender John is “punished” and does not get a fourth probation.  Instead, he gets two weekends in jail.  This is what prosecutors refer to as a “kiss.”  In Illinois, a fourth offender would be facing a mandatory non-probational sentence of at least three and up to seven years in prison.  (The entire sentencing hearing was not shown, so it is possible that the judge took into account John’s voluntary stint in rehab, and his need to take care of his wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis — but in Illinois, no matter how much mitigation there may be, John would have to be sentenced to a minimum of three years in the penitentiary).
In addition, if this happened in Illinois, John’s driver license would be revoked forever, not just in Illinois but in every other state of the union (unless on one of his DUIs he successfully completed court supervision, in which case his license would be revoked for a minimum of 10 years).

— In Oklahoma, we are told that for a person under the age of 21, any amount of alcohol is sufficient for a DUI.  In Illinois, the 0.08 “legal limit” applies to everyone regardless of age.  However, in Illinois, a person under the age of 21 would face a “zero tolerance” suspension for driving with any amount of alcohol, even under 0.08.

— Jarrett gets a court date four days after his arrest.  In Illinois, Supreme Court rule 504 provides that in a misdemeanor case, the first court date will be between 16 and 60 days.  Typically, the first court dates falls around the 45th day after the arrest, which gives the defendant sufficient time to retain counsel and prepare a defense.  I don’t know how a person is supposed to be ready to defend a serious case in just a few days.

What did you think?

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