Notes on Week Three of TLC’s DUI show

1.   The pattern of one of the four defendants having his or her case dropped by the prosecutors after they learn the results of the blood test continued this week when Jody’s case was dropped.  This now makes three dropped cases out of twelve, or a 25% WRONGFULLY ACCUSED defendant ratio.

This does not include Travis’ case.  Travis blew 0.07 on the breath test, and he was not charged with a DUI, but a lesser offense referred to as “DWI” on the show (more on that later).  Counting Travis, the WRONGFULLY ACCUSED rate jumps to 33%!!

Watching the show, I could not figure out why Jody was suspected of being under the influence.   She didn’t have an odor of alcohol?  Why did they guess that she was under the influence of prescription medication?  Do the officers feel any shame at arresting this woman and putting her under so much stress because of their incorrect guess? Is it possible that these officers feel pressure to make arrests just for the TV show?  Do they get pressure to make arrests from other sources?  I suspect that they do.  There doesn’t seem to be much sympathy for people whose lives are upturned by these careless and faulty accusations of DUI.

2.   Once again, the focus is on roadblocks.  This is probably because it is easier for the TV show producers to set up camp at a roadblocks where there is a high probability that at least one person will get arrested for DUI over the course of a night.  However, this highlights a fact that often gets overlooked: the overwhelming majority of DUIs do not involve accidents, and many of them don’t involve impaired driving.

3.   Another recurring problem is the absence of lawyers on the show.  In these two shows, two of the defendants were facing serious felony charges (three time DUI offender James, and Casey, who was charged with possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, plus DUI and driving on a suspended license).  In addition, Travis just avoided a felony case for a second DUI when he blew 0.07.  All of them should be consulting an attorney since they are facing major consequences including prison time.

At a minimum, it would be nice to have an Oklahoma lawyer explain the legal process there.  As I am not an attorney in Oklahoma, I can only guess as to what is going on off-camera.  It seems as though plea offers are being made off-screen, and we are shown the defendants step up in front of the judge to enter an agreed-upon plea on the record.  Some of the defendants have attorneys, but it seems like many do not.

4.   More Differences between Illinois DUIs and Oklahoma DUIs:
It seems that in OK there is a lesser charge of DUI (“driving under the influence”) called “driving while intoxicated” or DWI.  It occurs when a person’s blood alcohol level is between 0.05 and 0.08.

Illinois does not have a similar statute.  In Illinois, the officer must first charge you with a DUI, based on his probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol, before you take an “evidentiary breath test” in a station.  (Although the officer’s probable cause can be based in part on a roadside “portable breath test” or PBT).  If you blow under 0.08, you are still charged with a DUI (although it might be dismissed — I just had a 0.01 case dismissed in Markham earlier this month).

In Illinois, there are the following statutory presumptions:

1. If there was at that time an alcohol concentration of 0.05 or less, it shall be presumed that the person was not under the influence of alcohol.
2. If there was at that time an alcohol concentration in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08, such facts shall not give rise to any presumption that the person was or was not under the influence of alcohol, but such fact may be considered with other competent evidence in determining whether the person was under the influence of alcohol.
3. If there was at that time an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, it shall be presumed that the person was under the influence of alcohol.
625 ILCS 11-501.2(b)

So in other words, if a person blows 0.07 like Travis did, he will still be charged with DUI and, if the case goes to trial, the breath test is admissible but the judge or jury does not have to presume that the defendant either was, or was not, under the influence of alcohol.  There have been reported cases of convictions with BACs as low as 0.03.

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