My thoughts on the last three weeks of TLC’s DUI show

TLC’s DUI show returned to its lineup at the end of June.  When the show originally aired in December, I wrote weekly reviews, and my plan was to do the same for the new episodes.  Obviously, I have not kept up with my plans, in large part because the show itself hasn’t given me too much material to write about.

In the past three weeks, TLC has aired six new episodes, but the episodes tend to be superficial, with two featured arrests, plus two to five more stops or arrests shown in varying degrees of detail.  All of this in a half hour show that probably has 7 or 8 minutes (at least) of commercials.

Most of my complaints about this show from before remain: there is virtually no attempt to explain the Oklahoma legal system (the show shoots there); lawyers are almost never seen and never given an opportunity to explain what is going on; nor are experts on field sobriety testing, policing, toxicology, alcoholism or addiction are presented.  Last week, we saw one defendant plead guilty without having consulted with, let alone hire, an attorney.  She (and we) had no idea of what the consequences would be.

Without explanation, we are shown a few traffic stops, and out of those, follow two of them through a plea hearing (or occasionally, the case being dismissed for lack of evidence).  No trials have been shown.

The only improvement in the show in the new batch of episodes is that they have stopped being so reliant on DUI roadblocks and now virtually all of the DUI arrests come from traffic stops or accidents.

The lack of follow-up can be frustrating.  In the past two weeks, two separate arrestees proclaimed their innocence and denied drinking or using drugs.  But the results of their breath or blood tests were never revealed.

No one ever gets to second-guess the officers.  In one of last week’s episodes, an officer pulls a car over because someone threw a cigarette out the window.  The officer makes the bizarre assertion that when “anyone throws a cigarette out of a window it is a good sign they are drunk.”  When I heard that I had to stop and re-play to see if my ears were deceiving me.  What kind of nonsense is that?

But the traffic stop got even more bizarre from there.  After the officer curbed the vehicle, the driver quickly jumped out of his or her seat and the officer could not determine who had been driving.  He tried to get both of the two men who exited the vehicle to confess, but they each denied being the driver.  Next, the officer began turned his attention to a petite young female, and tried to get her to admit to being the driver.  The officer ignored, or failed to notice, that she had a black eye.  Ultimately, she stated that she would “take the blame” – yet the officer never seemed to be concerned that perhaps this woman was lying because either she was afraid of one of the men in the vehicle, or that she was trying to help one of them out by taking the blame, thinking that she was the “least intoxicated” of the bunch.  The officer did not investigate to find out the truth; it appeared that all he cared about was that he had someone to test.  The officer appeared upset, accusing the woman of “obstructing” him, and wasn’t pleased when she passed the portable breath test.  He ultimately charged her with “reckless driving” even though she did not drive in a reckless manner.

Which is not to say that everyone is innocent.  Many of the arrestees in the past few weeks were definitely under the influence of something, and many of them were either repeat offenders or had histories of alcoholism or drug addiction. It would have been very helpful to get opinions from counselors or psychiatrists to discuss addiction and treatment.

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