Feds conducting intrusive “voluntary” roadblocks

How would you feel if you came to a roadblock and a sheriff’s deputy asked you to come with him to a room where they asked you whether or not you had drank or used narcotics recently?  And if you would agree to a blood or saliva sample?

From CNN.com:

The roadblocks went up on a Friday at several points in two Alabama towns, about 40 miles on either side of Birmingham.

For the next two days, off-duty sheriff’s deputies in St. Clair County, to the east, and Bibb County, to the southwest, flagged down motorists and steered them toward federal highway safety researchers. The researchers asked them a few questions about drinking and drug use and asked them for breath, saliva and blood samples — offering them $10 for saliva and $50 to give blood.

It’s not just in Alabama. The roadblocks are part of a national study led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is trying to determine how many drivers are on the road with drugs or alcohol in their systems. Similar roadblocks will be erected in dozens of communities across the nation this year, according to the agency.

It’s been going on for decades. Previous surveys date to the 1970s. The last one was run in 2007, and it included the collection of blood and saliva samples without apparent controversy, sheriff’s spokesmen in both Alabama counties said…

And Susan Watson, executive director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the use of deputies to conduct the survey an “abuse of power.” Even though the survey is voluntary, people still feel they need to comply when asked by a police officer, she said.

“How voluntary is it when you have a police officer in uniform flagging you down?” Watson asked. “Are you going to stop? Yes, you’re going to stop.”

The agency said in a statement that the survey provides “critical information” to reduce drunken or drugged driving.

“Impaired driving accounts for more than 10,000 deaths per year, and findings from this survey will be used to maximize the impact of policy development, education campaigns, law enforcement efforts and other activities aimed at reducing this problem,” it said. The program costs about $7.9 million over three years, from planning the study to analyzing the results, it said.

“The survey provides useful data about alcohol and drug use by drivers, and participation is completely voluntary and anonymous,” it said. “More than 60 communities across the country will participate this year, including two Alabama counties, both of which also participated in the previous survey in 2007. NHTSA always works closely with state safety officials and local law enforcement to conduct these surveys as we work to better inform our efforts to reduce drunk and drugged driving.”

The agency said the 8,000 drivers expected to take part will do so voluntarily and anonymously, and researchers follow “a highly scientific protocol and complex statistical design in order to accurately reflect the problem nationwide.”

In the 2007 survey, about 7,700 drivers gave saliva samples and 3,300 gave blood at survey sites run during both day and night. Among drivers who were interviewed at night, 12.4% had alcohol in their systems, while about 16% had used marijuana, cocaine or over-the-counter or prescription drugs.

Read the entire story here:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/19/us/drug-survey-roadblocks/index.html

Florida Deputy Sheriff arrested for DUI while on duty in squad car

From the Huffington Post:

 Kevin Meyer 911 Call

Sgt. Kevin Meyer, a 23-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriffs Dept., was arrested May 5 for DUI. Although he was off-duty, he was wearing his uniform and driving an official vehicle at the time of his crash.

Officials in Orange County, Fla., released a 911 call and radio transmissions made on the night a local sheriff was arrested for DUI — while wearing his uniform and driving an official vehicle.

On the radio transmission, Meyer inaccurately describes the car he allegedly hit, a gold Toyota.

“It’s a Kia, it’s gray in color,” relayed Meyer, ClickOrlando.com reported. The car was actually a Toyota.

The 911 call of the crash site released by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s office has an unidentified male caller describing the scene.

“This cop almost hit me. Let’s put it that way. He was taking two lanes and he was going super fast and he hit this other car,” the 911 caller said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Sgt. Kevin Meyer, a 23-year veteran, crashed the car May 5 while driving to an off-duty job at Walt Disney World. He was arrested two hours after the crash and refused to take a field sobriety test, ClickOrlando.com reported.

Later, a breath test revealed his blood alcohol level was .13, nearly twice the legal limit of .08. Investigators later found a Powerade bottle in his vehicle containing a pink liquid that smelled like alcohol, WESH-TV reported.

Meyer’s DUI trial is scheduled to begin July 1. He has been on administrative leave since the accident.

Asked for his license, man instead hands cop a beer

medinaFile this under “How not to handle oneself when investigated for DUI”!

From KIRO-TV.com:

By Casey McNerthney

KIRO 7 STAFF

A drunken man who was stopped by police handed the officer a Miller Lite when asked for his license, police said.

Prosecutors said the behavior by Omar Medina, 26, isn’t surprising. They said he habitually drives without his license and this is his fourth arrest for an alcohol-related driving offense investigation.

He’s been charged with felony DUI.

Shortly before 9 p.m. June 8, police were called about a DUI suspect near the 7-Eleven at 18012 West Valley Highway in Kent. A caller said the driver was erratic as he pulled into the parking lot, and police said three people watched Medina urinating next to his blue Chevrolet car.

“Upon arrival I observed a subject matching the description exit the store holding a plastic sack that contained a can of Miller (Lite),” Detective Matt Lorette wrote in a probable cause document. “The subject denied driving the vehicle and was having difficulty walking.”

Medina denied driving the Chevy and tried to walk away, though he had trouble doing so.

“I asked him for his driver’s license and he handed me the can of Miller Lite,” Lorette wrote.

Lorette eventually gave his identification card, and once he was put in handcuffs police said he was upset.

“Omar became combative and said he was an assassin for the US Government,” Lorette wrote. “While at the jail I advised him of his rights which he said he did not understand (and) said he did not respect my authority/organization.”

Police said Medina then refused to take a breath test and repeated his earlier statements about being a killer. His vehicle did not have an ignition interlock device. Court documents show he has two prior convictions for driving without a required ignition interlock device.

The State Department of Licensing lists Medina as a habitual offender for driving with a suspended license. Court documents show Medina received his first DUI here in 2005 for an incident in Renton. He also has a history of domestic violence and resisting arrest.

He has failed to appear in court at least nine times since 2006.

“He is a grave danger to the community given his obvious inability to not drive when he is impaired,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim wrote in charging documents.

Medina remains in King County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.

How will drinking affect your looks? There’s an app for that, of course!

Here’s a Today show segment about the “drinking mirror” app that will let you see how you will look after years of regular drinking use.  Will an appeal to vanity scare people away from their nightly glass of wine or cocktail?  What do you think?

Blog Item Updates & Links

rousso– There has been a civil settlement in the lawsuit against Carly Rousso, the Highland Park teenager who is accused of driving after “huffing” cleaning products and killing a three-year old.  The criminal case has been re-scheduled for September 27th.

Why would the parties settle before the criminal case got resolved?  I don’t know, but here is an educated guess:  probably Rousso’s insurance carrier was willing to tender the full policy limits (or perhaps something very close to those limits), without an admission of fault, in return for a final settlement of the case.  This would avoid costly and lengthy litigation for the family.  A policy offer is hard to turn down, especially when the defendant is a nineteen year old who likely has little ability to pay any amount in excess of the policy, either now or anytime soon.

– In response to the DUI arrest of a limo driver who was taking Glen Ellyn seniors to prom, both houses in Illinois have passed a law making it a felony for a driver-for-hire to be driving under the influence while having passengers in his or her vehicle.  Under the law, it would be a Class 4 felony, punishable from probation up to three years in prison.  Governor Quinn must sign the law before it will take effect.

gracecourtFormer Chicago Cub Mark Grace has completed four months of jail in Maricopa County’s “Tent City” and now must serve two years of probation.  Did Sheriff Joe make him autograph a pair of pink underwear?

Erin Brockovich was arrested for “DUI while in charge of a boat” in Lake Mead near Las Vegas, NV.  I am guessing that Steven Soderbergh will not be contacting Julia Roberts about this for a sequel.

– Not a direct update, but another hypocritical politician:  A Georgia State Congressman who sponsored a bill requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, has been charged with a DUI.

– Also, another story of a man getting a DUI on a lawn mower, this time in New York State.

Bears cut Evan Rodriguez after DUI arrest

rodriguezEvan Rodriguez’s DUI turned out to be quite costly for the Chicago Bears FB/TE.  The team has decided to cut him after his second arrest of the off-season (and reports that he continued to frequent nightclubs in the days following his DUI arrest).

From the Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Bears have decided to release fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez, a source told the Tribune on Monday.

Rodriguez managed to stick with the Bears after his first arrest of the offseason in March, for disorderly intoxication. Those charges subsequently were dropped.  He appeared to have managed to stick with the Bears after his second arrest of the offseason in May, for driving under the influence. A police source told the Tribune that Rodriguez’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17, more than twice the legal limit.

The Bears have put his roster space to use already, signing fullback Tony Fiammetta, according to his agent.

Rodriguez was contrite after his latest arrest.

“I apologize to the whole organization and my family and my teammates,” Rodriguez said. “I know I made a poor judgment that night. I also have to earn my teammates’ trust back and the coaches’ trust back, so I can say a whole bunch of words, but I have to lead by my actions.”

Less than 48 hours after his arrest, Rodriguez was seen in a Chicago nightclub.

Last week, Bears general manager Phil Emery said he was extremely disappointed in Rodriguez.

“There are a lot of things we have to work through,” Emery said. “All off-the-field incidents are subject to NFL policies and guidelines. We have to work through these things.”

The Bears chose Rodriguez in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

An example of how easy it is to be wrongly accused of DUI

roadblockcheckAs I have said before, there is a common affliction that top DUI police officers have — I call it “DUI on the brain.”  What I mean by that is that these officers are on such high alert to make DUI arrests that they make all sorts of negative inferences whenever they stop a vehicle.  So if a person has bloodshot eyes, or speaks slow or walks wobbly, the officer will be convinced that this means that the person is drunk — even when told that the person has a medical condition.

And here is the latest example, from Arizona:

Jessie Thornton sleeps during the day and runs errands and works out during the night.

“My wife, she’s an ER nurse and works three 12-hour shifts, so I adjusted my schedule to be like her schedule,” said Thornton.

The 64-year-old retired firefighter moved to a retirement community in Surprise, Ariz., from Ohio.

Thornton says his late hours have put him in the police spotlight.

“I’ve been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it’s amazing,” said Thornton.

His latest incident with Surprise police officers prompted Thornton to hire a lawyer with plans to sue the department.

Around 11 p.m. Thornton was pulled over for crossing the white line in his lane, according to Surprise Police Department paperwork.

“(The officer) walked up and he said ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,'” said Thornton.

The 64-year-old says his eyes could have been red because he had just left LA Fitness where he was in the pool swimming.

“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes.’ I said, ‘I’ve been swimming at LA Fitness,’ and he says, ‘I think you’re DUI,‘” said Thornton. “(The officer) goes, ‘Well we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ I said, ‘OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.'”

Medical documents show Thornton was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery two days after the incident.

According to the police report, the officer notes that Thornton does have a hip and knee problem.

Thornton said two other officers arrived and he conducted the sobriety test.

“At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,” said Thornton.

Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb.

“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” said Thornton.

According to documents provided to KSHB Scripps affiliate ABC15 from the City of Surprise, Thornton was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test.

The test, according to the police documents, came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.000.

“Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero,” said Thornton.

While in custody, a “DRE” or drug recognition expert was called to test Thornton.

“After he did all the tests, he says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,'” said Thornton.

The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, “I conducted an evaluation of (Thornton), in my opinion (Thornton) was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton’s blood.

Thornton’s car had been impounded and the MVD notified of the DUI charge.

“I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something,” said Thornton.

According to the police documents, Thornton was later released to his wife.

“She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn’t believe it,” said Thornton. “On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday.”

Thornton now claims this wasn’t DUI.

“It was driving while black,” said Thornton.

Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor agreed, calling the incident a “DWB” or “driving while black.” Victor’s office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise seeking $500,000.

“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” said Thornton.

“This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter,” said Victor.

To be clear, Scripps’ affiliate station in Phoenix, Ariz., provided the Surprise Police Department an opportunity to talk about Thornton’s incident, however, due to standard policy, the department was unable to comment due to pending legal action.

The DUI charge was recently dropped, but Victor’s office claims it’s not enough.

“Here he is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin,” said Attorney Charity Clark. “It’s frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing.”

Thornton said his daughter, who is in law enforcement, has filed an official complaint with the city of Surprise.

“Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn’t right,” his daughter said.

As for Thornton’s hip, medical documents show he did have hip replacement surgery days after the arrest.

“I just don’t want any of this to happen to somebody else,” said Thornton.