Rapper DMX arrested for DUI — with arrest video

Video from TMZ.com.

From CNN.com:

Rapper DMX has found himself in trouble with the law again, this time with a DUI charge in South Carolina, authorities said Friday.

Troopers in Greenville pulled over in a 1978 Plymouth station wagon Thursday night after spotting it traveling erratically, the South Carolina Highway Patrol said. DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was driving, he was given a field sobriety test and failed, the agency said.

The rapper was charged with driving under the influence, driving without a license and driving without a seat belt, the patrol said..

However, his publicist, Domenick Nati, said DMX wasn’t arrested for DUI.

“He was arrested early this morning but quickly released,” Nati told CNN. “X was given a breathalyzer test and easily passed it. He is back at his home in South Carolina and we are continuing our focus on his upcoming album and acting roles.”

But the state highway patrol responded to a CNN inquiry Friday evening by repeating that the 42-year-old rapper was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, driving without a license and driving without a seat belt.

DMX has faced various criminal charges in the past, including probation violation, illegal drug possession and animal cruelty.

Maricopa County, Arizona, authorities said he was arrested five times after August 2007. That included a May 2008 arrest on drug and animal cruelty charges, when Simmons attempted to barricade himself inside his Cave Creek home, sheriff’s deputies said.

Simmons also ran into trouble while in prison, being placed on “lockdown status” and forced to eat only bread and water for “jailhouse infractions.” In February 2009, he threw a food tray in anger at a corrections officer, according to the sheriff’s office.

In 2010 he was sent to prison after violating his probation. Four days later DMX was admitted to the Flamenco Mental Health unit for an undisclosed disorder.

FL attorney who was set-up for DUI by opponent has case dropped

Back in January, I blogged about Florida attorney Charles Phil Campbell, who was allegedly set-up for a DUI by the law firm that he was opposing in a local high-profile lawsuit between two “shock jock” DJs.

Then in April, I blogged again once the arrest video was released to the general public.  Then I said that Campbell did not look intoxicated and it did not seem that there was sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  And as it turns out, the prosecutors on the case have agreed and decided to drop the case.

From Bay News 9:

The lawyer who became a story himself during the Bubba the Love Sponge Clem-Todd “MJ” Schnitt defamation trial will not face DUI charges.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office announced Monday it has dropped the charges against attorney Philip Campbell.

Campbell, 64, who represented Schnitt during the defamation trial involving the Tampa-based radio personalities earlier this year, was arrested during the trial on DUI charges.

Pinellas-Pasco authorities, who were handed the investigation from the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office to avoid any conflict of interest, said there was not sufficient evidence to go forward with any prosecution.

Investigators said several people who were with Campbell on Jan. 23 said he “looked fine and did not appear to be under the influence.”

Schnitt’s team hinted that Campbell’s DUI was a setup – that Melissa Personius, a paralegal for Clem’s attorney Stephen Diaco, met up with Campbell on that evening, bought him drinks and then asked him to move her car.

Schnitt’s attorneys claim that’s when Campbell was arrested on a DUI charge by Tampa police.

When that happened, MJ’s legal team claims, Campbell left his trial bag, which contained important, confidential documents, in Personius’ car. He had no idea that Personius was a paralegal for Diaco’s law firm.

Using humor in the courtroom

The other day I saw a blog post about the “8 worst courtroom jokes,” which is worth reading even though the author thinks there is little place in a courtroom for humor.

I respectfully disagree.  There is nothing inherently wrong when an attorney makes a joke in open court. It just has to be done carefully.

Obviously, this became a subject of debate after the defense attorney in the Zimmerman case began his opening argument with a “knock knock” joke (“Zimmerman who?”  “Okay, you are good for the jury.” da-dum) – a joke that was universally panned, even if it didn’t cost him the case.

If you are going to use humor in the courtroom, you have to be aware of the appropriateness of a joke in that situation, who is your audience, and how receptive will they be to that joke.

Beginning a speech with a joke is a long-standing tradition.  It can break the ice, get the audience in a receptive mood, and get them on your side.  And I have heard criminal defense attorneys say that “a smiling jury is good for the defense.”  So why aren’t defense attorneys taught to begin their opening statements with a joke?

We can start off with the fact that a defense attorney makes his or her opening statement after the prosecution.  The prosecutor gets to set a mood.  In a violent crime case, that mood will likely be emotional, sad and angry.

Clearing the atmosphere of this emotional state is a must for a defense attorney.  But it has to be done carefully.  The jury’s first impression at the beginning of the trial will often decide how they will view evidence from that point out.  If, after hearing opening statements they find themselves favoring one side, they will begin to look at each piece of evidence in terms of how it helps prove that side’s case.  Evidence that doesn’t fit that side’s theory of the case might be mentally doubted or discredited.

In this situation, the right joke could lighten the mood, diminish the state’s opening statement, and get the jurors in a more receptive state of mind.  But, the wrong joke could inflame a jury against the defense, and close their mind against it, because it may come across as an indication of the defendant’s lack of remorse or sympathy for the victim.  So tread carefully.  This is why most trial attorneys avoid jokes and instead begin their opening statement with an attempt to re-frame the narrative with the defense’s theory of the case.

Over the years, I have been in lots of courtrooms where the judge appreciates (or makes) a good joke.  That is the way some courtrooms are.  But not all courtrooms.  I have also seen judges snap at attorneys for minor transgressions.  For example, one time I saw a judge take down an attorney for referring to the parties pre-trial maneuvering as part of the “game” (“Counsel, this is not a game!”).   Attorneys have to be careful of each word they use in court, and be mindful of the reaction they might trigger with the wrong phrase or comment.

Another problem I find is that some trial attorneys lose their sense of perspective.  Because they deal with the worst side of people on a daily basis, they develop a form of gallows humor.  As a result, there is a tendency to make all sorts of inappropriate jokes that might get an appreciative audience from a fellow attorney (maybe),  but not from victims of crime or a jury panel.   The Zimmerman “knock knock” joke is the type of “joke” that might’ve gotten a laugh from the judge and prosecutor during a private conference in chambers, but was not appropriate in front of a jury.

Of course, when trying a case before a jury, one of an attorney’s main goals should be to try to get the jury to like you.  When done right, a joke can help in this area.  But when done wrong, a joke can truly backfire.  This was the cardinal sin of the Zimmerman “knock knock” joke – don’t zing your jury!

Simply stated, humor in the courtroom can be a valuable tool in an attorney’s arsenal, so long as he or she is always aware of his or her audience.

“Pepper Spray Cop” files for workers comp, claims psychiatric injury

pepperspraycopGet out your tiny violins.  John Pike, the former policeman who became infamous after pepper spraying demonstrators who were seated on the ground, posing no threat, is now seeking workers compensation for the incident, alleging “psychiatric injury.”

From the Sacramento Bee:

DAVIS, Calif. — The former police officer who pepper-sprayed students during an Occupy protest at the University of California, Davis is appealing for worker’s compensation, claiming he suffered psychiatric injury from the 2011 confrontation.

John Pike has a settlement conference set for Aug. 13 in Sacramento, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations’ website.

Pike was fired in July 2012, eight months after a task force investigation found that his action was unwarranted.

Online videos of him and another officer casually dousing demonstrators with pepper spray went viral, sparking outrage at UC Davis leaders. The images became a rallying symbol for the Occupy Wall Street movement…

In the aftermath, the University of California agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by demonstrators and the chief of the UC Davis police department resigned.

Of course, this does give me an excuse to link to the great Pepper Spray Cop Tumblr.


Gov. Quinn signs new Boating Under the Influence Law

Governor Quinn has signed into law a new Boating Under the Influence law, which will lead to driver’s license suspensions for anyone involved in boating accident that causes serious physical injury or death, and that person refused or fails a blood, breath or urine test.

From Fox32 News:

CHICAGO, IL. (KTVI) – Governor Pat Quinn Sunday signed a series bills to enhance public safety on Illinois waterways.  Quinn had stern words for boaters drinking and driving, “if you’re drunk while operating a boat, you may lose your right to operate a car”

The governor was joined by the family of Tony Borcia, a 10-year old Libertyville boy killed last July by a drunk boater.

Bill 1479 ensures that anyone operating a motorboat involved in an accident involving serious injury or death must consent to the chemical testing of their blood, breath or urine to determine blood alcohol or drug content. Operators who refuse testing, test positive for drugs or exceed the legal blood alcohol content limit, face suspension of their Illinois driver’s license. This law takes effect on January 1st.

Bill 1310 strengthens the state’s Boat Registration and Safety Act regarding a boat’s carrying capacity, redefines “authorized emergency watercraft” to have flashing blue lights and hikes penalties on boat rental operators who fail to equip their crafts with life jackets, fire extinguisher and lighting.

In 2012, there were 101 boating-related accidents on Illinois waters, resulting in 17 deaths and 77 injuries. Alcohol use was a contributing factor in 13 of the accidents and five of the fatalities.

Speed Cameras Coming to Chicago Next Month

From DNAChicago.com:

When Chicago debuts its speed camera enforcement program in the next few months, it will start out with 50 camera sites near schools and parks around the city.

But based on the total value of the contract, that number will probably grow to as many as 300.

The contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions was finalized Monday and has a potential to pay ATS $67 million over five years. Based on that dollar amount and the payment terms in the contract, the city is poised to ultimately employ the maximum 300 speed camera locations allowed under the law.

While more than 1,500 “Children’s Safety Zones” — intersections within one-eighth of a mile from a school or park — were identified by the city, it’s only allowed to erect cameras at 20 percent of those locations.

The exact locations of the initial 50 cameras have not been finalized, the Chicago Department of Transportation said.

But ATS staff and contractors are now in Chicago and actively preparing for the camera installations, according to Charles Territo, a spokesman for ATS.

“Each of the sites require design, engineering, permitting and construction,” Territo said. “The installation of the camera won’t take much time at all. Within the next 30 days, we will begin putting in cameras.”

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently began a three-month public awareness campaign, which ends in late September. When the first cameras go live in August, there will be a 30-day warning period in which anyone caught speeding will be mailed warnings.

The city expects the first violations to go into the mail in September. All drivers will be given an initial warning violation if they are caught on camera speeding. Fines will begin with subsequent speed violations.

Fines of $35 will be issued for drivers going 6-10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. They jump to $100 for those exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph or more. Enforcement around schools will be  from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Enforcement near parks will be from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

Originally, Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said he hoped to start the program in the first quarter of 2013. City budget officials were counting on about $30 million in speed camera revenue to help with Chicago’s budget woes, but the lengthy contract negotiations forced the city to revise those estimates to just $15 million for this year.

“A delay of a few months was well worth ensuring a robust, thorough and competitive procurement process for residents and taxpayers,” city spokesman Bill McCaffrey said. “And although the  procurement process took a few months longer than expected, it was most important to complete a procurement process in which we can be confident as we enter this agreement for this next five years.”…
“You’re going to have to put them in places where you know there will be speed traps,” Walker said. “That’s the only way you can generate that level of revenue. Revenue is the only purpose for which [speed camera enforcement is] being done.”

The city said revenue from speed camera fines will be used to pay for children’s safety programs, including anti-violence programs, traffic safety improvements and hiring more crossing guards and police officers.

Big Brother is watching … and getting better at it every day

From the AP:

Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.

As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge’s approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver’s location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a “single, high-resolution image of our lives.”

“There’s just a fundamental question of whether we’re going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine,” said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. The civil rights group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to a crime.

Law enforcement officials said the scanners can be crucial to tracking suspicious cars, aiding drug busts and finding abducted children. License plate scanners also can be efficient. The state of Maryland told the ACLU that troopers could “maintain a normal patrol stance” while capturing up to 7,000 license plate images in a single eight hour shift.

“At a time of fiscal and budget constraints, we need better assistance for law enforcement,” said Harvey Eisenberg, chief of the national security section and assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.

Law enforcement officials also point out that the technology is legal in most cases, automating a practice that’s been done for years. The ACLU found that only five states have laws governing license plate readers. New Hampshire, for example, bans the technology except in narrow circumstances, while Maine and Arkansas limit how long plate information can be stored.

“There’s no expectation of privacy” for a vehicle driving on a public road or parked in a public place, said Lt. Bill Hedgpeth, a spokesman for the Mesquite Police Department in Texas, which has records stretching back to 2008, although the city plans next month to begin deleting files older than two years. “It’s just a vehicle. It’s just a license plate.”

In Yonkers, N.Y., just north of the Bronx, police said retaining the information indefinitely helps detectives solve future crimes. In a statement, the department said it uses license plate readers as a “reactive investigative tool” that is only accessed if detectives are looking for a particular vehicle in connection to a crime.

“These plate readers are not intended nor used to follow the movements of members of the public,” the department’s statement said.

But even if law enforcement officials say they don’t want a public location tracking system, the records add up quickly. In Jersey City, N.J., for example, the population is only 250,000 but the city collected more than 2 million plate images on file. Because the city keeps records for five years, the ACLU estimates that it has some 10 million on file, making it possible for police to plot the movements of most residents depending upon the number and location of the scanners, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU study, based on 26,000 pages of responses from 293 police departments and state agencies across the country, also found that license plate scanners produced a small fraction of “hits,” or alerts to police that a suspicious vehicle has been found. In Maryland, for example, the state reported reading about 29 million plates between January and May of last year. Of that amount, about 60,000 – or roughly 1 in every 500 license plates – were suspicious. The No. 1 crime? A suspended or revoked registration, or a violation of the state’s emissions inspection program accounted for 97 percent of all alerts.

Eisenberg, the assistant U.S. attorney, said the numbers “fail to show the real qualitative assistance to public safety and law enforcement.” He points to the 132 wanted suspects the program helped track. They were a small fraction of the 29 million plates read, but he said tracking those suspects can be critical to keeping an area safe.

Also, he said, Maryland has rules in place restricting access for criminal investigations only. Most records are retained for one year in Maryland, and the state’s privacy policies are reviewed by an independent board, Eisenberg noted.

At least in Maryland, “there are checks, and there are balances,” he said.

What do you think?

Should you enter treatment while your DUI case is still pending?

Recently, on the avvo.com website, someone who has been charged with a fourth DUI asked whether he should enter treatment now, or wait until after he has been sentenced.  My simple response was “Do the treatment now — it is not guaranteed to help, but it might. Plus, it might help turn around your life.”

Not coincidentally came the news that two recent high profile Lake County defendants, both of whom were involved in fatal crashes, have entered into treatment — Carly Rousso (the Highland Park teen who allegedly was “huffing” shortly before crashing and killing a 5 year old) and Jeremy Betancourt (the Antioch teen who is alleged to have been drag racing prior to a fatal crash).

There are many reasons why a person should enter treatment while their case is still pending — particularly when their history suggests alcohol or drug dependency.

By entering treatment, the person is showing the court that he or she is attempting to do something about his or her problem, instead of continuing to be the problem.  Why should a judge be lenient to someone who remains in denial about an alcohol or drug problem, and remains a high risk to repeat the offense?

In addition, life skills are more important than a court case.  I have lost clients and a family member to alcohol and drugs.  Treatment might have saved them, but they were unwilling.  Often, it takes the threat of jail to get someone to enter treatment.

Treatment is not necessary for alcoholics.  Some people are in a lesser category called “alcohol and drug abuse” and have a very unhealthy concept of what is a reasonable use.  Treatment can be very helpful in recognizing these problems and providing tools to quit or drink responsibly in the future.

But for alcoholics or drug addicts, treatment is a necessary first step in the road to recovery.  Alcohol or drug addiction is permanent.  It does not go away, even if a person becomes abstinent.  It just remains in remission. Treatment can be helpful in batting away defense mechanisms that prevent a person from honestly assessing the extent of his or her problem.

So yes, if someone is facing a serious charge, or has multiple arrests or otherwise has shown signs of reckless drinking or drug use, I strongly recommend getting into treatment sooner rather than later.

Three more high profile NFL DUI cases reported this week

Bronco's executives Russell and Heckert

Bronco’s executives Russell and Heckert

The NFL pre-season is about to begin, but their DUI season never seems to end.

This week, there have been three more high-profile DUI arrests, two of them belonging to top Denver Broncos executives, and the other belonging to a player who is already on probation for assaulting a police officer.

The arrestees are Denver Bronco’s director player of pro personnel Tom Heckert,  director of player personnel Matt Russell and New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

From the Denver Post:

 Heckert, hired in early May as the Broncos’ director of pro personnel, was cited for DUI on June 11 in Parker.According to Douglas County records, he was stopped on South Chambers Road just south of East Main Street in Parker. He was stopped after “striking the median and almost hit the stop light,” the sherriff’s report said.

He was taken into custody at 10:38 p.m. His blood alcohol level was redacted from the report.

Heckert was released to John Spyteck, who worked with Heckert in Cleveland and is now a scout with the Broncos, at 5:45 a.m. June 12. According to the Douglas County Sheriff ‘s Office, Heckert blew a 0.162 on a breath test upon his release nearly seven hours after his arrest, more than twice the legal limit…

Promoted a year ago to director of player personnel, Russell was arrested Saturday evening in Summit County after he rammed his Toyota Tundra truck into a parked Breckenridge Police Department patrol vehicle at approximately 40 miles per hour, according to an arrest affidavit prepared by the Colorado State Patrol.

The officer in the vehicle was taken to Summit Medical Center with neck and back pain and lacerations to his right arm. The officer was treated and released.

The collision with the Breckenridge police vehicle, which was parked on the right side of the road, came a few minutes after Russell allegedly hit a vehicle in Frisco. According to the arrest affidavit, Russell’s breath alcohol content measured at 0.246 — more than three times the legal limit. He had an open bottle of peppermint schnapps in his truck.

Dennard, who was sentenced to 30 days in jail three months ago after he was convicted of assaulting a police officer, was arrested early this morning on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Dennard was pulled over in Lincoln, Nebraska around 2 a.m. after he was spotted by officers straddling a lane line. He reportedly refused to take a blood-alcohol test.

In addition to his 30-day jail sentence, Dennard was given two years of probation for assaulting a police officer, and this arrest could be considered a probation violation. The judge in his assault case said she would allow Dennard to wait until after the 2013 NFL season to serve his 30-day sentence; it is not clear whether this arrest will make the judge reconsider that.

Immigration bill targets repeat DUI offenders who are undocumented

From ABC News:

When an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala hit and killed an 8-year-old girl and her mother in 2009, some people in the town of Brewster, New York, made the debate about the man’s immigration status.

The assailant, Conses Garcia-Zacarias, was driving his Ford F-350 without a license and his blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit.

“This illegal alien criminal, by actions of his own choosing, took the lives of two of our neighbors and friends,” Ed Kowalski, an area resident and a member of a local conservative organization, said about the incident in 2010. “The DWI aspects of these deaths are only half of the

story; sadly, the problem of criminal activity among the illegal alien population in our area can only be addressed when our elected officials recognize the scope of the problem and address it in a uniform, consistent way.”

This sort of attitude — linking immigration status and drunk driving — doesn’t just happen on the local level.

An immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate last week includes a provision aimed at “habitual drunk drivers.” Any individual with three or more drunk driving offenses in the U.S. would be deportable and barred from reentering the country, if the bill eventually becomes law.

However, immigrants aren’t more likely to drive under the influence than native-born Americans, according to a 2008 study by the National

Institutes of Health (NIH).

The study looked at Hispanics born in the U.S. and abroad. The findings: that birthplace wasn’t a factor when it came to drunk driving, either over the short term or the long term.

Unlicensed driving, however, is significantly more dangerous than driving without a license. And most states don’t allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a license. So in that sense, there is a link to immigration policy.

People who were driving with an invalid license, had no known license, or whose license status could not be determined accounted for 20 percent of fatal crashes from 2001 to 2005, according to “Unlicensed to Kill,” a 2008 report by AAA.

Add alcohol or drug use to the equation, and you could have a very dangerous driver on the road. The case in New York shows that.