Kerry Kennedy found not guilty of DWI

It only took a New York jury a little over an hour to acquit Kerry Kennedy of the driving while under the influence of medication charge. Her defense was that she accidentally took a sleeping pill by mistake.  This type of defense is not permitted in Illinois.

From CNN:

Kennedy testified this week that she grabbed the wrong prescription bottle from her kitchen counter that morning and swallowed 10 milligrams of zolpidem, a sleep aid also known by the brand name Ambien. Neither she nor prosecutors disputed the fact that she drove erratically after taking the medication and sideswiped a tractor-trailer in Westchester County before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled.

“I now know thanks to the tox lab that I must have taken the sleeping medication by mistake,” said Kennedy, looking at the jury as she testified.

Kennedy said she made cappuccino, had some carrots, prepared bags for the gym and office and had no problem leaving her apartment and getting to her vehicle the morning of the accident.

Her memory from that morning ends just before she entered the highway, Kennedy said. The next thing she recalls is a knock on the window of her SUV, and a man she thought was a police officer asking if she was OK.

“I was confused by that because I thought I was fine,” she said on the stand.

During a contentious cross examination, Kennedy insisted that she would not have stayed behind the wheel if she’d felt the effects of the medication.

“If I’d realized I was impaired, I would have pulled over,” she told prosecutor Doreen Lloyd, and also said she doesn’t know what the side effects of zolpidem might feel like.

“You’ve taken this pill for 10 years and you can’t tell me whether or not it makes you feel tired after you take it?” Lloyd asked.

“I guess I don’t really think about how I’m feeling when I take it,” Kennedy replied. “I take it, and then I’m asleep.”

Amanda Bynes DUI case is reduced to reckless in return for plea

Nearly two years after her DUI arrest, Amanda Bynes’ case was resolved without a trial.

According to TMZ, Bynes plead guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving, and was sentenced to three years of probation, alcohol education classes and fines.

This week in Celebrity, Musician and NFL DUIs

There was a lot of celebrity/musician and football related DUI news in the past few days, so I will round them up the links here:

Bill to end lifetime license revocations advances through House Committee

The bill that would end the “lifetime license revocation” for anyone convicted of four DUIs has made it through a major hurdle — getting out of House Transportation Committee.

Elise Dismer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on her blog:

SPRINGFIELD-Legislation giving Illinoisans with four DUI convictions another chance to get back on the road moved through a House committee Wednesday with backing from a prominent anti-drunk-driving organization.

By an 8-3 vote, the House Transportation: Vehicles & Safety Committee signed off on House Bill 4206, which would let four-time drunk-driving offenders apply for a restricted driving permit five years after their last offense—so long as they have logged three years of uninterrupted sobriety and a successful rehabilitation record.

“I believe in giving people a chance,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “For someone who’s truly turned their life around, we ought to be giving them opportunities.”

Under existing state law, anyone with four or more drunk-driving convictions faces a lifetime revocation of their driving privileges…

Nekritz’s bill also drew support from a police officer from northwestern Illinois.

Lt. Donnie Pridemore, of the Fulton Police Department, testified in support of the bill, saying he’s seen people—including his own alcoholic brother—turn their lives around.

“For those who have proven they have numerous years of sobriety, who have become productive members of society, and who don’t pose a threat to themselves or other drivers out there, they do deserve a chance to have independence—to drive to work, to drive to meetings—and they’ve earned that privilege,” Pridemore said.

But Nekritz’s opportunity comes with conditions: Those who obtain a restricted driving permit under her legislation must also drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, which would affirm their identity through video technology and prevent them from driving without initially passing a breathalyzer.

Nekritz’s bill bars anyone convicted of a DUI-related crash resulting in a fatality from applying for the permit.

Rita Kreslin, executive director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said she supported the legislation in light of the permit eligibility requirements listed in the bill. Her group did not testify Wednesday…

The Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Candidate Evaluations have been released

The March primaries are almost upon us, and the Chicago Bar Association has released its Judicial Evaluations.

From the CBA’s website:

March 18, 2014 Primary Election:

The Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC) invites you to view its evaluation of judicial candidates seeking election to vacancies on the Illinois Appellate Court and the Circuit Court of Cook County in the upcoming Primary Election to be held Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Please take this information with you to your polling place and remember to vote the Judicial Ballot. Also, feel free to share our findings with your friends, relatives and colleagues.

 We urge you to vote for judicial candidates seeking election found Qualified or Highly Qualified.

View our complete findings in the Green Guide to Judicial Candidates.

View a two-page, printable Pocket Guide (take this quick guide with you to vote).

Get the Pocket Guide on your smart phone at http://m.chicagobar.org/.

As you may know, I am a member of the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, so let me tell you a little about how we come to our findings:

Each candidate is asked to complete a lengthy questionnaire about his or her background.  Subjects include information about trial experience, legal writings or courses taught, community activities, and a list of references.

After receiving the completed questionnaire, investigators from the committee then contact the references, trial adversaries and judges, and look into things like whether the person has ever been a party to a lawsuit or received criticism or sanction from an appellate court or the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The final step is a hearing before the CBA’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, where the Candidate is given an opportunity to speak about his or her qualifications and is questioned by members of the committee.  After that there is discussion and then a secret ballot.  If the Candidate does not like the result, he or she can appeal and request another hearing.

The end result is a very thorough process.  Although I personally do not agree with each and every rating, I have to say that each rating is the result of a very long and careful process.

Judges are very important.  One day, one of them could change your life.  It is vitally important that we elect qualified jurists.  So please review the committee’s findings, and print them out or have them on your phone when you go to vote.

Parrot “rats” out driver to police during traffic stop: “He’s drunk!”

From the New York Daily News:

A Mexican motorist was busted drunken driving after his pet parakeet ratted him out to police.

Guillermo Reyes, 49, was pulled over by traffic officers at a routine alcohol checkpoint in Mexico City last week.

As he got out of his blue Chevy to be tested, cops heard a voice saying: “He’s drunk, he’s drunk.”

At first, they thought someone else was inside the vehicle.

But, on closer inspection, they were stunned to see it was Reyes’ beloved bird turned snitch.

El Universal reports that Reyes was indeed found to be drunk and was subsequently arrested.

Chris Kattan’s tweets miss the point

In case you missed it, former Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan was arrested earlier this week for DUI after he crashed his car into a construction vehicle.  The police suspect him of being under the influence of medications. If you watch the above video, you will see that Kattan could barely walk, let alone perform field sobriety tests.  Based on the video, it is almost certain that his attorney will ultimately work out some sort of plea deal.

Until then however, Kattan has been busy tweeting.  According to CNN, he tweeted:

“Those concerned or just adding gossip: I’m fine, passed all tests, released without bail, have drivers license, cop offered to drive me home”

And TMZ states that he tweeted, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all” in response to the negative reaction that he received as a result of the arrest.

When I checked Kattan’s twitter account, both tweets had been deleted.

As a general rule, defendants should not make statements about their case, whether on twitter, facebook or ANYWHERE except to their attorney.  Otherwise, those statements can be used against them either as admissions, indications of guilt or lack of remorse.

It can be difficult, however, when the client is someone in the public eye, when it becomes as much a public relations problem as a legal one.

While I am a lawyer and have no P.R. experience, I think it is common sense that a celebrity like Kattan would be better served by either remaining silent or simply released a statement expressing regrets about the incident and that he is glad that no one was hurt.  Such as statement might help to quell any animosity against him for his actions without doing any long-term damage to his career or reputation.

Instead, I feel that his tweets brand him as someone who thinks that this is just about himself and not about the people he could have injured or killed.  He is a man in need of some counsel.

Dave Savini pleads guilty to DUI, other charges are dropped

Clifford Ward of the Chicago Tribune reports:

CBS Channel 2 reporter Dave Savini pleaded guilty today to DUI but prosecutors dropped other charges related to a January incident in the parking lot of a Naperville fast food restaurant.

Savini, 47, was ordered to pay a $1,700 fine and placed on a year of supervision. He will also perform 200 hours of community service, attend a victim impact panel and receive alcohol counseling.

“There’s no doubt about it, I made a mistake and used bad judgment to drive after drinking,” Savini said in a written statement issued after the hearing. “I take full responsibility and I apologize – I deeply regret it.”

As part of the negotiated plea, prosecutors dropped all other charges, including battery, leaving the scene of an accident and child endangerment, which were also lodged against Savini, following a minor traffic accident Jan. 4 in a Taco Bell parking lot.

His attorney, Terry Ekl, said he had reviewed restaurant videotape of the incident involving Savini and another motorist, and said Savini did not shove or batter the other motorist.

“That’s why I love video. With video, you get the truth,” Ekl said.

Savini had brought his son, 14, and the son’s friend, to get food after spending the night watching a football game on TV, Ekl said. As they were leaving, Savini backed into the bumper hitch on another vehicle but caused little or no damage, Ekl said.

Police arrested Savini about three miles from the restaurant, and his blood-alcohol level was later tested at .13, according to reports.

Savini’s lawyer got a very good plea deal to get the battery, child endangerment and leaving the scene of the accident charges dropped.  As is often the case, objective video evidence showed that the police version of this case was not the entire story.

The Tribune looks into Illinois’ Drug Induced Homicide law

Last March I wrote about Illinois’ Drug Induced Homicide law, which makes it a Class X felony if someone gives another person a narcotic that causes death.  My problem was that the law, as written, is extremely overbroad and covers situations such as where a boyfriend and girlfriend share heroin, one dies, and the other gets 15 to 30 years in prison for surviving.

Now Christy Gutowski of the Chicago Tribune has written an lengthy piece about this law, which can be found here.  In it, she quotes me, which of course makes her brilliant.

So please take a look at it.

The article is timely as it is appearing a day after the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who apparently died of a heroin overdose.  It has been reported that Hoffman had a drug problem when he was younger, and had gone 23 years of being clean and sober until a relapse one or two years ago.  Even then, he went through treatment and cleaned up, only to relapse again.  Here was a man who had been clean and sober for over two decades, had the support of friends and family and the resources to get the best possible drug treatment, yet he could not stay away from heroin.  It is a horribly addicting drug.  So why should we prosecute the fellow junkie who shared the needle?  Isn’t he a victim too?

 

 

Update: Bieber tested positive for marijuana and Alprazolam

The results of Justin Bieber’s urine test are in, showing that he was positive for THC metabolite and Alprazolam, which is used in Xanax.  This is not a surprise since he had already admitted using them when he was stopped by police.

In Illinois, the mere presence of cannabis in a person’s system is a DUI — no matter how little or whether the person was actually impaired.  However, my cursory review of Florida’s DUI statute indicates that the prosecution must prove actual impairment (not mere consumption) caused by alcohol and/or drugs.  I have not seen details of Bieber’s performance on the field sobriety tests besides the officer’s conclusion that he “did not perform to standards” which is too vague to draw any firm conclusions.

There have also been some stories circulating on the internet (which I haven’t been able to verify) claiming that there is surveillance footage which disproves the police claim that Bieber was drag racing.

My opinion?  This case is far from over.