Will Uber Cut Down on DWI’s in Springfield?

According to a recent Springfield News-Leader article, DWI arrests in Springfield have gone down since Uber became operational in Springfield 4 months ago. See the News-Leader article below.

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(Photo: News-Leader Illustration)

When Missouri lawmakers passed a bill this session making it easier for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in the state, they lauded the bill’s potential to reduce drunken driving.

They could have used Springfield as an example.

Since the City Council tweaked the rules to help bring Uber to Springfield in November, the number of DWI arrests in the city has gone down. But there’s some debate about how much credit to give the new companies, which allow customers to hail rides from nearby drivers using an application on their smartphones.

An Uber spokeswoman said the company’s drivers do most of their pickups on the weekends in downtown Springfield, where people might otherwise choose to drink and drive.

Lt. Stacey Parton, in the Springfield Police Department’s traffic unit, said he has the Uber application on his phone and he sees its potential for reducing drunken driving, but he needs more data to truly understand Uber’s impact.

“I will say that Uber has had an effect,” Parton said. “Statistically, I am not sure that we can quantify it right now, but it has had a good effect.”

Uber launched in Springfield in November
Uber launched in Springfield in November (Photo: David Ramos, Getty Images)
From December to March — the first four full months that Uber has been operational in Springfield — there was an average of 47 DWI arrests per month in Springfield.

That’s down from an average of 55 DWI arrests per month in 2016, and way down from the five-year average of 76 DWI arrests per month in the city.

But DWI arrests had been trending down in Springfield prior to Uber’s arrival in November and Lyft launching in January.

Parton said there are other factors to consider when looking at DWI numbers.

In late 2014, Greene County instituted a policy allowing police to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test. Parton said he believes that policy is working as a deterrent.

“Word has gotten around,” Parton said. “And I think it has caused people to think more about drinking and driving.”

Parton also pointed to ongoing public awareness campaigns, more housing downtown and the dissolution of SPD’s dedicated DWI unit as factors that might be leading to fewer DWI arrests.

Academic studies have drawn varying conclusions about the impact of ride-hailing companies on drunken driving.

A 2016 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that Uber did not have a noticeable impact on drunken-driving fatalities in the nation’s 100 most populated metropolitan areas. But Uber points to a 2015 Temple University study that found a drop in alcohol-related driving fatalities after Uber was introduced in California.

On its website, Uber also touts a 10 percent drop in DWI arrests that followed Uber’s launch in Seattle.

 

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The Future is Here: Breathalyzer Skin Patches

We all know that if someone is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, they will be required to take a breathalyzer test, usually later at the police station. And this test result will be the primary evidence used against him in a drunk driving case.

The first problem with this is that the amount of alcohol in the blood is constantly changing — either rising due to absorption from recent drinking or, more likely, falling due to metabolism of the alcohol.

The second problem is that it is only illegal to have a .08% blood-alcohol concentration at the time of driving — not later at the police station.  And this breath test may not be given for an hour or two after the driving has ended — particularly in accident cases, where the police may not arrive for some time.  So the prosecution has to try to estimate what the blood-alcohol level was when the suspect was driving based upon the later test.

The third problem is that because of this, for the test results to be admissible as evidence in court they have to have been obtained within a certain period of time — in California, for example, within three hours.

But what if there was a breath-testing device which could record what the blood-alcohol level was at the time the suspect is actually driving?
Flexible Wearable Electronic Skin Patch Offers New Way to Monitor Alcohol Levels

San Diego, CA.  Aug. 2 – Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a flexible wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the data wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device. The device can be worn on the skin and could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo — which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level — and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth…
Clearly, the government would be very interested in requiring anyone convicted of DUI to wear such a patch for the probationary period (commonly three years).

 

Source

Missouri in the Middle When it Comes to DUI Strictness

blue united states map with borders around each state

 

Many consequences could come out of being accused of drunk driving. Multiple factors impact what specific things a person who has had DUI charges brought against them could face if a conviction is ultimately reached in their case. This is because each state has its own particular laws regarding drunk driving, including what actions can be taken against those charged with DUI and those convicted of DUI.

Among the ways states vary when it comes to DUI law is in the strictness of the laws they have. A recent set of state rankings put Missouri solidly in the middle when it comes to overall DUI strictness. In these rankings, done by WalletHub, Missouri was in a three-way tie for the No. 25 spot. The states that Missouri tied with were New Hampshire and South Carolina.

While the rankings found Missouri to be middle-of-the-road overall when it comes to how strict its DUI laws are, there was one general class of DUI-related things that the report rated Missouri to be very strict on. This was DUI prevention.

DUI prevention was one of the two main categories of metrics that were used for determining the overall rankings. The other was criminal penalties. Metrics which fell into the prevention category included a state’s laws and practices on things like: alcohol abuse assessment/treatment, ignition interlock devices, enforcement tactics and license suspension.

When it came to the prevention category, Missouri ranked 7th in the nation in strictness. In comparison, it ranked 39th in the criminal penalties category.

As a note, what sort of DUI prevention measures they could be subject to after being charged with or convicted of a drunk driving crime can have very big impacts on a person, just as the potential criminal fines and jail sentences they could face can.

Experienced Missouri DUI lawyers can assist individuals accused of drunk driving in the state with taking the unique aspects of Missouri DUI law (including its laws related to drunk driving prevention) into account in their defense efforts.

Source

Driving Under the Influence of… Caffeine?

California Man Fights DUI Charge for Driving Under Influence of Caffeine
coffee beans spilled around a coffee cup with the chemistry symbol for caffeine in the cup

 

San Francisco, CA. Dec. 24 – Caffeine may be the “nootropic” brain drug of choice in Silicon Valley, but an hour’s drive north in Solano County, California, the stimulant could get you charged with driving under the influence.

That is according to defense attorney Stacey Barrett, speaking on behalf of her client, Joseph Schwab. After being pulled over on 5 August 2015, Schwab was charged by the Solano County district attorney with misdemeanor driving under the influence of a drug.

Almost 18 months later, Schwab is preparing to go to trial. The only evidence the DA has provided of his intoxication is a blood test showing the presence of caffeine.

Schwab was driving home from work when he was pulled over by an agent from the California department of alcoholic beverage control, who was driving an unmarked vehicle. The agent said Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically.

The 36-year-old union glazier was given a breathalyzer test which showed a 0.00% blood alcohol level, his attorney said. He was booked into county jail and had his blood drawn, but the resulting toxicology report came back negative for benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem…

“It’s really stupid,” said Jeffrey Zehnder, a forensic toxicologist who frequently testifies in court cases. Over 41 years, Zehnder said, he had never seen a prosecution for driving under the influence of caffeine…

California vehicle code defines a “drug” as any substance besides alcohol that could affect a person in a manner that would “impair, to an appreciable degree” his ability to drive normally.

Making that case with caffeine would be difficult, Zehnder said, because the prosecutor would have to show that impaired driving was specifically caused by the caffeine and not any other circumstances.

“There are no studies that demonstrate that driving is impaired by caffeine, and they don’t do the studies, because no one cares about caffeine,” he said.

Source

DWI Field Sobriety Testing: Post 3 of 3 Post Series – One-Leg Stand Test

Over the past several months I have discussed in detail the various field sobriety tests that police officers utilize during their investigations of DWI’s.  Today is the final installment of the series with what is typically the final field sobriety test conducted roadside, the One-Leg Stand Test.  Obviously, standing on one foot for up to 30 seconds is rarely easy for anyone.  However, studies show that when the failure of this test is coupled with the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test and the Walk and Turn Test, it can demonstrate with a high probability whether someone is too impaired to operate a motor vehicle safely.

On the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS), there is a possibility of four different potential indicators of impairment.  Like the Walk and Turn Test, the OLS is considered a divided attention test.  While the subject is standing on the foot of their choice, they are required to look at the other foot and count out loud until being told to stop.  This then pairs a physical task, standing on one foot, with a mental task, counting.  Although the combination of balancing, listening, and counting out loud does not seem very daunting to most, it can actual be quite difficult for someone who is impaired.

As with WAT, the OLS requires a surface that is dry, hard, level, and non-slippery.  If the subject is wearing heals that are over 2 inches in height, the officer must give them an opportunity to remove their shoes.  Studies have also suggested that individuals over 65 years of age, people with back, leg, or inner ear problems, and people who are 50 or more pounds overweight may have difficulty performing the test.  If the test is conducted on any of these individuals, their attorney should be able to discredit the officer for even continuing with the test once these issues are discovered.

The instruction phase of any of the sobriety tests are of critical importance in ensuring any level of accuracy.  On the OLS there are eight distinct instructions that must be given to the subject by the officer performing the test.  If instructed or demonstrated improperly by the officer, the results can be drastically compromised.  The following instructions must be given by the officer, and must be given from a safe distance:

1) Tell the suspect to stand straight, feet together and arms at their sides, and not to begin until instructed to do so, followed by “do you understand”;

2) Tell the suspect to raise one leg, either leg, approximately 6″ above and parallel with the ground (toe pointed out or down slightly), followed by a demonstration;

3) Tell the suspect to hold the elevated foot in this position and count in the following manner, one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, and so on until told to stop, followed by a demonstration;

4) Ask the suspect if he or she understands;

5) Tell the suspect that throughout the test, to remember to: a) watch the elevated foot; b) count like instructed; c) keep both arms at the sides; d) keep both legs straight; e) should you put your foot down, lift it back up and continue counting from where you left off;

6) Ask the suspect if he or she understands;

7) Ask the suspect if he or she feels like they can perform the test as explained;

8) Tell suspect to begin and check the time (Must be timed for 30 seconds)

If any of the above instruction are left off, the particular clue should not be counted by the officer or the Court, and it could serve to discredit the officer’s credibility.  Although there are  a total possibility of four potential indicators of impairment on this test, it takes two to fail.  The following are potential indicators of impairment, or “clues”:

1) Sways while balancing (side to side or back and forth motion while the subject maintains the OLS position. Slight tremors do not qualify);

2) Uses arms for balance (subject moves arms 6 inches or more from the side of the body in order to keep balance);

3) Hopping (subject is able to keep one foot off the ground, but resorts to hopping in order to maintain balance);

4) Puts foot down (the subject is not able to maintain the one leg stand position, putting the foot down one or more times during the 30 second count).

If two of the above indicators are present, it will be determined that the subject has failed the test, indicating the possibility of impairment.  Again, however, if any of the instructions are left out during the instruction phase by the officer, the validity of the entire test comes into question.  This is another test in which it is valuable to have it captured on video and audio from the car of the officer.  Whether it is or isn’t captured on the dashcam, it takes a skilled and experience criminal defense attorney to advocate for you at trial.  To effectively cross-examine the officer, attorneys must have a well-rounded knowledge of how DWI’s are investigated and must have a thorough understanding of the field sobriety tests.

This concludes my 3 part series on Field Sobriety Testing.  Once again, I hope the posts have been informative as I aim to put the public on a level playing field with police officers when requested to complete FST’s on the side of the road.  Don’t hesitate to contact my law office should you ever find yourself in the position of needing a skilled criminal defense attorney.

DUI and DWI True or False

“If I am pulled over and an officer asks me to take field sobriety tests (FST’s), I have to comply”

False. Failure of FST’s is a strong piece of evidence for the government. Many people cannot pass these tests, even when having nothing to drink at all. When you take these tests you are, in most circumstances, simply giving the officer evidence that will later be used against you. Much like your right to remain silent, use your right to refuse FST’s!

“If I am asked to blow into a breathalyzer after being pulled over and arrested, I have to blow or I’ll lose my license for a year automatically”

False. Although the officer will tell you this, he or she is required by the Missouri “Implied Consent Law” to tell you this. The reality is that there are ways to fight the suspension that a good attorney can utilize. When you have consumed even a little bit of alcohol, you are in the grey area for blowing over .08% BAC. However, in many counties including Greene, officers will now seek warrants to draw your blood if you refuse.  If the blood draw comes back above .08%, that would potentially add another license suspension.  This suspension would be for 90 days rather than for one year, but your attorney would still have to fight the one year refusal suspension as well.

“If I blow high enough on a breathalyzer I have to go to jail”

This can be both true and false, depending on the circumstances. Under State law, if you blow over .15% BAC, you must do two days of “shock time” in the jail in order to keep the conviction off of your record. If the BAC is .20% the mandatory “shock time” goes up to five days. This mandatory jail time is only required in State court, however, not municipal court. It is also only required if you try to keep the conviction off of your record with what is called a “suspended imposition of sentence”. All of this is contingent of course on you pleading guilty to the offense or being found guilty after a trial. If you choose to have a trial and are successful, none of this applies.

“If I blow under .08% BAC, I can’t be arrested or prosecuted”

False. Even if you bow under .08% BAC you can still be arrested and prosecuted for DWI. All the statute in Missouri says is that “a person commits the crime of ‘driving while intoxicated’ if he operates a motor vehicle in an intoxicated or drugged condition.” RSMO. Section 577.010 (2012). Therefore, if the prosecuting attorney believes he or she can prove that a person is “under the influence of alcohol” based on other evidence than the BAC, he or she can and will push forward with the prosecution regardless of the BAC under .08%. The prosecutor can also try to use “drug recognition” to prove that someone is impaired on a substance other than alcohol.

“If I’m in my driveway I can’t get a DWI”

False. If you are observed operating a motor vehicle anywhere, even in your own garage, you can get a DWI if the officer believes he or she has probable cause. Operation has been broadly defined by case law and can even include a person being behind the wheel of a vehicle that is turned off , as long as the keys are in the ignition and the engine is capable of running. Be careful! Even if you are trying to sleep it off, keep the keys in your pocket.

“There are different ways I can lose my license in a DWI case other than just being convicted of the DWI”

True. Besides just the criminal side of the case, which carries the possibility of a point suspension, there is also an administrative side of the case dealing specifically with your driving privilege and is against the Department of Revenue (DOR). There are multitude of different types of suspensions and lengths of suspensions. It is important that you consult an experienced and highly trained DWI attorney for all of your various details as it is a complicated process. You do not want to fight the Department of Revenue on your own. This is especially true if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or if you have prior alcohol offenses.