Scottsdale DUI: Changes in the Scottsdale Courts

February 22, 2010 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

What is going on in Scottsdale?  In the last 30 days two judges have been let go by the City Counsel.  What is coming next? 

List of Drunkest Cities in America Released

February 4, 2010 by Monica  
Filed under DUI

Men's Health Magazine has released its ranking of "America's Drunkest Cities". The study took into account a number of factors, such as incidents of car crashes attributable to alcohol, the number of arrests for driving under the influence and the death rates from alcoholic liver disease.

Fresno, California was ranked the drunkest city for the year. Rounding out the top five positions are Reno, Nevada; Billings, Montana; Riverside, California and Austin, Texas. The least drunk city, coming in at the 100 position, is Boston, Massachusetts.

Have you been arrested for DUI or DWI in Austin, Texas?

Best DUI Blog Posts: December 2009

December 16, 2009 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

I am starting a new list of the best DUI blog posts for the past month.  I am admittedly stealing the idea after reading Kevin O'Keefe's Best In Law Blogs.  However, as I am one of Kevin's clients, I don't think he will mind (as long as the check clears.)  Here are the posts that I found most interesting for the past month:

 If there are any DUI lawyers that think I should have put their post here, let me know. 

Thanks,

Lawrence

When Lawyers Attack

December 15, 2009 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

Last night I am reading Gideon’s blog and I see a post with the title: “This Seattle DUI lawyer is a Douchebag.” As someone who loves a good fight, I started reading. Here is the beginning of the post:

So normally I don’t write posts like this, because I don’t give flyin’ rat’s ass. But lately, I’ve seen a string of hits in my Google Alert for “public defender” (yes, that is one way I keep up with relevant news) from some “let me help you on the internet by giving out free advice” sites.

The most recent one popped into my RSS reader this evening and it followed the same tenor of the others: Don’t opt for a public defender because they’re overworked, don’t have resources, etc. In other words, the same BS that smarmy “defense lawyers” use to scare clients into giving them money…

Towards the end of the post, Gideon concludes:

The problem is that sites like these come up on the first page of a Google search for something like “should I hire a private lawyer or keep my public defender” (and trust me, I get a lot of hits with similar search terms).

Another site that comes up? New lawyer darling Avvo.

So yeah. Douchebag.

Gideon, you had me at douchebag. More importantly, as someone who only does private work, I completely agree with your position. I know plenty of public defenders that do an outstanding job. Moreover, if I were going to make my own top ten list of attorneys you don’t want to represent you – you would not find even one public defender on it.

 

Arizona Extreme DUI: The Out of State Visitor Dilemma

November 18, 2009 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

The harsh penalties for an Arizona extreme DUI conviction have been well chronicled in this blog.  However, what happens when we apply these penalties to people who were only visiting Arizona and charged with DUI?

One could take the view: who cares?  When people come to "our state" and commit crimes, they deserve whatever they get.  On the other hand, you could look at what I believe are the unintended effects of these penalties on visitors to Arizona.  Moreover, these unintended consequences really demonstrate the disconnect between what should be the goals of the law (deterrence) and the means (more jail) used to carry out those goals.

Here are some basic facts.  First, for obvious reasons, we get a lot of visitors to Arizona.  Second, we have DUI laws and enforcement that are much stricter than in most states. And third, despite the promise that increased penalties (i.e. jail time) would prevent DUI offenses, it appears law enforcement agencies are still arresting the same amount (or more) of people for DUI.  If there is a reader of this post who has some statistic showing my third premise is incorrect, please post it in the comments and I will publish it.  However, I am doubtful that anyone will find such a statistic.  In addition, I contend that the increased DUI penalties fail to deter both in-state and out-of-state visitors.  Thus, visitors to Arizona, lots of visitors to Arizona, are getting charged with DUI offenses.

Let's add the penalties for an Arizona extreme DUI conviction to the equation.  For a first time extreme DUI offense (i.e. blood alcohol result of .150 and below a .200), even if the judge believes you are the best person on the planet, the minimum sentence is 30 days jail.  Combine this with certain prosecuting agencies that offer a plea agreement of 30 days jail (or close to it), and out-of-state visitors have a real problem.

For the Arizona resident, 30 days jail is a tremendous burden.  However, at least with work release, you should be able to keep your employment.  If you live in California and are sentenced to 30 days jail in Arizona, your job (your career) is now in jeopardy.  How many employers are going to say "sure, take thirty days off to go serve a jail term in Scottsdale, no problem?"  This misdemeanor offense can have penalties that could ruin someones livelihood.

Here are the solutions we have found in the past.  An out-of-state visitor can request an order to do their jail in their home state.  That request is almost always granted.  However, the judge will tell you it is "your" responsibility to find a jail in your home state that will comply with the incarceration order.  In my experience, the average person can find a jail that will take them for a day or two, but 30 days - good luck!  To solve this problem, we have had to employ former law enforcement officers and had them assist with getting our clients accepted into the facility.  Even using this method, it is still difficult.  Moreover, how many people can afford this service?

The other option is going to trial.  If you can convince the jury that your blood alcohol concentration was merely over .08 but below .150, then the minimum jail is reduced to one (1) day.

In sum, Arizona has set up a terrible dilemma for out-of-state visitors charged with extreme DUI.  My experience is that prosecuting agencies have little sympathy for the unique problems they face.  The reality is law enforcement takes the attitude - "its your problem - deal with it."  Dealing with it may be a lot harder for out-of-state visitors.

If you need legal advice for a specific problem, you must consult with an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney. For more information about Arizona Criminal Law or a specific legal problem, please contact Koplow & Patane Online or by phone at (602) 494-3444. 

 

 

How accurate is blood testing for alcohol?

October 28, 2009 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

The truth of the matter is we don’t really know. Most labs in the Phoenix Arizona area claim to be accurate within 5%. That means if your blood result came back at .08, then the true result can be anywhere from 5% lower or 5% higher.

Other scientific organizations claim 5% is not a realistic range of accuracy. For example, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences claims that the accepted range of accuracy is 10% higher or lower.

After interviewing toxicologists over 100 times, doing a substantial number of DUI trials with blood results at issue, I am convinced that the accuracy is totally dependent on the procedures used by the lab, and most labs overstate their accuracy.

To support my conclusion, I need to explain how blood testing with a gas chromatograph works. At its most basic level, gas chromatography simply compares known alcohol concentrations to unknown blood samples. A blood tester does not inherently know what a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is. You must calibrate it every time you do a test. You teach the machine what a .08 is by putting known alcohol concentrations into it, and essentially build a ruler.

Most labs in the Phoenix area put four known alcohol concentrations into the blood tester to build their ruler. These known concentrations are called calibrators. It is important to remember these calibrators are water based. That is, they are known alcohol concentrations in water. See the graphic below for an illustration.


As you can see in the example, there are four points on the ruler. The blood tester simply connects the dots on the ruler. If the four places on the ruler are accurate, then you should have a fairly accurate ruler. However, many labs make their own calibrators, and there is no way to know how accurate the ruler really is. There is no outside agency auditing their work. All we have is their word that they are accurate.

In addition, while it is a good first step to be able to build a ruler using water and alcohol, we are not testing alcohol in water in DUI cases. We are testing alcohol in blood. In science, we need to take into account what is known as the matrix effect. Simply put, water and blood are not the same substance. Water does not have red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, virus, and bacteria. In order to measure alcohol in blood, we need a blood-based ruler. However, law enforcement labs do not actually use a blood-based ruler. This is where the procedures of the lab really make a difference.

Labs will use a known concentration of alcohol in blood and compare it to their water-based ruler. This is known as a calibrator. This procedure may be acceptable if done enough times with an accurate blood based sample.

Here is the problem. There are very few companies that make the blood based alcohol concentrations, they are not accurate, and some labs use only one calibrator (not four like the water-based.) When the blood-based alcohol sample comes from the manufacturer, there is an insert. The insert tells you that the stated blood alcohol concentration is just a target value. It states that the known concentration it is really just a range. For example, I recently had a case with a blood-based control with a target value of .182. However, upon reviewing the insert that came with the sample, according to the manufacturer, .182 could be anywhere between a .166 and a .198. Thus, the ruler used is not as accurate as we would like it to be. That is a tremendous range when we are trying to determine someone’s true blood alcohol concentration. The picture below illustrates what the blood-based ruler looks like with only one this one known value.


As you can see, you can’t build a ruler with only one point on a line. Thus, with using only one known value, your ruler just is not very accurate – unlike the water-based ruler. The less accurate your ruler is, the less accurate your test result will be. Consequently, the true range of accuracy could be significantly greater than even 10%.
 

 

No Consent, No Warrant, No Blood

September 4, 2009 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

Some things in life seem obvious. It is hotter in the summer. It is colder in the winter. The government must get a warrant to stick a needle in your arm before they forcibly take your blood. However, this last presumption has not been so obvious in Arizona.

For years in Arizona, attorneys have been arguing that law enforcement must get a warrant before taking your blood during a DUI investigation. Unless, of course, the person “expressly consents” to the blood draw. However, many Arizona courts have held that, under Arizona law, we should "imply" your consent to the blood test. Thus, there is no need to ask for your consent, nor to get a warrant before taking blood.

In most DUI cases, officers ask the person suspected of DUI if they will consent to the blood draw. The officer will explain that if you refuse to give consent, a one (1) year license revocation will be triggered. Moreover, the officer will likely inform you that they will also get a telephonic warrant, in a matter of minutes, and forcibly take your blood. Consequently, the majority of people do give consent to the blood draw. This scenario is perfectly legal.

However, every year I see a number cases where law enforcement just takes the person’s blood without asking for consent. They merely say "give me your arm" and take the blood. Most experienced DUI officers will not engage in such conduct. Yet this situation keeps occurring. And until now, many courts have upheld the officer's actions.

On September 1, 2009, the Arizona Court of Appeals stated the obvious.  They held that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to take a DUI suspects blood - unless the person “expressly agrees” to have their blood drawn. The Court reasoned:

Arizona’s Implied Consent Law, A.R.S. § 28-1321, requires the State to obtain a warrant before drawing a blood sample from a DUI suspect unless the suspect “expressly agree[s]” to submit to the blood test. A.R.S. § 28-1321(B), (D) (Supp. 2005).

We hold that the “express agreement” required by the statute must be affirmatively and unequivocally manifested by words or conduct, and may not be inferred from a suspect’s mere failure to communicate clear objection to the test.

In sum, there is nothing “obvious” about Arizona DUI laws.

Sturgis Rally Sees Rise in Arrests for DUI in South Dakota

August 10, 2009 by Monica  
Filed under DUI

The South Dakota Highway Patrol has announced that the number of overall arrests for driving under the influence was up at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Through Saturday there were 316 SD DUI arrests, compared to 253 in 2008. The rally, held in the Black Hills, ended Friday though the official window for DUI statistics runs longer because many bikers arrive early and stay through the weekend.

There were 72 accidents involving injury, compared to 60 last year. While drunk driving in South Dakota arrests were up this year, the number of drug arrests dropped from 232 to 199.

Are you trying to find a SD DUI lawyer?

5 Things You Should Know About Arizona Super Extreme DUI Convictions

July 30, 2009 by Lawrence Koplow  
Filed under DUI

Arizona is one of a few states that has created something referred to as "Super Extreme DUI."  A DUI is "Super Extreme" if a person's blood alcohol concentration is .200 or above.  While this crime is still a misdemeanor, it carries a minimum jail term that is greater than most first time felonies.  There are several characteristics of this crime that make it unique.  Here are the five most important:

1. An extended period of an Ignition Interlock Device.  All Arizona DUI convictions require a person to install and maintain an ignition interlock device.  For a first time regular DUI, the minimum period is one year.  A conviction of Super Extreme DUI requires a minimum period of 18 months (or one and one-half years.)

2. Extended jail period.  For a regular DUI conviction, there is a minimum jail term of 1 day.  For an extreme DUI (BAC result of .150 and below a .200) conviction, there is a minimum jail term of 30 days.  For an Arizona Super Extreme DUI, the minimum jail term is 45 days.

3.  A better chance of getting your name in lights.  The Maricopa County Attorneys' Office has a website that posts booking photos of DUI offenders.  While they do not provide explicit details of how they choose who they post pictures of, we do know that they focus on people alleged to have higher blood alcohol test results (i.e. "Super Extreme DUI" and "Extreme DUI.")

4. Out of state offenders will probably go to trial.  If you live in another state and get a "Super Extreme DUI", you will have an inherent difficulty with taking a plea offer.  Many prosecuting offices offer long periods of jail for these cases.  It is not uncommon for them to offer the same amount of jail the person may get if they went to trial and lost.  For the person that lives in Arizona, they may be be able to maintain their employment during their jail term if granted work release and / or home detention.  However, out of state offenders may not have these options.  While most Arizona courts will permit them to do their jail out of state, there are very few out of state jails that will accommodate them.  Finding a jail in someone's home state for a few days can usually be accomplished.  When it comes to jail terms of 30 to 45 days, it is nearly impossible.  Most out of state jails will not accommodate these requests. Consequently, an out of state offender may need to go to trial and fight the Super Extreme allegation.  If successful, on that count alone, the minimum jail can be significantly reduced.  Thus, trial is often times the best option in these cases.

5.  Simply being charged with "Super Extreme DUI" does not mean you will be convicted of "Super Extreme DUI."  While prosecutors tend to offer extended periods of jail on these cases, that does not mean a reduction (or even dismissal) is not possible.  There are several factors that need to be examined: (1) How far above a .200 is the test result? (2) Were there any problems with the blood testing process? (3) How bad was the driving prior to the traffic stop? (4) Is there a disconnect between how the person was acting and the test result? and (5) Are there any procedural or constitutional violations?  Moreover, there are many other factors that may affect the outcome of the case.  The general concept is that if the government believes they might lose the case, the better the chance of a reduced plea offer.

In sum, Arizona Super Extreme DUI convictions are truly unique, in that the increased penalties for this misdemeanor can be more onerous than many felonies. 

Delaware Strengthens DUI Laws

July 15, 2009 by Monica  
Filed under DUI

Effective today, those stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence in Delaware will be facing twice the fines, and repeat offenders could be sentenced to jail for up to 15 years.

Gov. Jack Markell signed into law legislation calling for an increase in fines for first offense DE DUI from $230 to $500, with repeat offenders subject to $15,000 fines. The potential jail sentence for repeat offenders was tripled, to a maximum of 15 years. With a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher both first time and repeat offenders will have their driver’s licenses suspended for six months and be required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.

On average, 7000 arrests for DUI in Delaware are made each year. 30 percent are repeat offenders.

The sponsor of the law hopes that the new penalties help stop drunk driving in Delaware by making it easier to incarcerate repeat offenders and keep them off the road. It was also hoped that future legislation will make ignition interlock devices mandatory for everyone convicted of Delaware DUI.

Do you need to hire a DE DUI lawyer?

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