Drunk Driving can be Difficult to Prosecute

Ever feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle?  That’s how law enforcement and groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) must feel right about now.  A growing group of defense lawyers for people accused of drunk driving are able to find loopholes in the system and get the judge or jury to acquit their client of DUI.  If a person is innocent, of course they should be acquitted.  But when all evidence supports the fact that a person was driving drunk, it’s not doing anyone any favors to let the person go — free and clear.

Four cases were recently in the news and many more go unnoticed every year.  In each of these cases, a driver was impaired by alcohol, as was proven through blood test or a breathalyzer.  However, the lawyers were able to find some way to convince the judge to either throw that evidence out, or let other factors overshadow the evidence of the blood-alcohol level.

Case A: A man in Winnipeg was accused of drunk driving.  The breathalyzer test came up with blood-alcohol level over .08.  But the defense argued that the breathalyzer sample was taken too long (89 minutes) after the man was pulled over.  According to Criminal Code, the test must be done “forthwith or as soon as practicable”.  Man goes free.

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Case B: A man in Iowa was arrested for drunk driving.  The defense asked for an acquittal because the prosecution could not prove the man was the one driving the vehicle.  Judge forgot that the man admitted to being the driver and acquitted him.  Judge realized his mistake, but double jeopardy law prevented him from overruling his own acquittal.  Man goes free.

Case C: Three vehicles in Ohio ended up in a crash that killed one man.  The man who died had a blood-alcohol level of .228, while the other two were sober.  Even though the drunk driver was driving recklessly and crashed into a car that was turning in front of him, the man in the turning vehicle was accused of vehicular manslaughter.  Jury wasn’t allowed to hear the drunk driver’s blood-alcohol level, because the judge agreed that it wasn’t a factor.  Another few lives ruined by drunk driving.

Case D: A man in Wisconsin was seen driving at high speeds on the wrong side of a highway, and fled police when chased.  The man crashed his car into pole and was unconscious when police caught up to him.  When the man was taken to hospital, his blood-alcohol level was .259.  The defense argued that the police didn’t have reason to arrest the man for drunk driving in the first place, so the blood-alcohol level should not be brought in as evidence.  Judge agrees and man goes free.

Isn’t there something we can do to prevent these types of cases from crowding our court system?

Sources

Brodbeck, Tom Silly technicalities February 3, 2009

Danielson, Darwin Iowa Supreme Court says double jeopardy applies in Muscatine OWI case January 30, 2009

Supreme Court accepts two new cases January 20, 2009

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