Tag Archives: dui

A Real-Time Reminder of the Value of Police Cameras

I was able to get back into a courtroom for a socially distanced trial this week. It was my first since the pandemic hit, and quite a different experience, between physical distancing and the clear face masks that were provided so that we could see the faces of the jurors and the witnesses. We got a not guilty verdict for my client’s DUI, which was a huge win for him, and a relief to be able to move past the case now that it was done. And it was made easier for us since there was no video.
I’ve talked about the failure of many law enforcement agencies to provide regular video recording of their citizen interactions and arrests, including just recently. Many times, the video would assist the government in their prosecution of the case. That’s particularly true in DUI cases, where the only form of proof is the officer’s testimony about their subjective opinion about the performance on field sobriety exercises. Jury’s expect that evidence, and defense attorneys hammer the absence of video (or often, any corroborating evidence to the opinion testimony.)
In my trial this week, there were several jurors that indicated during jury selection that they would WANT to see video evidence. While the ones that said it out loud may have been struck from the panel, there were likely jurors selected that had a similar, unstated desire to see video evidence as well. After all, jurors want as much evidence as possible, and prosecutors want as much evidence to introduce to help prove their case. There’s a concern that a video might not support an officer’s testimony, but if that’s the case, we shouldn’t be prosecuting those cases. For instance, on a DUI case, if the video doesn’t help the impairment case, prosecutors can know which cases should not be taken to trial before they drag a panel full of jurors in for the day, particularly during a pandemic. 
Frequently, there are disputes between different versions of a story by witnesses on a case. Often, there is a discrepancy between what an officer says, and what the Defendant or his witnesses say about the details of a case. I suspect there is a thinking that it is beneficial for law enforcement not to create video, so that it is harder to challenge the officer’s version of events; the reality is that many disputes would be settled by the video. Disputes in evidence lead to more hearings and trials to settle the disputes, where a video is usually the best qualitative evidence that could be presented. The lack of video hurt the state’s prosecution in this case, and I have several other cases that are still pending because we don’t have video to resolve the dispute in facts. 
I feel like I do an “all cops should have videos” blog post nearly annually here, and several of our local agencies have added body cameras (Fort Myers and Cape Coral police both have done so). But the majority of law enforcement officers in Southwest Florida still do not have body or even car cameras. And defense attorneys like myself are going to keep hammering the issue in court, and jurors are going to keep being surprised that videos are not readily available in the year 2020. 

Lee County has made its First Arrest for a Violation of the Safer-at-Home Order

John Demeo via LCSO

Lee County made its first arrest of an individual for violating the governor’s ‘Safer-at-Home’ order. He was not arrested just for being away from his home for non-essential activities; he was also arrested for multiple other offenses. That is to say, he was going to jail anyway, not just for the violating the stay-at-home order.

John Demeo was first warned to stay away, after he allegedly got intoxicated and threatened his girlfriend. Officer’s told him not to call her, but he called her again while they were still at her home and threatened her while the officer was listening. They tracked him by cell phone GPS to a parking lot, but agreed to not arrest him, and waited for someone to pick him up. About 10 minutes later, they got another call from the girlfriend that John had returned. When they detained him, they discovered he already had an out-of-county warrant for a DUI violation of probation, and proceeded to arrest him for disorderly intoxication, criminal mischief (for damaged property) and the violation of the governor’s emergency order, all misdemeanors. He was held with no bond until he went in front of a judge, but was subsequently able to bond out.

Todd Helton Sentenced to Jail for DUI

Wanted to share this as a reminder to take Driving Under the Influence seriously. Colorado Rockies legend Todd Helton pled to a DUI and was sentenced to two days of incarceration, in addition to probation and classes and all of the other requirements of a DUI conviction. The article doesn’t say if he had any credit, he may have done those days the night he was arrested, but it just goes to show that even rich and famous don’t get a break on DUI.

It’s worth noting that even with the public health emergency, law enforcement is still on patrol, and will still arrest for DUI. Even if you don’t go to jail tonight… that doesn’t mean you aren’t facing jail time down the road. The cases are not getting dropped… just pushed down the road. Be safe, and don’t drink and drive!

Scientists are working on Cannabis testing for Impaired Drivers

weed reefer

Marijuana

States across the country have set a testable limit on the level of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream as a threshold in lieu of demonstrating impairment. While .08 has been established as a baseline legal limit for alcohol, there is no test available to readily measure the amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that is present in someone’s system. CNN.com took a long look at the issue, and at ongoing efforts to create a test similar to the breathalyzers that measure alcohol for purposes of prosecuting DUIs.

It is against the law for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the drugs have been prescribed. Florida defines under the influence as “under the influence to the extent that normal faculties are impaired,” and other states use similar definitions. That’s why law enforcement use field sobriety exercises: they are meant to give the officers a chance to observe a driver to see if their faculties appear to be impaired. The shortcoming of those tests is their unreliability and that they are subjective: an officer will see impairment if they are looking for it. The breath and blood alcohol tests at least provide some consistency, though they are not impairment based. Time will tell if science can come up with something comparable for THC and other controlled substances.

Reliance on impairment based tests is challenging for law enforcement when a case goes to trial. Unless the impairment is clear, a jury may be reluctant to find it beyond a reasonable doubt. The subjectivity may matter more in a DUI than any other, and the outcome of a DUI is more dependent on the skill of the attorneys trying the case. The ambiguity cuts both ways, because the subjectivity of the field sobriety testing may lead to an arrest, and there is no dispositive scientific test to disprove the allegation. If a cop thinks you are impaired, you can be arrested, and the case may have to go to a jury trial. It will be interesting as this field becomes more important with the expansion of recreational and medicinal marijuana.

FHP plans DUI Enforcement Operation New Years Eve

As always, be safe and don’t drink and drive this holiday. FHP wants to make everyone aware of the dangers, and are running a DUI enforcement operation for New Year’s Eve. Other agencies know it’s a big party night, and are generally out in force. AAA is doing a free tow and go service, and Uber/Lyft/Cabs are way cheaper than getting a DUI! Be safe!

DUI on a Segway, It Happened in Florida

Andy Sigears

Andy Sigears was arrested last week for driving a Segway under the influence in Davenport, Florida. He was driving it right down a road, just down from where a Sheriff’s substation is located. Deputies say he was swerving, unsteady, and impeded traffic. He admitted he had drunk two bottles of wine, and blew .243, .220 & .238 on a breath test. Florida gives at least two tests, and would have administered a third since the first two were more than .02 apart. The legal limit to operate a vehicle is .08… and a Segway has wheels, so it is definitely a vehicle under the law in Florida!

Check out some more odd DUI cases here: weirddui

Amish Buggy Drinking and Driving Case Ends in Flight

So… a deputy in rural Ohio noticed an Amish buggy rolling down the street, and spotted a 12-pack of Michelob Ultra on the back, so he decided to pull it over. The occupants of the buggy ran off into the woods, and authorities are still looking for them. The horses continued walking down the road, but the officer was able to safely corral them. Not only did they have a case of beer, they apparently outfitted the buggy with a bangin’ sound system and there was a case of Twisted Tea found inside, too. The buggy was taken to a neighboring farm to care for the horses and law enforcement is waiting for someone to claim them.

Mich Ultra not pictured

Yes, it is possible to get a DUI on a buggy. It is a vehicle, even though it is being pulled by horses. You can get a DUI on any vehicle, including lawnmowers, scooters, and even motorized wheelchairs. You can’t get a DUI on a horse in Florida, since it’s not a vehicle, but a buggy like this would definitely qualify under Florida law. No arrests were made, as the suspects got away. Apparently there have been several buggy DUI cases I had not been alterted to

More weirddui stories here.

DUI Checkpoint and Increased Patrols in Lee County this Weekend

LCSO, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is planning a DUI checkpoint this weekend, in addition to saturation patrols targeting impaired drivers. Everybody be safe out there, get an Uber or a cab, but don’t drink and drive!

If you have any questions, be sure to speak to an experienced Defense attorney.

Underwear-clad Florida Man rolls around parking lot in an Office Chair

Deputies were called out to a parking lot in Bonita Springs for a naked man… and arrived to find him rolling around in an office chair. He had on nothing but underwear and shoes. The man appeared to be drunk or high (duh), and there were complaints that some vehicles were damaged. However, nobody saw the man damage the vehicles, so he was released to relatives. They found his vehicle, with a bottle of booze in it, but didn’t see him driving the car. They also think he took furniture from a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings and scattered it around the parking lot.

I am disappointed here… they legally could have charged him with DUI on a rolling chair. It would be a crappy case, but this guy was itchin’ to get locked up. He was certainly drunk and disorderly. We don’t even get a mug shot out of it…

Be sure to check out the other weird DUIs we have covered.

DUI on a Golf Cart, and the Suspect Growled at Cops, and much, much more

parks terry

Parks Thornton Terry

Parks Terry, of St. Louis, Missouri, got WAY out of control on his recent Florida Keys vacation. It started out pretty typically: he had too much to drink and passed out in his vehicle. Being that he was on vacation in Key Largo, his vehicle was a golf cart. He was in town visiting his elderly mother. When he was awoken by a public safety officer, he drove off on the cart, weaving all over the road, first waving at the officer, and then flipping him off. It went downhill from there.

Terry got back to his mom’s house and locked the door. One of the public safety officers tried to force his way into the house, and Terry’s mother barricaded the door by leaning up against it, while Terry laid down and pushed it with his feet. Another officer entered through another door, and was attacked by Terry. As more officers and deputies responded, they ultimately attempted to taser Terry, who grabbed the stun gun. Deputies say that he was tacked, and growled at them like a dog, while rubbing his face on broken glass on the floor.

It several people to finally cuff Terry. They carried him out and placed him in the back of the patrol car, where he continued to lash out. He kicked the door and broke the handle and the window switch. He yelled obscenities at the deputy the whole ride to the substation, which was on a whole other island, Plantation Key, some 40 minutes or more away, with a pit stop at the hospital. Deputies report Terry suffered a dislocated shoulder at some point during the altercation. He is facing charges for Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, Resisting with Violence, Fleeing, Criminal Mischief, and a DUI. All of those except the DUI are felonies.

It appears that the officers other than the deputies may be sworn officers. If they are merely security officers privately employed, Terry’s aggression toward them would not be protected like the deputies’. For instance, battery on a security guard wouldn’t qualify for the law enforcement enhancement, and fleeing is only a crime if a vehicle flees a sworn law enforcement officer. They may be sworn officers, but it’s uncertain. The DUI and fleeing charges can occur in any vehicle, so it would not be a defense for Terry that he was driving a golf cart, as we’ve seen before. Even if it was a sweet red custom job-golf cart! This appears to be the first DUI we’ve covered on a golf cart… congrats, Terry!

Hopefully some pictures and/or video will come out from this incident, and we’ll be sure to share them here.