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“Slurred Speech”: Evidence of Intoxication?

As with the odor of alcohol on the breath, few DUI police reports will fail to include an observation by the arresting officer that the drunk driving suspect  exhibited “slurred speech”.  It is a standard criteria for detecting alcohol impairment.  The officer fully expects to hear slurred speech in a person he suspects is under the influence, particularly after smelling alcohol on the breath, and we tend to “hear” what we expect to hear. And hearing it supplies the officer ... Read More »

Police Stop Based On 911 Call

In Navarette v. California, the United States Supreme Court recently addressed the constitutionality of police stopping a motorist based on an anonymous 911 call. The decision holds that it depends on the “totality of the circumstances.” In this particular case, the enforcement stop was deemed constitutional based on the following facts: Use of 911 system (suggestive that caller was not concerned about report being traced back to him); Detailed description of driving which was consistent with the driving of an ... Read More »

US Supreme Court Deals Another Blow to the 4th Amendment

U.S. Supreme Court Building

The United States Supreme Court dealt another blow to the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizures when it delivered a deeply divided opinion, declaring that a vehicle may be stopped based on an anonymous 911 tip. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court in which Justices Kennedy, Breyer and Alito joined. Justice Scalia, with a keen perspective on reality wrote a well-reasoned and scathing dissent. He was joined by the Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan. An ... Read More »

Do Breathalyzers Measure Alcohol?

Breathalyzers don’t actually measure alcohol. That’s right.  What they actually detect and measure is any chemical compound that contains the methyl group in its molecular structure.  There are thousands of such compounds — including quite a few which can be found on the human breath. And this machine that determines a person’s guilt or innocence in a DUI case will “see” all of those chemicals as alcohol — and report a falsely high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Most breath machines used ... Read More »

DUI Checkpoints: The Constitutionally Suspect Secondary Screening Stage

With Super Bowl Sunday upon us, law enforcement agencies throughout California will be participating in DUI Checkpoints this evening. Ever since these warrantless stops were sanctioned by the California Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court under very strict guidelines, officers have pushed the envelope with respect to the questions they ask and the basis upon which they further detain motorists for field sobriety testing.  In many of these DUI Checkpoint operations, officers ask overly intrusive questions such as ... Read More »

Drunk Driving Entrapment?

Suppose a police officer asks or orders an individual to drive a vehicle — and then arrests him for DUI when he complies?  Does this constitute entrapment? This situation comes up more often than you might think. Take, for example, the following case that eventually made its way to the New Jersey Supreme Court…. The defendant asked his brothers at a wedding reception to drive him home because he was too intoxicated to drive. In the parking lot, however, the ... Read More »

Breathalyzers and the “Mouth Alcohol” Problem

One of the most common causes of falsely high breathalyzer readings in DUI cases is the existence of mouth alcohol. The breathalyzer’s internal computer is making a major assumption when it captures a breath sample and then analyzes it for blood alcohol concentration (BAC): It assumes that the alcohol in the breath sample came from alveolar air — that is, air exhaled from deep within the lungs. Since we are trying to measure how much alcohol is in the DUI suspect’s blood, rather ... Read More »

Lowering the blood-alcohol content (BAC) cutoff to 0.05: Sheriff says “you can count me out on that one”

Milwaukee County Sherriff David Clarke has a reputation for cracking down on drunk drivers and pushing for tougher drunk driving laws. The new proposal that would decrease the legal limit from 0.08 to 0.05, however, isn’t exactly what he had in mind. In Milwaukee, the average drunk driver has a BAC over 0.15; almost twice the legal limit. These individuals, Clarke believes, are the ones law enforcement officers in Wisconsin should be concerned with, not the social drinker who can ... Read More »

Suppressing Evidence In Warrantless Blood Draw Cases

Those who have DUI charges pending in California that involve the taking of a blood sample without a warrant or lawful consent should be considering a motion to suppress evidence at the trial court level.  The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Missouri v. McNeely overruled several California Court of Appeal decisions that had erroneously interpreted the high Court’s 1966 decision in Schmerber v. California as authorizing warrantless blood draws anytime the police have probable cause to arrest a suspect for ... Read More »

Illegal Immigrants to Practice Law in California

In the waning hours of the legislative session on Thursday, a California bill to let undocumented immigrants become lawyers passed the state Assembly and now lies in the hands of Governor Jerry Brown. This bill would allow qualified applicants to become licensed as a lawyer regardless of their immigration status pending California Supreme Court approval. The current law in the state does not allow applicants to be licensed if they are undocumented. The subject of illegal immigrants in the United ... Read More »