Judging Traffic


January, 2013

  • Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities

  • What's Happening in the States

  • Jefferson County (KY) DUI Conviction Rates

  • Oregon's DRE Legislation

  • Highway to Justice

Editor: Gregory S. Hurley

Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities
D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado at Denver released a study they conducted titled "Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities."  The study uses state level data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) over a twenty year period from 1990-2010.  There are 11 states that passed zero-tolerance drugged driving laws making it illegal to drive with detectable levels of a controlled substance in the system.  Additionally, there are 5 states that have statutes that make it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle with certain substances or metabolites in the system at specified threshold levels.  The authors compared these 16 states to states that did not have any type of per se drugged driving law.  The authors concluded that there was "no evidence that these limits reduced traffic deaths."  A press release describing the study is available online and the complete study is also available online

What's Happening in the States

The judicial website provides a link to:

Procedural Outcome of DWI Cases Statewide FY00 TO FY11 http://www.jud.ct.gov/statistics/DUI/DUI_00-11.pdf

Grant received:

The Napa County district attorney's office has received a $320,000 grant to prosecute motorists arrested for suspected driving under the influence in an effort to curb drunk driving in Napa County and reduce recidivism, according to county representatives.

Hundreds of DUI cases in S.F. could be tossed

At issue is how the Police Department conducted accuracy checks for preliminary alcohol screening devices, which officers in the field use to determine whether a drunken-driving suspect's blood alcohol level is above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for intoxication.

The ANNUAL SURVEY OF VIRGINIA LAW: ARTICLE: CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE discusses a Virginia Supreme Court case that expands the definition of operating a motor vehicle. Earlier cases had focused on whether the key in the ignition was in the on or off position when the defendant was sitting in the driver's seat of a parked car. In Enriquez v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court of Virginia:

established a bright-line rule that, when an intoxicated person is seated behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle on a public highway with the key in the ignition, he is in actual physical control of the vehicle and, therefore, guilty of operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. (47 U. Rich. L. Rev. 143, 2012)

Also in Virginia, first time DUI offenders will be required to use the ignition interlock system.

SCOTUS blood draw case Missouri v. McNeely was argued on Wed. Jan. 9th, 2013. Documents are available on the SCOTUS website. http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/missouri-v-mcneely/

Question Presented: Whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Drowsy Driving
In New York a driver was found not guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of 15 passengers while in Virginia a driver was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for falling asleep while driving. According to the New York Times: "Drowsiness has also been cited in criminal cases against drivers in more than half-a-dozen other states, including Florida, New Jersey and Texas."

Drugged Driving
As states such as Washington and Colorado make recreational marijuana use legal, drugged driving laws may need to be examined. Debates over what constitutes impaired driving for recreational or medical use of marijuana will need to be addressed through the legislature or the courts. Washington state has adopted a standard of five nanograms per milliliter of pot in the blood. Colorado is considering a similar standard.

Jefferson County (KY) DUI Conviction Rates
The Courier Journal reported on December 2, 2012 that the conviction rates in DUI cases in Jefferson County, KY were significantly higher when the case was tried by a jury. The newspaper surveyed 200 cases that were tried since 2007. When the cases were tried by a judge, 73% were acquitted as opposed to cases tried by a jury that received acquittals 45% of the time. (The overall conviction rate for DUIs in the county was 94% when guilty pleas were considered.) This is a long article and a very interesting piece of investigative journalism.

Oregon's DRE Legislation
Oregon House Bill 2114 has been filed and introduced before the Oregon Legislative Assembly.? The legislation "Provides that evidence of test administered, or observation made, by police officer as part of drug recognition evaluation is admissible in judicial or administrative proceeding if certain conditions are met."  

Highway to Justice
The Winter, 2013 edition of the Highway to Justice newsletter has a number of interesting and informative articles.  It features an article by the Hon. David Keith Rutledge (Ret.) on Missouri v. McNeely pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Hon. Peggy Fulton Hora (Ret.) on the Lifesavers conferences.  Additionally, an article describing a meeting on October 26, 2012 on driving under the influence of illicit and legally prescribed drugs other than alcohol was described by the Hon. Kent Lawrence.  The meeting was attended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and other Federal partners.  The newsletter is extremely well done and contains valuable information.

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