DUI Records Probe In Lebanon County, PA

The Associated Press reported on October 24, 2013 that the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office searched the court clerk's office in Lebanon County, PA.  Investigators were seeking to determine if the clerk’s office was sending information required by law to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation “PennDOT” regarding DUI convictions.  The clerk is required to notify PennDOT of a conviction within 10 days following the finding.  Lebanon District Attorney David Arnold asked the AG’s office to look into the matter following complaints from the county administrator, county commissioners as well as judges.

State of Minnesota v. Wesley Eugene Brooks

The Minnesota Supreme Court rendered an opinion in State of Minnesota v. Wesley Eugene Brooks on October 23, 2013.  Mr. Brooks was arrested for DUI on three separate occasions.  Following each stop, Mr. Brooks agreed to a urine or blood test following being informed that a failure to provide said sample was a crime.  Mr. Brooks argued at the trial court level and on appeal that his consent to provide samples was not voluntary because he was forced by law to comply as it was a separate criminal offense to refuse.  Further he argued that the searches should be suppressed because they were warrantless.  The Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed indicating that making it a crime to refuse consent to a breathalyzer or blood test does not make the consent coerced.

The U.S. Supreme Court Sidetracks Idaho's Implied Consent Law
Richard Henry Seamon, a professor of law at the University of Idaho College of Law released his paper online titled, The U.S. Supreme Court Sidetracks Idaho's Implied Consent Law on November 13, 2013.  The abstract to the paper states, 
This paper examines a State's "implied consent" law after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McNeely v. Missouri (2013). McNeely held that the metabolization of alcohol does not “presen[t] a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases.” Current case law in Idaho allows warrantless, nonconsensual ("forced") blood testing of suspected drunk drivers on an alternative ground: as "consent searches." The theory is that, by operation of Idaho's implied consent law, a driver impliedly consents to blood testing by using Idaho's roads and that, once given, this consent cannot be revoked when a driver is stopped on reasonable suspicion of drunk driving and asked to submit to blood testing. This implied-irrevocable-consent theory results in the oxymoronic result of upholding admittedly "involuntary" blood testing as consent searches. This paper argues that the irrevocable-implied-consent theory conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court case law. It also argues, however, that State can (as Idaho does) constitutionally encourage suspected drunk drivers to submit to blood tests by imposing administrative penalties -- including license suspension for one year -- for refusing to submit to a test. The paper predicts the Court will uphold such administrative penalties under a Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" analysis like that used by the Court to uphold searches of probationers and parolees.
Justin Sarafin v. Commonwealth of Virginia
The Court of Appeals of Virginia issued an opinion in Justin Sarafin v. Commonwealth of Virginia on October 8, 2013.  Officer K.E. McBrearty received a call concerning loud noise coming from the defendant’s residence.  Upon arrival, she found the defendant in his vehicle parked in his driveway.  Officer McBrearty tapped several times on the window and the defendant awoke.  The defendant then turned the key of the auto from the auxiliary position to the off position which shut the music off.  Officer McBreaty determined that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol.  The defendant contended at trial that he could not be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol because he was not “operating” the vehicle at the time Officer McBrearty made contact with him.  He was convicted following a jury trial.
The Court of Appeals of Virginia disagreed with the defendant.  The court concluded that operating a vehicle “is not limited to moving the vehicle from one place to another, but includes the acts of the defendant in this case in operating the mechanism of his automobile in the manner and for the purpose described above.”  The appeals court sustained the conviction.
Safety Belts for Dogs
Slate published an article on November 13, 2013 titled, “Should Dogs Wear Seat Belts When Riding in Cars?”  It was written by a former paramedic who stated that dogs riding in vehicles often receive life threatening injuries in car crashes, even when the injuries to the restrained human passengers are relatively minor.  The canine injuries are the result of not being restrained.  The author advocates for the use of dog restraints which are inexpensive and the functional equivalent of a human seat belt. 

Upcoming Events

  • February 9-11, 2014: 2014 Midyear Conference, Savannah, Georgia
  • April 27-29, 2014: Lifesavers Conference, Nashville, TN
  • May 14-16, 2014: Drugged Driving Essentials For The Judiciary, The National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada.  Scholarships are available for interested applicants. Please email Irene Hart at ihart@judges.org for more information.
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  • Ongoing: The National Judicial College is available year round to present traffic related courses for your jurisdiction at no cost. If interested, please contact Irene Hart at ihart@judges.org.
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