NEW REPORT – DUI Case Management in the Scottsdale City Court: Applying the High Performance Court Framework

The first link on the page connects to a new study conducted at the Scottsdale City Court. DUI cases were back logged and senior managers had ideas on the source of the problem but wanted a definite plan of action. As a first step, court leaders made a concerted effort to understand the stages of a successful change initiative and where each can go wrong. In designing its new approach to improving DUI case processing, Scottsdale drew on the High Performance Court Framework (HPCF), which suggests a series of flexible steps a court can take to integrate and implement performance improvement into its ongoing operations. The steps include focusing on key administrative principles that clarify high performance, understanding how a court's managerial culture can promote common goals and collegial cooperation, developing the capacity to measure performance and learning to use the results for procedural improvements.

New Hampshire v. Blesdell-Moore

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire issued an opinion in State v. Blesdell-Moore on April 15, 2014. At issue in this case was the admissibility of evidence obtained after the officer, having pulled the defendant over for a broken tail light, expanded the stop to look for drugs. After his initial stop, the officer requested to see defendant’s tongue, and observed a green film consistent with indications of marijuana use. The trial court suppressed evidence of the green film on defendant’s tongue, but did not suppress any of the evidence found after the officer expanded his search. The court ruled that the officer did not have the requisite reasonable suspicion to expand the stop just based on defective tail lights, bloodshot eyes, and nervousness, and noted that bloodshot eyes and nervousness can be completely innocent occurrences. The court ruled that asking to see the defendant’s tongue changed the nature of the stop from a seizure to an investigation and was therefore unconstitutional. Since all four of the defendant’s suppression motions were based on the same illegal act of the tongue “search,” defendant’s conviction for possession and intent to distribute marijuana and mushrooms was reversed and remanded.

Vangelder vs. California

On June 23, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a motorist's challenge to the reliability of the machines used in California to test the blood alcohol content of drivers. The justices, without comment, denied review of a state Supreme Court ruling in November that concluded that the machines were accurate and could be used to determine whether a driver's blood alcohol was over the legal limit of .08 percent. The case comes from San Diego County, where Terry Vangelder was stopped by a highway patrolman in December 2007 after driving his pickup truck at speeds of more than 125 mph. With Vangelder's consent, the officer administered two breath tests that registered .095 and .086 percent. At Vangelder's trial, the defense offered testimony by Michael Hlastala, a University of Washington professor of medicine and physiology. He said breath-testing machines are unreliable because they measure the content of exhaled air, which can be affected by the rate of breathing and other variables, rather than air that is deep in the lungs and closer to the bloodstream.

Miss. High Court to Hear Appeal of DUI Conviction

The Mississippi Supreme Court is being asked to determine if an anonymous tip is enough justification for law enforcement officers to stop vehicles as they look for an impaired driver.  Carl Richard Cook, who was convicted of driving while intoxicated — a misdemeanor first offense — in Rankin County, said the tip was the only reason why he was stopped. The state Court of Appeals upheld his conviction in 2013. The Supreme Court agreed to hear Cook's appeal this month.  Cook states in his petition to the Supreme Court that since the informant was unknown, he has no way to challenge the knowledge or credibility of the informant.

Repinec v. Nevada

The Nevada Supreme Court rendered an opinion in Repinec v. State on June 12, 2014. At issue was the admissibility of DRE test results in which not all of the steps were completed. Nevada has previously rejected a strict adherence to the Daubert evidentiary standard in order to give judges more flexibility as to what testimony they choose to admit. The DRE in this case performed all steps in the analysis except for blood or urine testing. Under Nevada’s relaxed evidentiary standard, the court said that since the rest of the testing was performed according to standardized and widely accepted procedures, the DRE could present an opinion as to the substance use of appellant without completing all twelve steps of testing. The court held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the DRE’s testimony to be admitted into evidence and affirmed the conviction of the appellant.

NCSC Traffic Resource Center

The Traffic Resource Center is a cooperative effort between the Department of Transportation and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to establish a resource for judges, court administrators, court clerks, and other court staff on issues related to traffic adjudication. It is an integrated clearinghouse of information as well as a training and technical assistance resource to improve court decision-making and processing of traffic cases involving impaired driving, drugged driving, distracted driving, and commercial driving. The purpose of the Traffic Resource Center website is to provide a useful, ready reference for judges new to the bench or recently assigned to traffic cases, who may need quick access to accurate and timely information until they can receive more formal, structured education.

Upcoming Events

  • October 6-9, 2014:   Traffic Issues in the 21st Century, The National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada. Scholarships are available for interested applicants. Please email Irene Hart at ihart@judges.org for more information. 
  • ICM course calendar

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