National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18-24

In recognition of National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18-24, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges parents and guardians of teen drivers to discuss with their teens one traffic safety topic each day. Those topics, also the most risky behaviors among teens, include alcohol, texting, failure to wear seat belts, speeding, and riding with extra teen passengers. “When parents model and reinforce safe driving habits, they equip their teens with the skills to safely navigate the roadways for life,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about behaviors that will keep them safe, and those that create greater risk.”

Minnesota Appeals Court Says Warrants Needed

Minnesota Supreme Court, while upholding the so-called “implied consent law” has continued to refine when it can be used. The Supreme Court this year ruled in a different case that police may administer a breath test without a warrant if it's part of a valid arrest for drunken driving. Thus, charging someone with refusal of a breath test does not violate their rights to due process. But the Supreme Court left open the issue of blood tests. In its recent review of the State v. Trahan case, the appellate court determined that "a blood draw is undeniably intrusive: a needle is inserted into the skin to extract blood." Because it's an intrusive search, unlike a breath test, a warrantless blood test would be unconstitutional.

Mass. Cops Can't Pull Over on Smell of Pot Alone

The Massachusetts Supreme Cuort says police can’t pull over drivers just because they detect the smell of marijuana coming from their car. On Sept. 22, 2015, the state’s highest court issued the ruling in the case of a New Bedford police officer who pulled over a driver in 2012 based on the odor of marijuana coming from the car and without witnessing any traffic violation. The Supreme Judicial Court pointed to a 2008 ballot question approved by Massachusetts voters that decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. The court argued that because of the new law, the smell of unburnt marijuana no longer constitutes probable cause to believe that a criminal amount of the drug is present.

Issue Brief: The Driver License Compact

In the latest issue of the Issue Brief series, created by the NCSC Traffic Resource Center staff, we look at the Driver License Compact.  The article goes into detail on what the Compact is, its history, how it operates, and the states which are members of the Compact.

Upcoming Courses at the National Judicial College

The following courses are offered by the NJC in Reno, Nevada in the coming months. A limited number of scholarships are available through generous funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Please contact Rebecca Bluemer at for more information.

Impaired Driving Case Essentials. October 26-29, 2015. Reno, NV: This course is designed to provide judges with an overview of the impaired driving issue, and will provide insight into several pertinent areas, such as impairment detection methods, the pharmacological effects of drugs and alcohol on the human body, and effective sentencing methods. After completing this course, you will be able to analyze circumstances providing legal bases for stops, searches and seizures, and arrests; and will be able to analyze the admissibility of testimonial and physical evidence. In addition, you will be able to describe the principles of pharmacology in order to effectively evaluate expert testimony. The course will also include a trip to a local AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting, in order to familiarize the judge with the inner-workings of this often-ordered part of a sentence. Finally, the course will conclude with several discussions on evidence-based sentencing practices, and tips on how to most effectively manage impaired driving cases.

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.

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