Alcohol Provider Liability: Issue Brief 7

In a recent edition of the Traffic Resource Center Issue Brief, we looked at the issue of alcohol provider liability in the 50 states. A broad topic that is of interest to many in the general public, Issue Brief 7 discusses issues how civil and criminal liability apply to "social host liability", dram shop acts, and underage drinking somewhat differently in the 50 states.  A helpful spreadsheet on state laws related to alcohol provider liability is available here.

Fla Appeals Court Rules on Proper Blood Draw

The 5th District Court of Appeal recently overturned a circuit judge’s ruling that the blood-alcohol test should be excluded in the case of Stephen Alan Kleiber, who was charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury and two counts of DUI causing property damage in a two-car crash in February 2012 that killed one person and injured another. The legal issue centered on a state rule that says antiseptic must be applied to the puncture area before such blood tests occur. In the Kleiber case, a paramedic used dry gauze, rather than an antiseptic, to clean the puncture area because the test kit contained an iodine swab and Kleiber claimed he was allergic to iodine, according to the five-page ruling. A three-judge panel of the appeals court Friday sent the case back to a circuit judge to determine “whether there was substantial compliance” with the rule. “In the … case, the trial court erroneously applied a strict compliance test by concluding that the mere fact that dry gauze, rather than an antiseptic, was used to cleanse Kleiber’s arm mandated suppression of the blood test results,’’ according to the ruling. “The trial court failed to consider whether the blood test would still be reliable notwithstanding the use of dry gauze.”

All Blood is not Created Equal: Issue Brief 5

In a recent edition of the Traffic Resource Center Issue Brief, we looked at the issues surrounding blood. When it comes to BAC analysis in DUI cases, not all blood is the same. There is whole blood, sometimes referred to as “legal blood,” and then there is serum/plasma, sometimes referred to as “medical blood.” Though many people may not know that there is a difference between these various blood samples, and if they do, not understand why it matters, that difference can be significant when it comes to DUI prosecutions. It is important for attorneys and judges to understand the difference and why it is important.

Habitual Offender Laws Nationwide

Many states classify drivers who repeatedly offend as habitual offenders and impose penalties for such chronic dangerous behavior. This Issue Brief looks at the twenty-six states implement such laws, which are separate from standard three-strike laws or enhancements for repeat convictions of the same offense. Most of these laws specify a threshold number (typically three) of “serious” traffic offenses after which an offending driver is considered a habitual offender. These serious offenses usually include reckless driving, vehicular manslaughter or homicide, and driving under the influence. A small number of states turn to their points system to regulate the number of offenses one must commit before becoming a habitual offender.

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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