Utah Lowers BAC Limit to 0.05
The governor of Utah recently signed legislation lowering its legal BAC limit to 0.05. The move is a first for the United States, though many European countries already have a BAC limit of 0.05 or below. Proponents of the bill argue that this will only affect drivers who first fail a field sobriety test, while opponents of the bill argue that the limit is too easy to reach and that the change may negatively impact tourism and restaurant revenue. The changes made in H.B. 155 take effect on December 30, 2018. For more information about the legislation, you can read the Washington Post's article here.
Traffic Resource Center Redesign
The NCSC team recently redesigned the Traffic Resource Center for Judges and updated the content of the website. Among the updates is a new Constitutional Considerations page, which lists and describes major cases from the Supreme Court that deal in some way with traffic, along with links to the opinion in each case. The website's other resources, such as our collection of issue briefs and page about Missouri v. McNeely and its progeny, remain on the site (though potentially in a different location than before).
State v. Worsham: Event Data Recorders and the Fourth Amendment
In a 2-1 decision in State v. Worsham, the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida recently held that there "is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information retained by an event data recorder and downloading that information without a warrant from an impounded car in the absence of exigent circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment." Drawing support from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2014 decision in Riley v. California, the court said that event data recorders (the car's "black box") are similar to "other electronic storage devices for which courts have recognized a reasonable expectation of privacy" and required a warrant to search. The court also noted that the data from the "black box" is not readily accessible to the public and requires significant effort to extract and interpret, lending support to its notion that there exists a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information contained therein. For information on state statutes regarding the privacy of data from event data recorders, see this page from the National Conference of State Legislatures. For more analysis of the case, see this Washington Post article.
Traffic Issue Brief Compendium
The NCSC team also recently published a compilation of ten of our previously published traffic issue briefs. The compendium is designed to be a resource for judges, clerks, lawyers, and academic, and discusses such topics as evidentiary issues, state statutes which help define important concepts in traffic cases, and statutory punishments for certain classes of traffic offenders. The compendium is available online here, and physical copies may be acquired by emailing Greg Hurley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Traffic Safety Legislation Database
The National Conference of State Legislatures works in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to bring you up to date, real time information about traffic safety bills that have been introduced in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. You can search legislation for each year from 2007 to 2017 by state, topic, keyword, year, status or primary sponsor. Traffic safety topics include: Aggressive Driving, Automated Enforcement/Photo Monitoring, Child Passenger Protection, Distracted Driving, Driver’s Licensing, Impaired Driving, Motorcycle Safety, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, School Bus Safety, Seatbelts and Occupant Protection, Senior Drivers Issues, Slow-Medium speed vehicles, Speed Limits, and Teen Driver Issues. You can access the database here.
For a bit of traffic-related amusement in my first turn editing the newsletter, I thought I'd include this report about an intrepid Ohio 8-year-old who learned to drive from Youtube videos and subsequently drove himself and his sister to McDonald's. (Thankfully, no one was hurt!)
This fact sheet provided by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) summarizes the national results of the 2016 USA Road Safety Monitor on alcohol impaired driving. This survey of 5,050 US drivers provides a general overview of the choices made by drivers as relates to drinking and driving, as well as current statistics on impaired driving. Their conclusions and recommendations are available here.
NHTSA recently released its Summary of Motor Vehicle Crashes for its 2015 data. Much of the data can also be found in NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
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 Katheryn Yetter at email@example.com or (775) 327-8269 for more information.
Impaired Driving Case Essentials (May 8-11; Reno, NV) This course provides you with an overview of sentencing practices and evidence-based options for impaired driving traffic offenses including those committed by younger drivers, older drivers, and hardcore DUI defendants. After this course, you will be able to analyze circumstances providing a legal basis for stops, searches, seizures, arrests, and the admissibility of testimonial or physical evidence.
Drugs in America Today: What Every Judge Needs to Know (May 17-19; Atlanta, GA) With opiate addiction at epidemic levels in both urban and rural America, the NJC has crafted a new course that focuses on the neurology of addiction with an emphasis on heroin and painkillers. This course will provide an in-depth analysis of the science behind addiction and will offer practical solutions for the judge to manage all case types affected by drug use.
Behind the Wheel: Today’s Traffic Offender (Oct 23-26; Reno, NV) The arena of traffic-related offenses is constantly evolving. Statistically, driving while under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol will be an issue that will appear with more frequency in traffic courts around the country. This course will delve into several issues that judges who hear traffic cases will experience this year, as well as offer insight into case issues and strategies from the prospective of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the law enforcement officer, and the treatment provider. The course will also offer in- depth insight on how roadside drug detection is done as well as how the 12-step DRE protocol is conducted. Additionally, the course will offer a demonstration on the various types of drug and alcohol detection equipment that is available and the reliability of the instruments.
Properly and Effectively Adjudicating Drugged Drivers (October 30 - December 8; online) Unlike alcohol-impaired driving, drugged driving has fewer tools in the field to detect impairment and concentration levels in the body. Drugged driving cases require a judge to utilize a variety of judicial tools to effectively adjudicate these cases. In addition to the ability to determine which kinds of drugs an individual may be using, it is important to know how these drugs affect the individual and their ability to operate a vehicle. It is also imperative that a judge knows how to effectively craft sentences, which include treatment options, in order to provide a participant with the most beneficial mode of recovery.
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Some online research provided by Westlaw.