In this issue we take at look at four recent cases which we hope are of interest to readers.

Mental Illness Defense Should be Heard

People v. Garcia, 2017 IL App (2d) 141184-Ul: The defendant was arrested for a DUI. Officers observed him speeding, and they observed his failure to stop at two stop signs. He displayed very erratic behavior and the officers believed he was heavily intoxicated. The defendant had a mental illness and one of the arresting officers was aware of the illness. While in custody, the defendant removed all of his clothes and flooded his cell. The defendant sought to introduce evidence of his mental illness to prove that his illness, and not alcohol, was the reason for his behavior. The Appeals Court of Illinois held that the trial court erred by precluding the defendant from introducing evidence of his mental illness because the defendant had the right to present a complete defense.

No Right to an Attorney During a Field Sobriety Test

State v. Serrine, No. 15-1496, 2017 Iowa App. LEXIS 6 (Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2017): A police officer noticed the defendant driving in the wrong direction and pulled up behind her car. The passenger in the car was the defendant’s friend and a licensed attorney. After the officer requested that the defendant step out of the car to perform sobriety tests, she insisted her friend be allowed to join her because he was an attorney. She argued that the officer violated her right to an attorney when she requested one. The Court of Appeals of Iowa held she did not have a statutory right to a lawyer during the field sobriety tests and prior to her arrest.

McNeely & Unconscious Drivers: Do Police Need Warrant for Blood Draw?

Commonwealth v. March, (2017 PA.Super.Ct.18): The Appellee was involved in a single vehicle accident. When the police arrived, he was unconscious and pale. Officers found a prescription bottle that contained traces of a liquid added to heroin and a hypodermic needle. The defendant was taken to a hospital and the officers requested a blood test, although they did not have a warrant. The defendant was still unconscious and could not consent. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that the trial court erred in suppressing the blood test results and remanded for further proceedings. The court focused on the fact that the Appellee had been involved in an accident, needed medical attention, was unconscious, and the officers had reason to believe he was under the influence. Most importantly, the Appellee was not under arrest when his blood was drawn.

A Closer Look at Roadside Interactions: Encounters vs Detentions

Oliveira v. State, (Texas App.Ct.Jan.25,2017): The Appellant was sitting in her car when a police officer pulled up behind her. The officer had spotted her car parked in an isolated location and approached the car to ensure she was not in need of assistance. The officer realized that Appellant was intoxicated and eventually arrested her. The Court of Appeal of Texas denied the Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence of her intoxication. The officer approached her car to ensure that she was okay and that did not constitute a detention. The interaction was merely an encounter.

2016 Statistics on Impaired Driving

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.

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 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 starting October 30 and finishing up December 8 (online course) 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.

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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