How do officers working for Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) determine whether they should stop someone for a DUI?
All LAPD officers receive substantial training that helps them understand what to look for when patrolling L.A.’s freeways and surface streets for dangerous drivers—and drivers who might be under the influence. Police officers are human, however, so they can forget what they learned (or just ignore proper procedure) and make errors during the arrest process itself.
LAPD officers’ DUI training has changed considerably over the decades, according to the department’s website. Back in the 1970s, police departments in most jurisdictions, including Los Angeles, had no standards-based roadside sobriety tests to help them determine and document whether or not a person was driving while under the influence of alcohol. So different states (and different officers) developed their own versions of the sobriety tests.
Would closer monitoring of drivers convicted of repeated Los Angeles DUIs make the roads any safer? It probably couldn’t hurt. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration says that “Drivers with prior DWI convictions are also overrepresented in fatal crashes and have a greater relative risk of fatal crash involvement…Intoxicated drivers with prior DWI convictions had 4.1 times the risk of being in a fatal crash as intoxicated drivers without prior DWIs. Another study showed that fatal crash risk increases with the number of prior DWI arrests.”
California’s Tulare County is going to monitor drivers with multiple DUI convictions more closely in an attempt to avoid DUI and drug-related crashes, according to an online article in the Porterville Recorder. In 2015, DUI-related crashes in the County killed 20 people and injured 298.
The California Office of Traffic Safety has given the County $168,301 as part of its Intensive Probation Supervision for High-Risk Felony and DUI Probation program. With these funds, the county is launching a DUI Probation Supervision Program to “quickly and aggressively” respond to felony DUI offenders. Probation officers will monitor their assignees by:
When drivers suspect they’ve had a few drinks too many, one of the best things they can do is park their vehicles and get them off the road. But when they’re at risk for a DUI in Los Angeles–or any other jurisdiction, for that matter—they should be careful to determine whether or not their parking spot is a good one.
Hung Tran, 54, didn’t do a very good job in selecting the place to park his vehicle. He left it on the train tracks near Hanahan, South Carolina around the time that the Amtrak Auto Train Number 52 was heading to that same spot. Tran did manage to get out of his vehicle before the train hit, but the impact caused a large crash (heard by nearby neighbors) and delayed travel along the tracks for three hours. Fortunately, no one on the train suffered injuries.
When police gave Tran a breathalyzer exam, they measured his blood alcohol content at .15 percent—almost twice the legal limit. He now faces DUI charges.
Drivers pulled over for a Los Angeles DUI try many different ways to avoid getting a DUI charge on their records. Some plead with the arresting officers asking for a break; others may hire experienced attorneys who will look for flaws in the government’s case. Some people will even lie about their identities to the arresting officers, although that ruse does not work well over the long term.
Shannon Whack, age 31, said she had been attending a party on March 17th at her (now-ex) boyfriend’s home when he became abusive. Grabbing her two young kids, she got into her car at 2:30 in the morning and left, despite the fact that she allegedly had been drinking much of the evening.
Police officers in Graham, North Carolina, caught up with Whack and determined that she had been DUI, according to the Times News of Burlington, North Carolina. They took her to jail, but Whack probably knew that admitting her real identity would get her in even more trouble, because she reportedly had been driving on a suspended license (not for a DUI, however). Her workaround was to give the booking officers her sister’s name and birth date.
Under a pilot program that became law in 2010, those convicted of DUI in Los Angeles County must use an ignition interlock device on any vehicles they drive for at least five months after a DUI arrest.
Why these draconian rules? Advocates of IID laws are pointing to a recent incident in Miami, Florida, to make the case that tough rules prevent recidivism and save lives.
Jessica Crane, 39, had racked up multiple driving violations before she plowed into a pregnant mother and her two children in Miami in early May. She had also allegedly lost her license 14 times because of failure to pay her fines. According to the Miami Herald, Crane should have been using an ignition interlock device on any vehicle that she drove. But her 2008 Infiniti didn’t have one, so Crane allegedly drove while under the influence and ended up killing an unborn baby. (Her BAC measured 0.22 almost three hours after the crash.)
The Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida, reports that St. Mary’s City and Camden County emergency responders found 52-year-old Charles Edward Fields, Jr., sitting in his pickup truck in the St. Mary’s River. Fields said that while traveling home, he became confused and apparently turned onto a boat ramp instead of a side street.
Fortunately, the water at that point wasn’t too deep. Although the truck became partially submerged in the river, police officers assisted Fields out of the vehicle without incident. He agreed to go the police station, where officers measured his BAC above the legal limit and charged him with DUI.
In Denver, meanwhile, police arrested Randolph Blazon for DUI after the 25-year-old’s vehicle ended up inside the Colorado Convention Center. What?? Here’s how it happened. His truck allegedly sped through an intersection, jumped the curb and crashed through the facility’s glass entrance doors, running over a woman’s foot. Flying glass caused minor injuries to several other people. Police reported that Blazon was mumbling, slurring his speech and swaying when they got to the scene.
Drivers at risk for DUI in Los Angles sometimes face dilemmas. They don’t want to drive when they suspect they’ve had a few too many, but if they don’t move their cars from a bar’s parking lot, they may risk a tow truck taking it to an impoundment lot. Would they be more inclined to seek alternative transportation if they knew that their cars would remain in place overnight?
The City of Tampa, Florida, thinks that they will. In 2008, the City adopted an ordinance that made it illegal for bars to have vehicles on their lot towed between 9 p.m. and noon the next day, unless they have signed an order authorizing its removal. The law also forbids tow truck drivers from removing any vehicle unless they have a signed order that gives the make, model, color and license plate of the vehicle and the name of the person in the bar who ordered the removal.
But the law has not worked as intended. According to a series of investigative reports by TV 10News in Tampa, neither bar owners nor customers are aware of the law. People interviewed for the news story said that fear of towing did play a role in their decision to drive their vehicles after they had been drinking.
So Tampa’s City Council is now considering another measure to require any bar or restaurant that serves alcohol to post signs telling customers that their vehicles cannot be towed before noon. According to 10News, the goal is to encourage anyone who’s had too much to drink to seek a lift from a cab, Uber, Lyft or a friend.
Should people of Irish ancestry complain about planned checkpoints for DUIs in Los Angeles on St. Patrick’s Day? In Oakland, California, at least, their protests could have an impact if the local department’s actions regarding Cinco de Mayo DUI checkpoints are any indication.
A press release, “Fiesta Time of Jail Time,” issued by the Oakland Police Department triggered protests by Hispanic activists, according to various media reports. The release said that “In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with festive fiestas and salty margaritas…but present-day celebrations often lead to drunk driving–and there’s no victory in that.” (Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.)
Police officers who suspect a driver of DUI in Los Angeles must have probable cause before they can ask that person to take a breathalyzer test. But what constitutes probable cause? In Kansas, at least, police officers can no longer use some of the indicators that they used to employ.
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Kansas Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Darcy Unrau, who appealed his conviction on DUI charges. Unrau’s lawyers argued that Officer Steve Koch, who arrested the driver, lacked good cause to ask the defendant to take a breathalyzer test.
Unrau had been driving 30 mph over the speed limit when Koch pulled him over in August 2014. After spotting a holstered gun in the vehicle, Koch asked the driver to get out. The officer admitted that Unrau had no problem talking or walking but said he smelled of alcohol. When Unrau’s passenger opened the glove compartment in the vehicle to take out the insurance information, a can of beer rolled out. Officer Koch subsequently found two other cans of beer, one opened, in the vehicle.