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The Future of DUI

The Future of DUI

I thought some of you might be interested inthis recent post on DUIblogconcerning a subjectimportant to us all - Lawrence Taylor

I gave a lecture to a national organization of attorneys last week in which I was asked, among other things, to anticipate the future course of DUI laws in the United States. Bearing in mind the words of Adlai Stevenson ("We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present"), I predicted the following....

DUI Laws
The Past:The original laws simply outlawed driving while impaired. With the arrival of primitive breathalyzers, and the counsel of the American Medical Association, impairment was presumed with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15%. Over the years this was dropped to .10%, then .08%, and finally the laws were added making the BAC -- not impairment -- the offense.There are now bills before state legislatures to drop it to .05%. So-called "zero tolerance"made it a crime for drivers under 21 to have even .01% BAC.

The Trend: Fromfocusing on actual impairment, to facilitating arrests and convictions by focusing on artifical BAC levels -- and, finally, to the mere presence of alcohol. The emphasis has shifted from addressing the danger (impaired drivers) to facilitating arrests and convictions.

The Future: The "zero tolerance" laws will be applied todriversof all ages. Criminal liability will be expanded to include attempted drunk driving (regardless of lack of specific intent), as well as vicarious liability: accomplices ("aiding and abetting"), conspiracy and so-called "Dram Shop Act" liability (providing a drink to someone who may drive).

The Past: Originally, the arresting officer gave his opinion of impairment based upon his observations of driving and symptoms, as well as field sobriety tests. The emphasisshifted to increasingly sophisticated breathalyzers and to blood tests administered by nurses or technicians. However, portable and handheld breath testing devices havemore recently been used at the scene to determine probable cause to arrest; thelater test on a more sophisticated breathalyzer at the stationcontinues to beused as evidence in court. Some courts arebeginning to acceptthe portable units into evidence.

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