Truth, Justice...and DUI Politics
Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog
As any experienced criminal attorney knows, truth, justice and fairness can be rare commodities in our courts when dealing with a drunk driving offense. This has become such a common phenomena that it has acquired a label: "The DUI exception to the Constitution". When it comes to cases involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there seems to be a distinct bias in favor of "streamlining" procedures and facilitating convictions. Cynics might suggest that this may have something to do with political considerations -- with the desire of some judges to get reelected. Well talk about that in a moment.....
In the meantime, lets take a look at an example of what kind of thinking goes on in the judicial mind in a DUI case. In fact, lets go to the highest court of the most populated state in the country: the Supreme Court of California.
In People v. Bransford, the Supreme Court was confronted with a defendant who was challenging his .08% DUI conviction on the grounds that he was not permitted to offer scientific evidence to the jury. Specifically, he was not permitted to offer the testimony of recognized experts that the breath machines computer was programmed to assume that there were 2100 parts of alcohol in his blood for every 1 part it measured in his breath. He was also prevented by the trial judge from offering further evidence that this 2100:1 ratio was only an average -- and that the actual ratio varied widely from person to person, and within one person from moment to moment. (If, for example, a suspects ratio had been 1300:1 at the time he blew a .10% on the machine, his true blood-alcohol would have actually been .06% -- that is, he would have been innocent.)
The Supreme Court of California affirmed the conviction, ruling that such scientific facts are irrelevant: the law was written in a way that concerned the amount of alcohol in the blood "as measured on the breath". In a display of either twisted logic or ignorance of the scientific facts involved, the Court simply said that the crime consisted of the amount of alcohol in the blood -- but only as measured on the breath. In other words,