In my prior DUI post on this topic I was explaining that the criminal justice system for some reason treats DUI suspects differently and with less privilege, than a murder suspect. This is of great concern to the DUI bar for many reasons. The most important of which was already discussed, that is, we can not permit an erosion of constitutional rights in the name of convenience of prosecution. This ideology takes us down a scary and slippery slope which we as Americans have never permitted, so why permit it in DUI cases?
I must say the degree of enthusiasm and the extent to which the government machine is willing to sacrifice our legal rights strikes me as rather ironic when considering the large variety of people who actually get charged with DUI cases. That is, the very law makers who seek to limit your rights and place the iconic letter on your back are also the law breakers. Starting with a certain former President, charged with DUI, police officers, prosecutors, law makers, countless congressional representatives, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. A Google search on the topic would reveal countless DUI cases involving any group, for example today, July 4th, 2007 the Chicago Tribune has a piece on a police deputy stopped for suspicion of DUI and wouldn’t you know it, there was a prosecutor in the car with him. The story continues that they were processed and released without charges. Whoops, somebody forgot to charge the police deputy with DUI, how could that happen? Now everybody involved is suspended and it’s all being reviewed for procedural errors which they admit occurred.
How about the Delaware State Representative who was pulled over in December 2006 and flashed his legislative I.D. card and was released without charges by two Ocean City Maryland police officers-whoops. It’s just more than ironic, perhaps hypocriticalthat everybody wants to hammer the DUI suspect, limit their rights, convict as quickly as possible until it happens to somebody in the spot light or somebody with authority, then it’s time to drop charges, run the other way, and turn the other cheek.
Not concerned about your rights yet? Alright. You are driving home from dinner on Friday night, wife and family in the car. You are driving perfectly because you not impaired. You had a glass of wine with your dinner, maybe two. You are herded into a police sobriety checkpoint or road block which is set up on the road you take home. After sitting in a backed up traffic line for 5-10 minutes while the cops engage each driver in conversation, it is your turn. You are not concerned because you are not drunk. Good evening Sir- have you had anything to drink tonight? Your heart jumps into your throat, you know you are not drunk or impaired so you answer truthfully, a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. Sir can you please pull over to the side for field sobriety tests…. guess what? Unless you are a gymnast you are going to jail right now, in front of your wife and children who are horrified. You are going to be charged with a DUI, you have to hire a lawyer, go to court, complete an alcohol class, be on supervision and pay all kinds of money for lawyers and, you guessed it, government fees and fines.
Why? You only had two glasses of wine at dinner, you were driving fine how could this happen? Heck after taking you to the station you only blew a .06 which is below the legal limit of .08. What happened? Well in today’s climate nobody gives a darn. If you admit to drinking alcohol you will be stopped and asked to do field exercises. If you perform those exercises, you will undoubtedly fail them because they are foreign to you and you are nervous and scared. Once that happens, you are going to be charged no matter what, whether you blow a .04, .08 or more. I know because I see it every day. I had a lady involved in a serious single car accident who blew a .04, she had wine with her Mother over lunch. She was charged. I got her off the charge, but she still had to go through all the emotional turmoil and expense of the process.
The point I want to advance here is that 1) this can easily happen to any person any time no matter who they are- unless you just do not consume any alcohol and more importantly 2) this should not happen at all and here’s why…..
The 4th amendment to the United States Constitution says that you have the absolute right to privacy in your person, papers and effects. That means that you shall not be molested nor stopped by the government without a warrant or probable cause to do so. That in turn means that you can drive down a street in this country and not be concerned about being stopped by police authority unless they have a reasonable articulable suspicion that you are or did break a law. So, in the example above, the poor driver who may have been a legislator or a cop (in which case he probably would be set free without charges) never should have been stopped in the first place. He didn’t break any law and he didn’t endanger any person.
The problem is that the Supreme Court of the United States saw fit to condone this type of warrantless intrusion known as a sobriety check in the 1992 case of Michigan v. Sitz wherein the Court essentially held that notwithstanding the fact that this type of stop is a breach of the 4th amendment, the calling of limiting DUIs is sufficiently important so we shall side step the constitution. This is an example of your rights being eroded right under your nose. If this does not concern you, it probably will when it actually happens to you. For more information on this topic read this http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,171383,00.html fox news article.