“Alcohol breath tests, a linchpin of the criminal justice system, are often unreliable, a Times investigation found…. Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight…. A county judge in Pennsylvania called it ‘extremely questionable’ whether any of his state’s breath tests could withstand serious scrutiny.” A wide-ranging and disturbing look at what happens when a familiar and seemingly uncontroversial technology gets put to practical forensic field use. [Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, New York Times]
- “Per Hailey’s Law, Washington state police are required to impound a vehicle any time they arrest the driver for a DUI, regardless of whether the car is off the road or someone else can safely drive it away. But that violates the state’s constitution, explains the Washington Supreme Court, because warrantless seizures require individualized consideration of the circumstances. This law eliminates that individualized consideration, and the legislature cannot legislate constitutional rights away.” [Institute for Justice “Short Circuit” on Washington v. Villela, in which it signed on to (IJ signed on to an amicus brief; David Rasbach, Bellingham Herald)
- “The Great American Vape Panic of 2019 Is Producing Some Wild Lawsuits” [Alex Norcia, Vice; Priscilla DeGregory and Ben Feuerherd, New York Post]
- Federal judge rejects state’s challenge to SALT tax revisions, push to raise minimum legal age for marriage, aerial police surveillance in Baltimore, pension funding and more in my new Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes] Yuripzy Morgan took time on her WBAL radio show to discuss my article on the Supreme Court’s consideration of job bias law and you can listen here;
- Great moments in reparations: candidates propose dropping cash from airplanes on neighborhoods that were redlined 50+ years ago. But mostly different people live there now [Robert VerBruggen, National Review; Andre M. Perry and David Harshbarger, Brookings Institution]
- Full Fifth Circuit should review ruling upholding Indian Child Welfare Act against constitutional challenge [Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus brief seeking en banc reconsideration in Brackeen v. Bernhard; earlier]
- Bay Area: “Donor who gave $45K to elect sheriff got coveted gun permit from her office” [Josh Koehn, Matthias Gafni and Joaquin Palomino, San Francisco Chronicle; Santa Clara County, Calif.]
- Michigan’s Oakland County seizes rental property owned by elderly man over $8.41 unpaid tax bill plus $277 in fees and interest, sells property for $24,500, keeps all the surplus cash for itself. Constitutional? [Joe Barnett, Detroit News]
- Pruning obsolete laws: “Teaneck Council repeals more than a dozen old laws, including ban on cursing” [Megan Burrow, North Jersey Record, quoting Councilman and longtime friend of this site Keith Kaplan]
- “What does the Constitution have to say about national emergencies, both real and imagined?” [Cato Daily Podcast with Gene Healy and Caleb Brown]
- Lawyer in drunk-driving case: my client’s chewing on her coat could’ve thrown off breath test [AP/WSBT (Berwick, Pa.)]
- Baltimore police corruption, tax policies that attract people, densifying MoCo and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
- Busybodies in Bismarck: “North Dakota’s Excellent Food Freedom Act Is Under Attack Yet Again” [Baylen Linnekin]
“Under the revised law, known as C-46, which went into effect in December, police can stop any driver, anywhere, for any reason and demand their sample. Furthermore, you could be cited even if you haven’t driven a car in two hours” because police are given the right to run tests on persons who have recently driven. One strange implication: if you drive to a restaurant and have enough to drink there to cross the blood-alcohol threshold, police can write you up even if you intended to rely on your sober spouse as the one to drive home. [Jon Miltimore, FEE; Maham Abedi, Global News/MSN; earlier]
But see: Richard in comments below says the law is broad but not quite as broad as described above: the original stop must be for some lawful reason, and the law includes an exception that would mostly (though not invariably) preclude liability in the restaurant example.
“If Canada’s new impaired driving laws are passed police could show up on your doorstep — up to two hours after you arrive home — to demand a breath or saliva sample.” The proposals would “[drop] the requirement that officers must first have reasonable suspicion before demanding a breath test,” and shift to the accused the burden of proving that the timing of drinking as reflected in a breath test was legally innocent. Critics predicted a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the changes, “which were announced the same day the federal government unveiled its bill to legalize marijuana.” [Bryan Labby, CBC]
Thanks, everyone, for pitching that “caffeine DUI” story but it doesn’t really show Solano County, Calif. charging anyone with such an offense. [Guardian] Indeed, as the 11th paragraph gets around to explaining, “The charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system,” in the prosecutor’s words. The question is whether, following tests that the defense lawyer says clear Mr. Schwab of any suggestion of intoxicants in his system, the prosecution should have to explain its reasons for not dropping charges originally premised on what an officer said was erratic driving. Anyway, it was a nice story.
Update: charges dropped.
“A Wisconsin man who blamed his beer-battered fish fry after he was pulled over the 10th time for drunken driving is going to prison.” A judge didn’t buy his excuse that the smell of alcohol on his breath noted during the Dell Prairie traffic stop was from the savory ingredient. [Chicago Tribune]
After a Florida lawyer’s TV ads cultivate his “reputation for aggressively going after drunken drivers,” guess what happens next [New York Daily News]