Police Make Money from Houston DWI Arrests

Members of the Houston, Texas DWI Task Force routinely make money from of each drunk driving arrest. In some cases earning one and a half times their normal income.

Unlike regular patrolmen, members of the Houston, Texas DWI Task Force are eligible for state and federal funds that pay overtime for DWI oriented operations. By attending DWI court proceedings or participating on DWI roadblocks or patrols on their days off, they can add substantially to their base pay. One senior officer, William Lindsey, Jr., boosted his income to $172,576, which is almost $120,000 more than the base salary for the position. And it is $7,000 more than the mayor of Houston receives in salary.

For each Houston DWI arrest, task force members must make a court appearance. For that appearance they earn overtime pay. Whereas the general practice across the state of Texas is to send one officer to a drunk driving trial, in Houston often three or four policemen will testify at a single trial.

Houston DWI defense attorneys believe that the Houston, Texas DWI Task Force is operating like a rural speed trap, aggressively making traffic stops and assuming the drivers are driving drunk knowing that they will make extra money in court for each arrest.

Perhaps not surprisingly, top DWI cop Lindsey is also one the most reprimanded member of the task force. No one has come close to the number of complaints sustained by an internal affairs investigation. Those complaints range from threatening to kill a man accused of jaywalking to third degree felony for falsifying overtime records.

Despite his list of disciplinary infractions, Lindsey is praised by prosecutors seeking DWI convictions. Purportedly he is a convincing and ‘reliable’ witness in drunk driving cases.

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Mobile Lab To Fight DWI In Arkansas

The police department in Texarkana, Arkansas recently purchased a mobile blood-alcohol testing vehicle to assist in its campaign against drunk driving.

Called the BATmobile, the $130,000 unit was purchased with funds from the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office. It will be used at sobriety checkpoints and in areas where DWI arrests commonly occur. It provides police with on-site testing to determine if a driver stopped for suspicion of DWI is over the .08 legal limit for blood alcohol

The special vehicle is the first and only one in the state. Police spokesman Chris Rankin said it is "a jail on wheels. We can do everything in it but book suspects."

The BATmobile will be actively used during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, when the Arkansas State Police joins over 100 other law enforcement agencies like the Texarkana police department to crackdown on impaired drivers. That activity is part of the nationwide "Drunk Driving: Over the Limit. Under Arrest." campaign recently unveiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Guilty of DUI While In a Parked Car

In 2001, police in New Canaan, Connecticut arrested Andrew C. Haight for driving under the influence (DUI). Haight had been found asleep behind the steering wheel of his legally parked car. The engine was not running though the car’s lights were on and the key was in the ignition. Police noted that the open door alert chimed when they opened the car door, indicating that the key was in the ignition in either the off or accessories position.

Haight entered a nolo contendre plea, but later decided to appeal his DUI conviction. Defense attorneys argued that because the key was not in the ‘on’ or ‘start’ position that the vehicle was not in operation. That defense led to the reversal of the original charge in appellate court.

When the case was presented to the Connecticut Supreme Court though, prosecutors argued that placing a key in an ignition and even partially turning it constituted operation of the vehicle. The Court agreed, stating that the Connecticut DUI statute specifies that ‘operating’ a vehicle, not just driving, is enough for a drunk driving arrest.

The basis for that decision was found in the outcome of a case from 1939 where a car crashed into a bank building. When police arrived they found two drunken men, one man in the driver’s seat and another pushing the vehicle. The man behind the steering wheel was charged with drunk driving even though he said he had only moved into the driver’s seat after the accident. In the ensuing trial, a jury concluded that a vehicle was being ‘operated’ and the occupant of the driver’s seat was subject to a DUI charge. They wrote that when the person behind the
steering wheel "intentionally does any act or makes use of any mechanical or electrical agency which alone or in sequence will set in motion the motive power of the vehicle."

The Supreme Court thus ruled against Haight in his 2001 case, saying that by placing the key in the ignition he had set in motion actions that were meant to start and move the car.

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Utah Leads Nation in Reduction of DUI Arrests

More than 14,000 DUI arrests were made in Utah during 2005, which includes drunk drivers as well as those operating vehicles while impaired by drugs. Of that number, 32 accidents resulted in a death. Fortunately that represents a 51% reduction in Utah DUI related fatalities.

Sgt. Ted Tingey of the Utah Highway Patrol stated that "we’re one of the lucky states, our rates have been coming down. We’re still having problems, but we’re making progress and that’s good."

The reduction is due in part to the use of roadblock sobriety checkpoints and roving DUI patrols, as well as a nationwide focus on the highest demographic shown to be arrested for DUI. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ad campaign ‘Drunk Driving: Over the Limit. Under Arrest.’ targets 21 to 34 year old men who are
statistically the most likely age group to drink and drive. NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason notes that demographic demonstrates "a higher likelihood, or frequency, to drink and drive. They’re also the least likely to wear their seat belts (and) the most likely to speed."

Of the 32 DUI related accidents in Utah resulting in a death, twelve involved drivers between 21 and 34 years of age.

Nationwide the number of alcohol related traffic deaths was only slightly lower in 2005 compared to the previous year. Of the fifty states and the District of Columbia the following jurisdictions showed the biggest changes in DUI fatalities:

Utah – 50.7% reduction in DUI fatalities
Maryland and Rhode Island – 23.7% reduction
Massachusetts – 20.7% reduction
Oregon – 19.3% reduction
Connecticut – 18.8% reduction

Vermont – 40% increase in DUI fatalities
Delaware – 35.9% increase
North Dakota – 32.4% increase
District of Columbia – 30.8% increase
Hawaii – 20.5% increase

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Tennessee Joins National Drunk Driving Campaign

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently unveiled its new campaign against drunk driving titled ‘Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.’ Law enforcement and highway safety agencies across the nation plan on using the upcoming Labor Day holiday to aggressively launch the campaign. The Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) has made clear that it will join that activity

The new NHTSA slogan will be featured in Tennessee between August 16 and September 4, as an extension of the existing ‘Booze It and Lose It’ campaign.

Nearly one third of road fatalities in Tennessee involve alcohol. NHTSA records show half of all children killed in automobile crashes are victims of alcohol impaired driving and 41% of those who died in motorcycle crashes had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. The Uniform Crime Report issued by the FBI indicates more than 1.4 million
people were arrested for DUI during 2004.

Colonel Mike Walker of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said, "Make no mistake. Our message is simple. No matter what you drive – a passenger car, pickup, sport utility vehicle or motorcycle – if we catch you driving impaired, we will arrest you. We want everyone to play it safe and always designate a sober driver or find a different way home if they have been drinking."

"If you drive drunk, not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for impaired driving can be significant," said Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates,
attorney fees, time away from work, and dozens of other expenses."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ‘Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.’ slogan will be featured in an $11 million ad campaign that is meant to emphasize that if you are stopped for drunk driving, you will be arrested.

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Drunk Cops Refuse Sobriety Tests in Florida

Reports show that Florida police stopped for suspicion of DUI periodically refuse to take the same field sobriety tests they expect the public to perform.

While appearing drunk after a car crash that injured his passenger, Port Orange Florida police officer David Chapman refused to perform the standard field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer test. Though ultimately charged with DUI, his actions reflect the recommendations of Florida DUI defense attorneys who say you should never submit to field sobriety tests, perform a breath test or provide blood samples if stopped for suspicion of DUI.

That strategy worked for the Ponce Inlet police chief who refused a breathalyzer test and was able to regain his driver’s license within seven months. A Daytona Beach detective also refused a breath test and her arrest charge was reduced to reckless driving.

It appears the police know the system and, while responsible social drinking should be the norm, the public should learn to refuse all DUI tests if they drink and drive.

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