Can vehicle ignition interlocks solve the DWI problem?

DWIMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), on November 1, 2011, announced that it is urging the passage of the ROADS SAFE ACT (HR 2324/S 510) which would provide sixty million dollars in federal funding to finance the advanced alcohol detection research program known as DADDS. This technology is most commonly known as an “Ignition Interlock Device” or “IID.” These devices prevent the operation of a motor vehicle until the driver passes a blood alcohol test.

Anyone who is familiar with current IID technology will know that these gadgets are somewhat expensive, finicky, maintenance intensive and rather demeaning for drivers who are required to blow, hum and suck them repeatedly to start and continue to drive their cars. It is the sort of requirement that no one would ever tolerate unless they had no other choice. You can get a feel for how they work in this short video: Ignition Interlock Demo

So far, in Missouri, only repeat alcohol offenders are required to install the IID before they can get their licenses reinstated (after a long mandatory period when they are not allowed to drive at all). The IID must then be maintained for six months following the reinstatement date, and the driver is required to report to a certified IID vendor every month for maintenance to ensure the device is working properly.

MADD has a short term and a long term agenda. In the short term they want every legislature to force first-time DWI offenders to install the IID. In the long term (after the MADD ladies finish with the first-time offenders) they are coming after you and me, whether we drink and drive or not.

The purpose of the proposed federal sixty million dollar research program is to perfect a way to test the blood alcohol level of all drivers (not just drinkers), ideally without any need for their consent or cooperation. Understandably, researchers are looking for an involuntary test method to force compliance from the many drivers who do not esteem such nanny state initiatives.

Technologies being investigated include mounting cameras in cars to record and analyze a driver’s eye movements. Sensors may also be able to detect alcohol from air samples taken from the passenger compartment; or detect alcohol through a driver’s skin touching the steering wheel. They also discuss the possibility of requiring the driver to wear an arm or leg bracelet similar to those worn by criminal defendant’s under house arrest. Good luck with that idea. I can’t wait.

If the MADD ladies want an idea that really could save lives (without harassing the rest of us), here’s one:

Everybody now knows that if you get a DWI, you lose your license for anywhere between 30 days and ten years (or more). Supposedly, these license revocations are not to punish a DWI, but rather to safeguard the public. Punishment is a separate issue addressed by the criminal courts, not the license bureau.

Too often we read stories of drunk drivers who have an accident and hurt someone and it turns out that they were also driving while revoked. In those case, the license revocation or suspension did nothing to safeguard the public. It is hardly surprising to learn that many DWI offenders refuse to obey license revocations and drive anyway, especially when it means keeping a job and feeding their families.

If the ignition interlock device really is effective in stopping people from driving drunk, then the legislature already possesses the key to the problem. They would not even need to force people to use the IID. They could simply give the option of replacing the license revocation or suspension with the IID installation. Most defendants would take that deal if it meant they could keep driving. And then, even if they did drink, they would unable to harm anyone.

It’s not good enough to add the IID months or years after the offense occurs. It needs to be immediate to take away the temptation to drink and drive. Some may object because the state is not getting its “pound of flesh” from the offender, but any reasonable public policy will put public safety ahead of vengeance. It’s not often that the public good is best served by giving the bad guy a break, but this may be one of those times.


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New Cole County Jail Pictures: the Prisoner’s Tour

If you missed the grand-opening tours of the new 28 million dollar Cole County, Missouri jail, here’s a second chance. My tour group was mostly retired ladies from a local nursing home and we were guided by the most excellent tour host, Sheriff Greg White. The one thing the pictures do not really convey, is HOW BIG IT IS. Like the biblical city of Jericho, I suspect it would take all day to walk around it seven times. It is a monster building. I only include a portion of the non-public areas to hold down the number of pictures.

Below is the tour from the perspective of a new prisoner entering the jail under escort. The prisoner arrives here, a huge drive-in space called a “sally port.” The police drive all the way inside the jail and the door is closed (so as to avoid any temptation for the prisoner to escape). From here, the prisoner sallies forth to the booking area.

Sally Port


There is one other way to get to the booking area. If a person is asked to come to the Sheriff’s office to answer questions regarding a crime, they will be taken to this interrogation room. If they do what most suspects do, they will answer the questions. Some of the foolish suspects will lie. The other foolish suspects will tell the truth because they want the officer to like them. After confessing, they will be arrested. From there, it’s on to booking.

Interrogation room

















This is the booking area where the prisoner is photographed, fingerprinted & eyeball scanned. The far walls have holding cells (one is in the next picture).

Booking

Holding





Prisoners stay in these holding cells for no more than 24 hours. After that, they will have either bonded out or are moved into the general jail population.








Time out


This little room is the holding cell for misbehaving inmates. The Sheriff calls it: “time out.” It’s 4 walls and a drain. (The drain actually flushes like a toilet –I know, the the drain slits are a bit narrow. No, I didn’t ask.). And no furniture; just a bare concrete floor.

They turn out the lights and lock the door. As you may imagine, its very peaceful.

If the prisoner is completely out of control, they have a “restraint” chair to strap him/her into before they turn out the lights.




There is even a cell for prisoners in wheelchairs. This handicapped cell is very roomy

Handicapped













On his or her way to the general jail population, the prisoner gets a new costume. Here are some of the men’s florescent orange uniforms. Woman prisoners get beautiful lime green outfits.

Mens uniforms

Flipflops



Prisoners will also be gellin’ in these cool “gummy” sandals. Ladies also receive an official issue Cole County bra.




Before we get to the general population cell block, I wanted to show the part of the new jail that I was really looking forward to. Below is the “work release” area of the jail. This area houses non-violent prisoners who are employed. They leave the jail each day, go to their jobs, and then return to jail at the end of the workday. The point of work release is to punish offenders without destroying their jobs and families. The inmates PAY for their room & board and the taxpayers benefit. It’s a great idea and is used all over Missouri. The most disappointing thing I learned in my tour was that it will be ten years before the “work release” cell block is ready. I hope the county commission makes completing this area a priority.

Work Release


This is the control center for the main cell block. It sits in the center and is surrounded by pie-shaped cell blocks.

Control room

These gentlemen can see every cell from inside the “bubble.”


This is one of the pie-shaped cell blocks. There are 12 two-person cells in each cell block. Most prisoners will spend the day out of their cells at the table. Each has his own little seat. Note the video visitation box on the far right of the photo. More on that later.

Cell Block

Each cell measures 6.5 by 12 feet and has a shower and a toilet.

Remember that video visitation box on the wall in the cell block. Friends and family can visit prisoners by coming to the video visitation room where there are a slew of these video boxes. Visitors are warned not to expose any private body parts for the camera, for the Sheriff assures me that they will not be allowed to do that twice (and may be charged with a crime).

There is a TV on the wall in each cell block. Note that prisoners cannot see out the windows to the control center.

When they get tired of watching TV, prisoners are entitled to 1 hour per day of “outdoor” recreation. This next room is the “outdoor” rec room. Also pie shaped, it is a bare room with no exercise equipment. The sliding door in the picture below raises to reveal what looks like a basement window well. Out of sight–at the top–is a skylight, and when opened, actual daylight reaches the room, hence the name “outdoor” recreation.


* * *

That’s it. The new jail. It’s big, clean and new. And I still wouldn’t want to stay there. So remember the two rules:

  1. If you are a suspect in a criminal case, do not answer any questions about it until you have talked to a criminal lawyer. You have the right to remain silent. Don’t lie. Just remain silent.
  2. Never consent to a search of yourself, your car, your home or your stuff. Never.



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Missouri 2010 racial profiling stats “disturbing”

Jefferson City criminal lawyerThis week Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released Missouri’s 2010 racial profiling statistics. The stats track the race of drivers stopped by law enforcement. They record the numbers of traffic stops, searches, search results and arrests. The results were the similar to those of years past.

Relative to the population of the various groups, Hispanics are stopped less often than whites. Asians are stopped only half as often as whites. Native Americans might as well be invisible and are stopped only 1/7th as often as whites. The report uses a “disparity index” to report how much a racial group is under/over represented as a percentage of that group’s population.

Koster reported, “the disparity index for African-American drivers continues to be of significant concern. The disparity index for African-American drivers decreased slightly from 1.62 in 2009 to 1.61 in 2010.” He cites as a “disturbing trend” that African-American drivers  were stopped 27 percent more often than their population would suggest in 2000 and 61 percent more often in 2010.

Koster does not say exactly why he is “disturbed,” but has noted that the numbers are an indicator that further inquiry is appropriate.

It seems there could be several explanations for stopping members of the  over-represented group:

  1. the individuals are such bad drivers that they draw police attention (not likely?);
  2. the individuals drive unregistered or defective vehicles that draw police attention (possible, as a function of poverty perhaps?); and
  3. the individuals are stopped for belonging to the over-represented group (sometimes known as “driving while black.”)

Reason number three would seem to be the most “disturbing” answer.

Other interesting stats reveal the number of searches done on each group and then compares the search numbers to the success rate of those same searches (“success” meaning that the police find something illegal”). Blacks and Hispanics are about twice as likely to be searched than are whites. They are also twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop. Police are far less likely find to find contraband on Blacks and Hispanics than on whites. (White: 24.5%, African-Americans: 17.5%, Hispanics:14.4%).

When mulling over the numbers, keep in mind that when Blacks and Hispanics are arrested (twice as often as whites), they are automatically searched without police needing any reason to think they will find anything. Whites–being arrested less frequently–may get “successfully” searched more frequently, because police are only searching them when they have reason to think they will find contraband. Of course, it could also be that–as a group–whites are less likely to tell police “no” whenever a search is requested. Obviously, these would be people who don’t read this blog.

* * *

Update: I was thinking about the Native Americans being stopped only 1/7th as frequently as whites. When you consider how few even live in Missouri, you have to believe that many of those traffic stops were of non-resident Indians just passing through. That means the resident Indians are probably even less likely to get stopped than the numbers suggest. Since the Attorney General believes that “further inquiry” is needed, let me suggest that he should ask the Indians what their secret is.


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Missouri Special Session to stop TSA groping?

Most have seen the news that the Texas House unanimously passed a bill declaring that any government (read “TSA”) employee who “touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person,” shall be guilty of a crime if such search is conducted without probable cause to believe the other person had committed a crime.

After the Texas house scored with that popular vote, the Senate stepped up to the plate ready to turn the bill into law. At this point, U.S. Attorney John Murphy sent a letter to the Texas Senate threatening to ground all Texas flights. “If HR 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers or crew.”

TSA messes with Texas privates

The Texans quickly backed down.

Feds 1, Lone Star State 0

Now the State of Utah may step up to protect the honor of their mothers & daughters, babies & grandmothers: Utah lawmaker’s proposal to ban TSA pat downs in Utah

Now Missouri Gov. Nixon is being urged to consider asking for a special legislative session to deal with Missouri’s spring disasters:

Disasters could be special session topic


Others have called for a session to consider the nuclear plant site permit. If this happens, might we see the legislature also take up an anti-TSA molestation bill? Might something be done about this ongoing assault?

If you’ve missed all the fuss, the gallery of abuses below will bring you up to speed (real photos should be distinguishable from the satirical ones):

Hard at work. Can’t you just hear this next guy grunting, even without sound?





Most people are unaware of the dangers of allowing un-inspected breasts onto an airplane, but apparently it’s the real deal!



 

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Good cop/Bad cop: Can he take a joke?

Jefferson City Criminal LawyerPolice officers have a tough job. And while they aren’t in the top ten most dangerous jobs, most road officers get into tense situations and get into physical altercations resulting in scrapes and bruises from time to time. They are constantly dealing with people who don’t appreciate the service they provide.

Often those ungrateful people are ungrateful because they are being manacled and hauled off to a jail cell. If anyone other than a police officer was doing what is essentially kidnapping, he would be facing ten years to life in prison.

Naturally, when you are authorized to commit (what would otherwise be) a serious felony against others, you should not be surprised when arrested persons sometimes get disrespectful, even mouthy.

When I was a prosecutor, I figured cops shouldn’t have to put up with being physically assaulted, but if they couldn’t handle catcalls and insults, then they had no business in that line of work. You can almost separate the good cops from the bad by seeing which ones ignore the verbal abuse and which ones get their buttons pushed by it.

Here is an example of a a badge heavy cop who ought to have stayed in his car. At least it wasn’t in MIssouri:


Price gouging is a service, not a crime

I went to the hardware store after the snowstorm hoping to score some ice melt, only to discover that it’s all sold out.  I only needed one bag and I’d have gladly paid more to get what I needed.

The thing that really frosts me is that the reason I could not get ice melt was because politicians know they can win votes by creating the crime of price gouging.

The anti-Price Gouging law

I can’t explain it any better than does our Missouri attorney general at his website:

It’s against Missouri law to take advantage of a desperate situation by drastically increasing prices on merchandise, whether it’s gasoline, kerosene after winter storm, hotel rooms, ice, gas-powered generators and other necessities.”

He is referring to Missouri’s Unlawful practices statute, which reads:

407.020. 1. The act, use or employment by any person of any  . . . deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, unfair practice or the concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise . . . . is declared to be an unlawful practice.

Violation of this statute is a class D felony.

One may rightly wonder how this law prohibits “price gouging.” It’s because the legislature gave the Missouri attorney general permission to make regulations needed to enforce the law (apparently intending that the attorney general would designate sizes and styles of typefaces acceptable for use in consumer advertising).

Years went by before the attorney general created regulations which would transform this anti-fraud law into what should be called the “Lets-run-out-of-everything-as-fast-as-we-can-when-we-need-it-most” law. The regulation became law and created the crime of price gouging:

15 CSR 60-8.030 Price Gouging

PURPOSE:  . . . this rule enumerates specific practices which are unfair and are violative of section 407.020, RSMo.
(1) It is an unfair practice for any person in connection with the advertisement or sale of merchandise to—
(A) Take advantage of a person’s physical or mental impairment or hardship caused by extreme temporary conditions, and charge a price substantially above the previous market price of the merchandise in seller’s trade area;
(B) Charge within a disaster area an excessive price for any necessity; or
(C) Charge any person an excessive price for any necessity which the seller has reason to know is likely to be provided to consumers within a disaster area.

The law seems to have no purpose except: 1) to soothe the feelings of angry citizens who feel they have been taken advantage of; and 2) to provide the Missouri Attorney General a platform from which he can pose as champion of the consumer.

Harmful effects:

When it comes to helping the rest of us, the law does nothing to insure that we can buy essential goods when we need them most. On the contrary, such price controls guarantee that we will NOT have enough of what we need.

If a disaster strikes, and water, gasoline and food cannot be sold for significantly higher prices, then stores will sell out early as everyone buys more than they need. Then none is left to buy AT ANY PRICE. In addition, it is unlikely anyone will rush to bring in essential supplies when the government has removed the profit incentive.

In an emergency, a hotel manager who doubles his room price on 100 rooms, may force a big family to rent one room instead of two. Or cause two poor families to double up. If such “price gouging” were allowed, the hotel could provide shelter for twice as many people in an emergency. True enough, the hotel owner gets a big payoff, but should that be a crime when it was only his self-interest that put everybody under a roof?

The repeal of price gouging laws would in itself decrease the severity of shortages when they do occur. If merchants knew they could raise prices during shortages, more would take risks and stock up on ice melt and snow shovels. But with no prospect of a payoff, they play it safe and stock just what they are sure they can sell in a typical winter. And if people knew prices could rise greatly during emergencies they might be better prepared, further decreasing the demand in times of shortage.

Some say that the merchant’s sin is greed, but at least the merchant’s self-interest serves the public by keeping goods available. The flip side of the merchant’s greed is the consumer’s envy, which does no one any good, neither housing nor feeding anyone. Is it harsh to say that anti-price gouging laws are motivated by hate? That supporters are people who would rather have NO GAS available at $3.00 a gallon, than have all the gas they want at $5.00? Under this law, half of us can get our gas tanks filled, whether we need it or not, and the other half goes without. This has to be one of the more foolish laws we have, yet most people probably think it’s good.

Missouri’s Attorney General has been aggressive in threatening Missouri merchants with prosecution if they violate these price controls. See Attorney General Koster warns consumers about storm-related price gouging. Koster makes it easy for “victims” to complain at his website:

Click here to rat out greedy businessmen.


For more information about the “wisdom” of price gouging laws:

The Role of Prices- Walter Williams

Price Gouging Saves Lives

The Non-Crime of Price Gouging

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Should every vice be a crime?

Saint ThomasNow human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue.

Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain;

and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained:

thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.”


St. Thomas Aquinas,

Treatise on Law in the Summa Theologica

 

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Criminal barbering – scourge or public service?

Missouri Criminal Defense AttorneyNews this week of raids in Florida in an effort to stamp out illegal, criminal haircuts in that state. Here is the story of the round-up and arrest:

This crackdown called to mind my own childhood, where every month, my brothers and I were taken to the private home of a middle-aged lady named Mrs. McAfoos. To see her on the street, you would never imagine that she was a career criminal, a black market barber. You see, she was not licensed, but she was fast and cheap.

On Saturday, the mothers in our neighborhood would pack up their sons to drive over to Mrs. McAfoos’ house. Each of us was frequently warned: “Remember never to tell anyone that she cuts your hair. She can get into trouble.” We never told; and every Saturday Mrs. McAfoos would cut 10 heads an hour, all day long, at fifty cents a head. Great money. No overhead. I doubt that any father in my neighborhood was earning $5/hour in 1964.

Barbering without a license has long been a crime. Today it can get you 15 days in jail. I suspect such criminals still are among us here in Missouri. I also suspect that their customers are happy for the service. Licensed barbers–like all professionals whose monopoly business is protected by the state–may feel differently about the services of black market barbers.

The state doesn’t like them much either. Here is a list of fees that black market barbers do not pay: BARBER FEES

Most people do not appreciate how many occupations are criminal activities unless the practitioner has the time and money to meet state licensing requirements. Click here for the LIST OF OCCUPATIONS.

Naturally, people are concerned about the public welfare and safety. But the costs of such government regulation is seldom a concern: the cost to people who have the skills, but not the education or the money required; and the cost to people who want good, inexpensive services. How can we explain higher rates of electrocution in places with more regulation of electricians? Easily, once we consider that fewer people can afford the higher cost and decide to do-it-themselves.

Should it really be a crime to give a haircut unless your papers are in order? Must we trust the government to say who is a qualified Interior Designer? Does a license guarantee the quality of your Private Investigator.

Regulations can be also be dangerous to a public who thinks that just because a tattoo artist (or doctor or lawyer, for that matter) is licensed by the government, they will do a good job. This a ridiculous assumption. You can get more reliable quality assurance by reading product reviews at Amazon.com.

Anyway. Thanks Mrs. McAfoos for good, fast, cheap haircuts. You were a criminal and I was an accomplice, but the statute of limitations has probably run out by now.


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Prop B: Do it “for the puppies”

As soon as I heard that Proposition B would rid Missouri of its infamous “puppy mills,” I smelled a rat. Whatever a “puppy mill” is, it must be horrible. Reminiscent of William Blake’s “dark Satanic mills.”

You get the idea that terrible things must happen in “puppy mills.” Like grinding up the unsold puppies for feed. But what do I know? Only that I am automatically skeptical of any proposal that creates another crime on the road to making criminals of us all.

Here are some more reasons why this is one more law we don’t need:

The Truth about Prop B.



How much does a DWI cost?

Jefferson City Criminal LawyerPeople are always stunned at how much a DWI conviction costs. I had been intending to write an article explaining the damage in terms of money. Then I came upon this thoughtful post by St Louis area attorney Diana Hilliard. Naturally, these costs will vary with different locations and situations, but still, this is very instructive.

It will take your breath away.


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