By on August 3, 2015

Prison Jail

Over the weekend, the New York Times detailed the story of a black woman in Baltimore who, 18 months after being arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol level of .09, has endured more than a year of unusually stiff penalties and harsh treatment.

The story highlights the tale of 40-year-old Donyelle Hall who had a clean criminal record before her arrest on Christmas Day 2013 for drunken driving. After her arrest, the woman was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorney and court costs, spend more than a month in jail and lost her job. Monthly probation costs for the woman were $385 a month alone.

The story outlines some of the inconsistencies among DUI enforcement from state-to-state — and even judge-to-judge. According to research by WalletHub, DUI laws can vary dramatically between states from a mandatory 10-day jail sentence and 90-day license suspension in Arizona to no mandatory jail time and no license suspension in South Dakota. A 2010 West Virginia case found that officers could issue a DUI and suspend a person’s license even if authorities couldn’t specifically prove that the person was driving.

According to Hall, officers wrongly said she and her husband resisted the officer’s commands and that she closed her eyes during her field sobriety test. When she was taken to jail, the Hall failed to provide a sufficient breathalyzer sample three times because of the 5-foot-tall woman’s lung capacity before she failed the fourth test.

Her .09 observed blood-alcohol level was over the .07 threshold in Maryland, but the story notes that for a woman of her weight and size, the difference between .06 and .09 would have been one glass of wine in a four-hour period.

In addition to highlighting inequities and shortcomings in the American probation system, the story also addresses how discretionary sentencing can vary from judge to judge. Hall said she had to appear in court five times to explain why she was forced to move “around the corner” after her apartment was infested with mice. Initially the judge denied her request to move, and eventually Hall didn’t move anyway.

According to NHTSA, drivers with blood-alcohol levels between .08 and .10 are 11 times more likely to crash than drivers with no alcohol in their bodies.

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88 Comments on “Arrested for DUI, Woman’s Probation Becomes Nightmare...”


  • avatar
    gasser

    What an outrage. The American Criminal justice system is a disaster. It employs lots of attorneys and judges. It does not punish the guilty, letting overcrowding supplant the nature of the crime, when considering discharge. It does not protect the public. It does not seem to rehabilitate anyone. It does not seem to deter crime. It does serve to suck up huge amounts of tax money and employ lots of jailors. This story is the postcard of “cruel and unusual”. Aside from the automotive nature of this “crime”, I am surprised that TTAC published this article. Must be a slow auto news day.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      “I am surprised that TTAC published this article. Must be a slow auto news day.”

      Agreed. I thought the website name got changed to The Truth About Social Justice. I would take some GM/Cadillac/VW reliability bashing over this any day. While it is a tragic story and sad commentary on our justice system, it is not why I come here. Isn’t there a company doing away with a manual transmission we could berate?

      • 0 avatar

        As someone who is very interested in the intersection of policy and cars, where-ever it may lead, I found this story very interesting.

        But if you want a great story that has nothing to do with policy, I highly recommend Steve Lang’s The Repo Man and the Lexus (it’s still on TTAC’s first page as of 6pm). This is a wonderfully written, engaging story, with a lot of great photos and a video that feels like a Dixie version of Brigadoon (full of classic cars from the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s) that should be getting a lot more hits than the number of comments suggests.

        Going back to the NYT story, it sounds like the judge is incompetent.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          A bit about the judge:

          “The keynote speaker was Baltimore City District Court Judge Joan Bossmann Gordon, who herself was the victim of a drunken driver in the 1980s. (The elderly man who hit her registered a .29 blood–alcohol level at 4 in the afternoon.) Judge Gordon, who has also been a prosecutor, defense attorney, administrative law judge, assistant state’s attorney, and assistant attorney general, has vast courtroom experience with DWI cases. She reminded the new monitors of the potentially life-saving significance of their work.”

          http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/publicinfo/features/Drinking_Driver_Monitor_Program/feature.shtml

          Yeah, no potential for bias there.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            I see. It all makes sense now. In every DUI case that has no victim, she makes herself the victim. Objectivity beyond reproach. It’s sad she was allowed to hear cases involving DUI.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I have found many of the recent articles to be of no interest to me.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      There are plenty of guilty people in prison, and plenty of people doing their best to avoid ever having to go back. Yeah there are problems, lots of them, but that’s why issues like this need to be brought up, so that they can be addressed and made better.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      +1

      I have absolutely no idea how this relates to any content I at all want to consume, and this article and the subsequent confusion/annoyance with feeling the need to voice my dissatisfaction, will have resulted in this being the first and only thing I see on TTAC.com today.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Let me go get my popcorn.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I read the article this AM at The Times site. I think it’s less about judge discretion, and more about incompetence and a brutal system. The criminal justice system is a real meat grinder that often persecutes the innocent while allowing the worst people to get away with bloody murder. You throw in race, and it only gets worse. Jails are now often de facto mental institutions with perhaps half the population in need of serious psychiatric intervention. When a decent person gets trapped in this sorry world, it’s an especial nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I’ve often thought about the notions of racism & sexism in courts. (Interesting fact, there’s more inequality of sentencing for men compared to women than blacks compared to whites.) I’ve been forced to conclude there *is* racism, but I think I understand why it exists (or perhaps, why it persists).

      Crime in the US is heavily concentrated in zip codes with high population density, high unemployment, low education, and high poverty. It happens that those factors coincide with inner city black communities. Thus, crime is heavily concentrated in black communities–not that blacks are criminals, but they experience crime, know people affected by crime, have more interactions with people who commit crime, etc.

      Crime becomes a fact of life in these communities. Something like one third of all black men serve time in prison (not just a couple days in jail). For police and judges, they become so accustomed to seeing blacks move through the court system, they form racist associations.

      I don’t know how to fix the problem. There should be regular audits to compare sentencing to prevent disparities. I think more may need to be done to provide quality legal counsel to those who can’t afford it. Also, absolutely fundamental is solving the education, employment, and poverty of these communities.

  • avatar
    Dan

    “According to NHTSA, drivers with blood-alcohol levels between .08 and .10 are 11 times more likely to crash than drivers with no alcohol in their bodies.”

    The asterisk there is that “drivers” includes testosterone poisoned 18 year old men who are rarely further than an opportunity away from a street race even while sober. There are literally two different curves on the chart, one for young men and one for everyone else.

    http://tinyurl.com/o437lt9 (NHTSA study, PDF format.)

    A little deductive reasoning using the NHTSA’s own numbers would suggest that a woman over 35 with a blood alcohol level between .08 and .10, as seen being victimized by Carrie Nation here, is approximately as likely to get in a crash as a 16-20 year old man stone sober.

  • avatar
    beastpilot

    Dan,
    What pages and figures are you looking at?

    Figure 3 shows a 1.5X risk for a 16-20 year old male vs a 21-34 year old male, while a 35+ female is 0.75, with 0 BAC.

    Thus, with 0 BAC, the 35+ female has 1/2 the crash risk of a 16-20 year old.

    Then, in figure 2, a 35+ female only needs to get to 0.05 to basically double their crash risk, and is at about 5X by 0.080.

    So I see a 0.080 35+ female as about 2.5X as likely to crash as a sober 16 year old male. Pretty far off from “approximately as likely.”

  • avatar
    Dan

    My mistake, I did not distinguish crash types correctly.

    Similar likelyhood for a single vehicle fatal crash.

    2.5X likelyhood for any crash, as you stated.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Must be a paucity of stock photos for Tiny Black Woman Oppressed By Da Man!

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      RideHeight, I understand a post can seem clever when it’s typed and not so good after. I’ll understand and respect it if you acknowledge that joke wasn’t ultimately very respectful of others or very funny.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        What joke? Why is the photo of a guy but the story about a woman?

        I’ve been guilted at for 50 years. It’s gonna take some tighter production values to make a dent anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        How is it disrespectful? Is it the use of capital letters? Is it saying the woman is “tiny”?

        Why are people so quick to take offense?

  • avatar
    asapuntz

    IANAL, and this probably varies by state, but the brochures / booklets that are distributed by lawyers seem to emphasize the importance of refusing field sobriety tests and breathalyzers, in favor of a blood test (which cannot be legally declined). They also recommend that you get (pay for) your own blood test ASAP. Otherwise the courts will be basing decisions on tests that are subjective and/or biased against you.

    John Oliver recently did a segment on problems inherent with the bail aspect of most (US) state legal systems. Not really news, but along with our new-found interest in police abuse, it’s gained some visibility.

    DUI and other forms of impaired driving are very problematic, since driving cars puts people in charge of a lot of kinetic energy, so we need to find a way to maximize discouragement without ruining lives.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      In some states (like Ohio), that refusal gets you an automatic license suspension (“Administrative”); I believe the fees alone top $600 to get it back.

      Even if you are cleared of the DUI charge!

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    I have zero sympathy for anyone that even sips an alcoholic beverage or gets high, and then operates a vehicle immediately afterward. No sympathy whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar

      You and I feel the same.

      Drunk drivers put innocent lives at risk.

      F EM…

    • 0 avatar
      PeteRR

      Good to know.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “I have zero sympathy for anyone that even sips an alcoholic beverage or gets high, and then operates a vehicle immediately afterward.”

      Fair enough. I have zero sympathy for a judge and system that creates and perpetuates problems, injustice, and misery. I can’t overlook the 2nd wrong, because 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      That’s the dumbest comment ever, if that was so then half the country would fall under your ire. Just because you have a drink does not make you drunk or a drunk driver. I don’t drink and I wouldn’t make such a stupid comment. With regards to being high, since when does someone being high cause them to drive in a manner as to cause accidents? I also don’t do drugs, but I know a bazillion people that smoke weed over the years and have yet to see one cause an accident because of it. What is funny as someone who was a DD for many years and sat at the bars until well after closing time watching drunk people what I did notice that the people that most often drove drunk and I mean super drunk were cops and firefighters. For the most part if I knew someone and they were drunk and I offered to drive them, they would accept, I rarely had to twist someone’s arm so they would not drive drunk.

      You can also thank the politicians and lobbyists for auto companies in many places that fought and fight against proper public transportation, essentially forcing a lot of people to drive drunk that wouldn’t need to if they could take a bus or a train.

      • 0 avatar
        VCplayer

        Uh, where do you live that lacks busses/trains/taxis/Uber?

        I mean, maybe you’re in a small town/rural area, but that’s totally impractical for public transit infrastructure.

        Edit: More broadly, I think most people are against operating vehicles when impaired, the disagreement arises from the unfairly punitive treatment of some people, such as the poor woman in this article.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Yet someone having a glass of wine at a neighbors, then driving a quarter mile home, pose substantially less (statistical/pseudo so…) risk to his fellow man/woman, than someone stone sober who drives across country….

      “Drunk driving”, “texting”, “cell phone use”, “speeding” blah, blah, pose risk not because they in and of themselves cause damage, but because they may increase risk innocents get hurt. Particularly now, in an era of dirt cheap, pervasive video surveillance, the way to go about discouraging “dangerous driving”, rather than X (X being imaginary, progressive un-pc bogeyman) driving, is to have arresting officers bring evidence of the defendant driving dangerously in front of a jury. Then obtain a conviction. Not just evidence of the defendant having at some point engaged in something that just may be kinda-sorta, along some metric, statistically correlated with danger. When performed by someone else, someplace else, at a different time, under a different set of circumstances. Maybe.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I’m in favor of third offense DUI being a death penalty. I have ZERO sympathy for these people. Want to drive impaired and kill yourself on your own property? Fine go ahead. Putting innocent people’s lives in danger by doing it on public roads is another matter.

        I used to live in WI, which had extraordinarily lax DUI laws. People would still be driving with licences after 8 DUIs. It was utterly ridiculous.

        The first offense should be a steep fine ($500+) and points on the license. Second offense should be permanent suspension of license and 1-2 years in prison. Third offense is death.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Agreed. Same for a third lost paternity suit.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Driving around on public roads puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Driving faster in general increases that risk. As does driving further. And driving a bigger, heavier vehicle. And an older vehicle without ABS and stability control. And driving without proper winter tires in the winter. And driving dead drunk. And towing a big trailer behind ones pickup truck. And, more indirectly, ordering furniture that requires someone else to drive a relatively high-risk-to-others truck to deliver it…… Running around killing everyone that “puts innocent people’s lives at risk”, would leave few people left alive on the roads, save perhaps some homeless bicyclists. Penalties generally come across as less silly, if they focus on how realistically risky, rather than how currently un-PC, a specific activity is.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      You feel no sympathy because you imagine simplicity and clarity when dealing with ambiguous legal concepts like driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. You’re either giving yourself too much credit or you’re relying too heavily on the arbitrary limitations we use to determine “under the influence” and “intoxication”.

      Plus, these “crimes” rarely have a victim. All we know is that DUI deaths are too high, and we want to stop DUI related fatalities, even if we must crumple up the Bill of Rights from time to time. We already openly discriminate against people of majority age when it comes to consuming alcohol. After the consumption of alcohol, asking the legal system to observe the rights of the citizenry is a futile task. Is sad when the general public cheer them on.

      Maybe we can cheer on the justice system when it’s a murder trial with a mountain of circumstantial evidence, but encouraging them to bend the rules for routine traffic stops with no discernible victim? Get real.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        The Shoe Bomber had no victims, either.

        Racist, oppressive government! I demand Sheer Luck be cause for acquittal and compensation!

        Free Richard Reid!

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Even people who we dislike deserve justice.

          The police requirement to advise the arrested of their rights is called a “Miranda” warning, named after Ernesto Miranda. Go look him up — he was no model citizen, but it was the abuse of his rights that led to the protection of yours.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Yes, justice has gone awry here, but it all started with the simple fact that she was legally drunk. If she had blown a 0.05 there would be no story.

    Lesson #1: Don’t drink and drive.
    Lesson #2: Claiming you’re “not good with paperwork” works when you can’t find your coupons at Walmart, but it’s a lame excuse when you’re dealing with DUI charges.

    Side note: Her race seems to have nothing to do with the story. The original article didn’t mention it, so I don’t know why it’s mentioned here except to subtly suggest it was a factor. Please spare us.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree with you but I would point out “legally drunk” changed as the result of a highway bill blackmailing states to comply. I find the arguments against particularly compelling.

      “In October 2000, the President signed the Department of Transportation’s Appropriations Act for FY2001, which included the landmark provision that states must enact .08 BAC per se laws by 2004 or begin losing federal highway construction funds.

      Prior to the enactment of this bill, only nineteen states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had enacted .08 BAC (blood alcohol concentration) per se laws. As of May 2001, an additional six states had enacted .08 per se laws. Other states have attempted to pass .08 legislation but have been unsuccessful. With states now facing the potential loss of federal money, it is likely that many more states will consider enacting .08 laws in the coming years.”

      http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Traffic+Techs/current/A+Legislative+History+Of+.08+Per+Se+Laws

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I understand that the definition of ‘legally drunk’ is a politically moving target. Nevertheless, she was 29% over Maryland’s limit (0.09 vs 0.07), and definitely not at zero.

        The politics just aren’t relevant in her case.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Lack of uniformity in the laws and how/who gets treated is a recipe for disaster. Just wait until the pot cases begin. DWI was hard enough. Now you have to determine impairment knowing that fat soluble THC can be in your system even though you are 100% straight. And the cops get to do that…things are going to get ugly fast.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I have no problem with demonstrating impairment instead of chemical concentrations. If you fail the walking a straight line, touching your nose, etc., tests, I don’t really care what your BAC (or THC test) is. Similarly, if you demonstrate full sobriety/competence regardless of BAC–well, you probably wouldn’t have been pulled over–then it’s not such a cardinal sin.

      The legal BAC limit is a strange thing. One, I don’t know if anyone really knows what a ‘safe’ limit is or even if such a thing makes sense. Two, it’s a cop-out from measuring what actually matters, and it creates the unintended consequence of thinking other things, like drowsiness, don’t matter.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I wrote this a couple of weeks back for a different site. This seems to somewhat fit this story. We need to find out way back as a country and fast, because we’re getting close to a point of no return.

    ========================================================

    There is a narrative going on in America today. It is spun by some as an overly complex narrative but it really is quite simple.

    As a group, most police officers are good, honest, hardworking officials. They interface with people all day long who are having the worst days of their lives. Unpleasant people. They see the soft white underbelly of American society every day. They see “catch and release” of their frequent fliers who go through a revolving door. They see domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness, animal abuse, and the aftermath of unspeakable things that haunt their dreams at night. Some will see and experience things we can only imagine in our worst nightmares. They’re humans – and they can make mistakes.

    On the other hand, there is a small group of bad cops. Terrible cops. Police officers that have no business having authority over anything that cannot fight back. Bullies with a badge, nightstick, pepper spray, Taser, and a gun. They are itching to use all of the above.

    Officer saves cat in tree doesn’t make a headline.

    Officer shooting unarmed fleeing non-threat suspect in the back when they’re 50 feet away and running sure does.

    So the discussion goes the media hates the police because they only talk about bad things.

    The other part of the discussion is the police have been militarized and we have let it happen on our watch, and this militarization has caused an increase in confrontation.

    I wandered between the two, because I can see both sides of the argument. Police officers do amazing, good things every day. On the other hand, there are is a small percentage that dishonor the badge, every day. You know the old saying about one bad apple – it spoils the bunch.

    That was until a couple of weeks ago. On a sunny Sunday I experienced the soft white underbelly of the militarization of our police first hand.

    I don’t know my own country anymore.

    I was in Detroit, the nice part of Detroit, even if that seems like an oxymoron, in the downtown area, which is experiencing a bit of a revival. It was full of tourists, tour groups, and youth groups. The Joe Lewis Fist, RenCen, the Maritime Sailors Cathedral.

    Ahhh yes, the Maritime Sailors Cathedral.

    If you’re not familiar, Gordon Lightfoot made the church famous with his song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    In a musty old hall in Detroit they pray
    In the Maritime Sailors Cathedral
    The church bell chimed
    And it rang 29 times
    Once for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

    The Maritime Sailors Cathedral is next to RenCen and between the two is the road that leads to the Windsor tunnel and customs.

    I was on work assignment and I was shooting B-reel for a video. That included shots of RenCen, the flags in front of there (wish the wind was stronger) some changing traffic lights, the Maritime Sailors Cathedral, and a sign. Using a 300 MM lens from a public road, on a sidewalk, next to the Maritime Sailors Cathedral I took a picture of a sign. The sign says, “Tunnel To Canada.”

    As I set to take another shot of the area I see two Department of Homeland Security agents walking toward me.

    They are in full body armor and they have machine guns.

    I think nothing of this. Why should I? As people are so fond of saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong so why should I have something to hide.”

    As they approach I keep doing my photography, setting up my next shot – odd – but certainly this has zero to do with me. Then they stop. One takes up a tactical position to the right, and behind the first, and he is using “trigger discipline,” so when I say finger on the trigger, what I mean is his finger is resting outside of the trigger, but he could raise that M-16 and drop me before I could even turn my head.

    “What are you taking pictures of?”

    My initial response? My emotional response? I’m afraid. Very afraid.

    I explain some video of the area buildings and just finished taking a picture of the Canada sign for work.

    “Let’s see your pictures”

    Now, if you love America and you’re keeping score, my First Amendment rights are already being stomped on, now my Fourth Amendment is being completely ignored.

    Out of fear, I choose to comply.

    I show the innocuous short video clip of the Tunnel To Canada sign going from out of focus to in focus.

    Let’s see the other pictures.

    I pause for just a second, then decide to comply, because hey, “I have nothing to hide,” and having the company camera smashed to bits, a gun butt in my gut, and sitting in a small room being questioned by federal agents is not my idea of a good time.

    I show a few more pictures.

    “OK, that’s enough.”

    Don’t cross this point – and he points down the road. The second DHS officer removes his finger off the trigger and lowers his gun 20 degrees.

    I’m drained.

    I’m horrified.

    What the Hell just happened?

    If you’re thinking I’ve committed some horrible crime, this isn’t “my” picture, but this is darn close to the exact same picture I took. I took it standing at the corner of Jefferson Ave E. and Randolph – that is an important distinction because I was not down at the tollbooth or customs. If you’re not familiar with the area, if you wanted to take pictures of custom operations with bad intent, the correct answer is over on Bates Street.
    https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=windsor+tunnel+sign&…

    So look at that picture and let that sink in. Soak that up.

    That picture (again not my picture but darn close to the same framing of the short video I took), resulted in two body armor clad, machine gun totting homeland security officers, confronting me and violating my first and fourth amendment rights.

    I’d write my Congress critter and my Senators, but they won’t care. It’s to keep me safe. Safe from what I don’t know anymore.

    Who exactly is going to keep us safe from ourselves?

    We are far further down the path to a police state than I ever imagined. The whole thing left me feeling quite sad.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Who watches the Watchmen?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I don’t think I’m going all Godwin by saying, “Sieg Heil”.

      (Well, maybe a little bit Godwin…)

    • 0 avatar

      Horrifying, but unfortunately not surprising.

      The really bad actor in the NYT story, however, was the judge. She was the one responsible for the fact that the woman who had been pulled over faced $$$$ of court costs, lost her job, was jailed for more than a month, etc.

      Interesting about the Maritime Sailors Cathedral. I know the Lightfoot song, but I had no idea where the MSC was.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      The narrative about police work is a distraction. As long as we focus on the distraction, the problem will keep repeating itself. The administrators, legislature and judiciary are the problem. Their careers rely on good crime stats so they encourage malfeasance by law enforcement. After something goes wrong, they feign outrage.

      It’s the same song and dance we see from most public officials. They’d rather do unspeakable wrong, and then deny everything, than run the risk of losing an election or being relieved of public service duty.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    This is why, if I am going to be driving, I *never* drink alcoholic beverages (and, no, I don’t indulge in any other recreational substances). I simply don’t trust the testing procedure or that the enforcement process will be fair in all cases. It’s much easier to drink water or soft drinks and, so doing, minimize the risks of getting caught up in the system.

    The whole system of license suspensions is badly administered. Back when I was paying child support, the totally incompetent agency responsible decided that I was in arrears (I was not) and suspended my license. Using their own documentation (the record of payments from their computer system) to confront them, they simply refused to admit that they had made a mistake. I had to bring suit against them (and wait for the court date) before they admitted that they were in error. That took two months to fix. If that weren’t bad enough, they had the gall to send a “customer satisfaction survey”. The longer I have lived, the longer the advice from my dad (who lived in a Nazi-occupied country and had his own brush with the actual Gestapo) makes sense: don’t let them know who you are. As such, I try to behave, at all times, in a way that minimizes my contact with law enforcement.

    I want to emphasize, that I do not believe that there are more than a very small percentage of law enforcement officers who are arbitrary or vindictive. However, the potential damage from running into one of the bad ones is so great that the proper risk mitigation strategy is to treat every potential encounter with law enforcement very, very carefully, and avoidance is the most effective policy.

    • 0 avatar

      “This is why, if I am going to be driving, I *never* drink alcoholic beverages (and, no, I don’t indulge in any other recreational substances). I simply don’t trust the testing procedure or that the enforcement process will be fair in all cases. It’s much easier to drink water or soft drinks and, so doing, minimize the risks of getting caught up in the system.”

      This, so very much.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Condense her story into a 30 second PSA. Then hammer home the point that one sip over the line or fall down drunk, get caught and your life will suck.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This is what happens when you combine capricious judges with poorly prepared defendants and inadequate legal counsel. If judges dislike you and you can’t defend yourself, then you’re hosed.

    If she was an upper-middle class suburbanite, this almost certainly would not have happened.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “If she was an upper-middle class suburbanite, this almost certainly would not have happened.”

      Dats right! Unnh! White foaks got sh*t make da MICES move out, not da udder way round!

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “If she was an upper-middle class suburbanite, this almost certainly would not have happened.”

      Dats right! Unnh! White foaks got sh*t make da MICES move out, not da udder way round!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I for one agree with PCH101.

        There are three levels of justice in the United States, and it all depends on how much money and influence you have.

        Level 1: Public defender – you’re hosed. 80% of criminal cases end in plea deals and the public defender is dealing with dozens, if not hundreds of cases concurrently. The public defender is paid from the same system that pays the judges and the prosecutors. If you spend anytime around a courthouse, they frequently socialize together outside of work – wink wink. The prosecutor wants to look tough on crime, the judge wants to look effective, so they stack the charges and offer a deal. Take deal X and you pay a fine, go to jail for a while, and have probation. But if you don’t accept deal X we will charge you with Y (which is typically multiple charges well above the crime) and it will cost you tens of thousands to defend yourself and we will NAIL YOU TO THE WALL. So they plea out.

        The next level of justice is for the top 20% or 10%. Those that can afford a good lawyer, that had maybe a bit more common sense to keep their mouth shut. They may go broke defending themselves but worst case scenario unless it is a slam dunk case and/or horrific crime, house arrest, some probation, definitely a fine (because they have money to pay). The prosecutor will work with the attorney on a better plea deal package to keep it out of the court, but they want something so the stats show they are tough on crime. No it isn’t a hard and fast rule – if say you murder someone the difference between you and the person above is the person above rides the stainless steel needle into the sunset, you get 25 to life.

        Then thee is the third tier. This is for the elite, the political connected, celebrities. You know, folks like Hope Solo or Chris Brown as two examples. They might have the whole thing turn into a circus – but they aren’t doing any real time compared to group 1 and 2 below. If you’re rich, connected, famous, or a combination there of, unless they want to make an example of you (Martha Stewart, Richard Hatch) or you’re just completely stupid (Wesley Snipes) you’re walking.

        We have the best legal system that money can buy.

        You think these rules have to deal with race? Hey, if the glove don’t fit – you have to acquit!

        OJ is sitting in prison right now because he was incredibly stupid, it was all on video, and he no longer had Johnny Cochrane grade money to hire the best to defend him.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I argue OJ could have had top shelf defense for his last case and still do time simply because everyone now knows he was clearly guilty in 1995 and wants to seem him pay.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Notice how PCH was not making disctinctions between black upper-middle class suburbanites, and white upper-middle class suburbanites.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “If she was an upper-middle class suburbanite, this almost certainly would not have happened.”

      The system is getting financially richer from her travails. It’s possible the alternate person you propose could fare worse.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        That’s very naive. You need to get out of Republicanland and enter the realm of reality.

        The judge isn’t money-motivated. The judge is paid the same, regardless. This isn’t about money.

        This is about power and the desire that most judges have to have their authority respected in absolute terms. Judges tend to run fiefdoms in their courtrooms — if you get on their bad side, you’re hosed.

        Your keys to the fraternity are in having a lawyer who knows how each judge and prosecutor needs to be handled, and in conducting yourself properly in court. If you fail to have both of these, then you are more likely to take it in the shorts.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        She paid a couple of thousand dollars, most of which to a lawyer and a bondsman.

        She lost her job and didn’t pay a couple of thousand dollars in taxes.

        You and I paid a bunch of thousand dollars for a whole set of actors in courtroom theater followed by another couple thousand dollars to lock her up.

        I don’t feel any richer. Do you?

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      Depending on where you are, the public defender can sometimes be a better option than paying for a lawyer. Public defenders are often very experienced with the prosecutors and judges, and sometimes better paid than ADAs are. They may not be the best money can buy, but they are often a better choice than the sleazy guy from the billboard ad across from the court house. YMMV.

      In any case, always be VERY careful about pleading guilty. They can and will throw the book at you if you break ANY conditions of your plea deal. I know people that have had the book thrown at them after very minor violations of their parole.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Public defenders often have little experience, earn little money, and don’t have enough time to help their clients.

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          “Public defenders often have little experience, earn little money, and don’t have enough time to help their clients.”

          I agree, just saying that sometimes it’s better than a budget-attorney. It depends.

          I know a guy who got screwed over by a public defender on his case, ended up in prison for awhile. He lucked out that a real lawyer overheard one of his hearings and realized the guy arguing his case was a moron. She took over the case pro bono, and within a couple of weeks he was released from prison, found to have satisfied his parole on time served, and began the process of having his record expunged.

          I’m going to overpay someone if I get dragged into court, better safe than sorry.

          The Supreme Court recently expressed dissatisfaction about public defenders who negotiated inferior plea bargains on behalf of their clients, so hopefully we’ll see some improvement in this area in the next few years.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Exactly. Do not get cheap when it comes to your lawyers. We’re not talking plumbers here. Go to the most respected, winning’est lawyer in your area. Even if you’re assss broke, offer to make payments for the rest of you’re darn life or something. Divorce, criminal, civil, don’t matter. Don’t ask me why I know.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “We’re not talking plumbers here.”

            May your basement be in a flood zone.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    In my younger, dumber days I was arrested and wound up on probation. My PO emphasised from day 1 that EVERY form was to be filled out completely, every line that needs a signature gets signed, every meeting, court appearance, hour of community service, ect is to be documented,get a receipt for every penny of restitution and court cost paid. I did this, and more, and was let off probation free and clear.
    This story sounds like a person who didn’t follow those instructions who met a legal system with thousands of pages of rules and a judge obsessed with enforcing them. Yes, you can follow all of the rules and still get screwed. But the odds are greatly increased if, out of arrogance or ignorance, you don’t.

  • avatar

    DUI enforcement is a racket. It’s far more about revenue than traffic safety.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A high percentage of the time, yes, however there are some really dangerous drunks out there. .02+

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Drunks on the road are dangerous and need to be removed and appropriately punished (unless you’re related to someone well known in the county, that is). That being said, I agree with also with Ronnie. The revenue generation goes far, far beyond the immediate court fines and legal representation fees associated. The aim of governments is to place people in “the system” where lurk many folks with social work and psychology degrees, both within and without government, whose rice bowls must be filled by “the system”. I managed an alcohol treatment unit in the past for a period of time and worked with these diligent “system” folks. The object was always keep ’em in because, you know, they really are a problem and we’ve got to really, really ensure that they’re cured – and that takes a lot of time and money in “the system”. This is an appropriated topic for TTAC as it highlights another way governments find an appropriate need for vehicle regulation, find out how much more lucrative it can be by expanding the issue as far as possible, and lighten wallets of those of us on the streets and highways. By the way, in Ohio a person can be cited for DUI if they are on an MTD 38″ garden tractor in the middle of a privately-owned 100 acre field. This has happened as the law says “operating a motorized vehicle in the State of Ohio”.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I don’t know if it’s about revenue, as much as it’s about funding.

      Thanks to MADD, DWI gets all the attention, hence all the backing. It’s also the most prosecuted crime in the country.

      My problem with DWI is that it cares more about some number on a device than it does about how dangerous someone is on the road. A dangerous person below a magical number, will get off with a warning. A safe person with meeting a magical number can have their life ruined.

      The number of drunks on the road continues to decrease, so we have to set that magical number lower and lower to continue the funding. MADD is happy to help.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Connecticut just changed it’s DUI laws to require the installation of a breathalyzer on your car for the FIRST DUI offense. Failing a field sobriety test or refusing to take a breathalyzer results in an automatic license suspension, regardless of the outcome of the charges. To get back on the road, you need to pay $175 license reinstatement fee, $100 breathalyzer admin fee, then get a breathalyzer installed on your car – which costs about $200 to install and about $85/month to lease. So it’s a $1500 tab for your first offense, plus a license suspension. Oh, and if your car is leased, you need permission from the leasing company to get the system installed (they won’t), and if you don’t own a car, well I guess you’re just never going to drive again ever, because you can’t get your license reinstated without getting a breathalyzer installed in the car you will be driving. Can’t go buy a car to install it on, either, because you need to have a valid license to register a car in CT.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      That seems unnecessarily punitive for a first time offense without any aggravating factors, particularly since it includes an end-run around the 4th amendment. Supreme Court will probably strike that last part down eventually, but sure sucks for everyone in the meantime.

  • avatar

    One of the things that came out of the civil unrest in Ferguson, MO and the Eric Garner case in NYC was the fact that a lot of people who can afford it the least end up getting their lives disrupted by criminal charges over relatively petty infractions.

    The broken window theory of law enforcement only works if the laws make sense and the cops are honest.

    By the way, today, the executive branch of the federal government issued ~3,500 new regulations, many of which have criminal penalties if violated.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is what you get when electing judges and politicians who are “tough on crime”, have “zero tolerance”, are “vigilant”, and “keep our neighborhoods safe”.

    Naturally, their political opponents “let criminals off the hook”.

    Talk about a double standard.

    So when good cops get in trouble for doing their job, the rest decide to back off and let cities burn. No point in getting your face on CNN – or losing your job – for being TOO tough on crime.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2015/06/10/baltimore-cops-on-soaring-crime-rate-the-public-wanted-a-softer-police-force-and-now-theyve-got-it/

  • avatar
    stuki

    Using poor, and poorly connected and represented, people as punching bags to further their own career, is pretty much a given for insiders in totalitarian societies; but can’t we at least scrap the utter sham that is “probation.” Talk about arbitrary idiocy.

    A very nice side effect of reducing the sentencing question to hang or not hang, aside from saving taxpayers money, is that it sharpens minds a little. Is what this poor sap did, so bad that it really is worth hanging her for?

    No? Then why are we wasting time harassing her? Adjourned! Now go do something useful with your pathetic little lives.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Trump will fix this.

  • avatar
    brn

    There are two sides to every story and this article appears to have taken the claims of one side, without concern for the other side. As if that didn’t make me skeptical enough, I then read this:
    “because of the 5-foot-tall woman’s lung capacity before she failed the fourth test”

    In the WSJ article it’s a bit more direct in stating that she failed to blow hard enough into the machine three times. I cry bunk! Unless she has a well progressed case of Cystic Fibrosis, a five foot women has plenty of lung capacity to provide an accurate reading.

    What’s more likely, and very common, is that she purposefully blew poorly. I see it happen all the time. When they finally realize the cop isn’t going to fall for it, they finally blow hard enough.

    The system may be broke, but I’m not sure this lady should be our case study.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Actually, it makes for a fine case study.

      This is kind of thing that happens when the wrong people get miffed. Instead of dealing with the substance of the offense (no criminal record, no history of DUI, barely above the legal limit), they put her through the ringer and set her up for failure because they think that she has an attitude problem.

      She may or may not have a ‘tude, but that doesn’t make her offense any worse than it was. Essentially, they have taken what should be an impartial process and made it personal. There’s no excuse for that.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    “To Collect and Serve”

    This is a great example of a criminal system that is designed to fund the court, the police department and the correctional department. Instead of tax dollars, the system is paid for by those who are unlucky enough to be caught up in it.

    I live in Rochester Hills MI, we had our local police department disbanded in the last 10 years and replaced by Oakland County Sheriff Department. There is, for all intents and purposes, zero crime here. The city has now become a cash cow for Oakland County Sheriff department. Traps abound for motorists, courts enforce without any real evidence. That’s the way it goes.

    If ever you are faced with the decision to vote to disband your PD to save cash for your municipality….don’t. Be policed by your neighbors and fellow citizens. It is a far better way to live.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Relationship between citizen and government is paramount. Unfortunately, as soon as the morally indignant politically-correct death squads mobilize, relationship between citizen and government is the first casualty. Thanks, MADD.

    And to think, all of this needless suffering to prosecute a crime with no victim. Disturbing as hell.

  • avatar

    OK, we have 50 states, and 50 systems. In NY, you have “no non DWI” pleas as a rule. First offense, maybe a reduction to “ability impaired”, a 3 month suspension. Second offense is now a felony.

    You get a “conditional discharge” or Probation for most first offenses. The conditions include a drunk program, a MADD Victim Impact Panel. In NY now, a first DWI if not reduced to “impaired” requires an in car breathalyzer ($225 per month for a year).

    Oh, MADD writes all the NY DWI law….trust me on this.

    I read the NY Times article. I feel as a guy who is a private and in two courts, assigned counsel, that the indictment here is really the place she is. Clearly, the motorist didn’t play nice, and had the wrong attitude, but the fees, costs,etc are very location specific. NY charges fines (all in, about $2k) but you don’t pay for probation. Don’t blow ? 6 month administrative suspension by DMV.

    I have had defendants tell me they’d rather do 30 days than probation, usually drug offenders who know they cannot whiz clean or follow the rules.

    My pet peeve is the MADD Victim Impact Panel. Each defendant is sentenced to go to this 90 minute presentation, PAY A FEE to a private lobbying group ($75)….I’ve only had one Judge tell folks they have to go but not pay….

    Rich folks don’t get any better, trust me. At least in NY, a Kennedy was busted for DWI after nailing a truck…had a full jury trial and won on an ambien defense, but it wasn’t the system that cut her loose. 99% or 1% tend to get the same deal in my neck of the woods.

    If the article is true, that Baltimore is one effedup place….

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “the woman was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorney and court costs”

    This doesn’t sound right to me, upon first reaction. Public defenders are free.

    “Monthly probation costs for the woman were $385 a month alone.”

    Oh really? Hand me my wallet to my hand.

    “Initially the judge denied her request to move, and eventually Hall didn’t move anyway.”

    Huh? This article really needs some editing.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    This lady got several books thrown and her and I feel nothing. I’m certainly biased; I’ve lost a loved one to a drunk driver. Here’s the thing about DWI and why I feel zero sympathy: its 100% preventable. If you are going to drink, do not drive. It couldn’t be easier. If you can’t arrange a ride, guess what you don’t get to drink. People’s responses here are also a reflection of how deeply engrained alcohol use is our culture. Its almost as if a large portion of the US population is incapable of having an evening out with zero alcohol use. I know people like that, they can’t have a coke or a water, they “need” something alcoholic to drink. Get a designated driver, hire a taxi/uber or drink a coke. Can’t deal with that and you pay the consequences. Hopefully its just a pile of money you owe and maybe some jail time and it isn’t living with killing someones mother, father, son, daughter, wife or husband.


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