The Atlanta DUI News Blog

October 2010 Archives

Yet another college football player has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. This time it's not a University of Georgia player but Oklahoma State University wide receiver Justin Blackmon, USA Today reported.

He's not just any player, though. Justin Blackmon currently leads the nation with 1,112 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

He was pulled over for speeding after attending last Monday's Dallas Cowboys game against the New York Giants. Police said he was going 92 mph and determined that he had been drinking at the game. The 20-year-old was released from jail after posting a $375 bond.

North Carolina motorist Charles Stokes, 55, was under the influence of serious narcotics when he triggered an Interstate 85 crash that resulted in three injuries, according to a recently released arrest warrant cited by the Gwinnett Daily Post. He was held at the Gwinnett County Jail for nearly two weeks until his release on $7,200 bond.

Specifically, police said he was high on heroin, cocaine and prescription benzodiazepines on the morning of June 8 when his 1993 Nissan 300ZX rear-ended another car near Ga. Highway 20.

A 46-year-old Chatham, Ontario man was diagnosed with a brain tumor after a traffic stop on suspicion of a DUI led police to take the unidentified man to the hospital, the Toronto Sun reported. Const. (officer) Michael Pearce said he was stopped because an officer witnessed what appeared to be impaired driving.

The vehicle also matched descriptions of a suspected drunk driving complaint by another motorist earlier in the day. But police determined that he had not been drinking after administering a field sobriety test.

Everyone knows that there are legal repercussions to being caught driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; but a DUI can also make you unemployed, especially if you drive for a living. Virginia-based tractor-trailer driver Michael Ray Derossett found out the hard way, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Michael Derossett was fired by his employer earlier this month after dash-cam footage of him clipping the side of a Coweta County deputy sheriff's car became public. He also struck the car belonging to a motorist who had been stopped for speeding.

No one was seriously injured but he fled the scene and was later found with several prescription drug bottles in his cab; officers said he appeared to be impaired.

Alcohol is alcohol, whether it's found in beer, wine or grain alcohol; all that really matters is the concentration. But police and other authorities are warning consumers that "Four Loko" and similar alcohol-spiked energy drinks are especially dangerous, according to the Atlanta Examiner.

Four Loko and other such drinks, which typically come in brightly colored 12.5-ounce cans, contain 12 percent alcohol. But the sweet drinks can be consumed quickly and the effect of the alcohol may be masked by the added caffeine and other energy-giving components, critics say.

Alpharetta City Attorney Sam Thomas emphatically told City County members earlier this month that sobriety checkpoints in the city are absolutely legal, according to the Alpharetta Review & News. Alpharetta City Council held a hearing on Oct. 18 after the city received numerous complaints about the checkpoints.

Both the Georgia Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court back the legality of sobriety checkpoints, he said, so long as certain standards are met. For example, such checkpoints must be clearly marked and only properly trained personnel may conduct any sobriety tests.

Cigarettes have had warning labels for decades, mostly to warn smokers about the dangers of the habit. But while liquor and beer labels in the U.S. carry mild warnings against drinking while pregnant or drinking and driving, Calgary MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Moe Amery wants to step it up a notch up north, according to the Toronto Sun. 

He plans to bring a motion to the legislature calling for government-mandated warning labels on alcohol pointing out the potential dangers of imbibing. Moe Amery said MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) asked him to sponsor the motion:

"The idea behind it is to label alcohol like we label tobacco and cigarette packages -- labels similar to cigarette packages warning people about problems alcohol or excessive alcohol will cause."

The trial of former New York Yankees baseball player Jim Leyritz began in a Florida court yesterday, according to CNN; he's facing charges of DUI manslaughter. Authorities said he caused a crash while under the influence of alcohol that killed 30-year-old Fredia Veitch on Dec. 28, 2007.

One of the points that will be argued at trial is whether Jim Leyritz had a yellow or red light as he entered the intersection and rammed into the driver's side of Fredia Veitch's car, causing her to be fatally thrown from the vehicle.

Although his defense attorney claims his client was not impaired at the time of the crash, a blood draw following the incident indicates he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.14 percent.

The Atlanta Police Department's (APD) use of sobriety checkpoints has come under considerable fire but freshman Police Chief George Turner insists he and his officers are within the law, according to National Public Radio affiliate WABE. Sobriety checkpoints employ roadblocks to randomly check motorists to make sure they're not impaired.

Charlie Stadtlander, who ran into a checkpoint after leaving Piedmont Park this past summer, explains how he encountered "tons and tons of police cars" resembling a "military blockade." The officer asked him for ID and said they were conducting a safety check when he asked.

That was one of eight such checkpoints conducted by the APD at that same intersection since May 14. In fact, the APD said it has organized more than 5,000 checkpoints across Atlanta this year.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution education columnist Maureen Downey, citing a new Centers for Disease Control study, said she believes teenagers drink because grown-ups "have glamorized drinking" and made it an integral part of pastimes and rituals. She believes it's a classic example of kids doing as we do and not as we say.

The CDC found that one in four U.S. high school students binge drinks and 60 percent of high school students who drink, binge drink, according to a press release. The level of binge drinking has not declined in the past 15 years, according to the study.

Drugged Driving In Georgia: A Primer

While it's a crime to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, drugged driving is tricky to discern because of difficulties to measure the amount of drugs in one's bloodstream. But Georgia has what is known as a "per se" law, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), meaning it's illegal to operate a vehicle if there is any detectable level of an illegal drug in the driver's system.

The active constituent in marijuana, THC, often stays in the bloodstream for up to a month or so even though it may not cause impairment after a few hours. Meanwhile, harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine are flushed out within days.

Allyson Lumpkin was chosen out of more than 100 applicants to join the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Distracted Driving Leadership Team, according to the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight. She is one of only 20 US teens to serve on the team, which is working toward ways to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

Allyson Lumpkin and the other 19 participants (including fellow Georgia residents Jennifer Ross and Zachery Allen) attended the recent National Distracted Driving Summit hosted by the US Dept. of Transportation (PDF).

Understanding Georgia DUI Laws

Everyone knows that driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a criminal offense, while most people know that the legal limit for intoxication is a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. But learning the specific laws surrounding DUI in Georgia can make the process much less confusing for those charged with the crime.

The web site for the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety provides a rundown of the pertinent state laws that often come into play when someone is charged with DUI.

It was bound to happen sooner later, and may have happened more times than we can possibly know, but a pair of Texas women were arrested for allegedly having their children blow into a car-mounted ignition interlock device (IID) because they were too drunk, according to ABC Rio Grande Valley affiliate KRGV.

The two South Padre Island women, 28-year-old Jessica Rosales and 31-year-old Linda Rosales were charged with child endangerment. Police said a 2-week-old baby, a 4-year-old, a 5-year-old and two 10-year-olds were in the car as one of the two women allegedly drove the car under the influence.

One of the children was asked to blow into the device in order to get the car started, according to police.

How are ordinary citizens expected to obey Georgia's DUI laws when police officers arrested for drunk driving aren't held to a higher standard? That may be changing soon, according to a Savannah Morning News article about Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Willie Lovett's efforts to toughen punishments of cops busted for DUIs.

Four Savannah-area police officers have been arrested on charges of driving under the influence in the past year or so, the latest coming in July. John E. Smith was arrested on the morning of July 9 after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. He failed a field sobriety test and registered a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent, according to the arrest report.

According to reporters, that was the final straw.

Authorities say the number of DUI cases involving the illegal use of prescription drugs has been rising steadily, according to USA Today. But successfully prosecuting and convicting offenders for driving under the influence of prescription drugs is especially challenging.

Even legally prescribed drugs can cause impairment, which also can result in DUI charges; but the difficulty lies in first determining that the driver is in fact impaired and then quantifying the amount of the drug allegedly causing impairment.

John Ross Branch, a firefighter with the Rockmart Fire Dept. and an emergency medical service worker with Redmond Regional Medical Center, will be allowed to keep his positions, according to the Cedartown Standard. In addition to his regular job as an emergency worker, he volunteers at Station 1 as a part-time firefighter.

John Branch was arrested on Sept. 29 on DUI and improper lane change charges. Police claim his blood-alcohol concentration exceeded the legal limit, based on a blood test analyzed by the Georgia Crime Lab. The incident actually happened on Aug. 29 (he was not on duty at the time) but he wasn't arrested until after the blood test results.

John David Hickman, a 38-year-old Carrollton man, was indicted on charges of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence after he allegedly struck and killed a 16-year-old pedestrian, the Times-Georgian reported. The victim, Lawrence Ray Harrison, was a resident of Villa Rica.

Lawrence Harrison and Thomas David Smallwood, also a teenager, were walking along Holly Drive when the 2002 Dodge Caravan driven by John Hickman allegedly struck the boys. While Thomas Smallwood was treated and released for minor injuries, Lawrence Harrison was taken to the Atlanta Medical Center by helicopter and died the next day.

Former professional baseball player Matt Keough, who pitched for the Oakland A's and staged a brief but unsuccessful comeback attempt with the Los Angeles (then California) Angels, was sentenced to one year in jail for a DUI on August 15, 2009, the Contra Costa Times reported. 

A breathalyzer test determined that Matt Keough, who was married to a castmember of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 percent, nearly four times the legal limit. He was not involved in a collision but his sentence was stiff because it was his second DUI conviction.

The Georgia State Patrol charged West Virginia truck driver Michael Ray Derossett with driving under the influence of drugs after he sideswiped a Coweta County deputy's patrol car with his 18-wheeler, according to the Newnan Times-Herald. Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Bugg said he had pulled over a Saturn car for a minor traffic violation and approached the vehicle on the passenger's side when the 18-wheeler crashed into both the Saturn and the deputy's car. The two cars were damaged and Jeff Bugg was thrown to the shoulder of the road.

As we've become a much more gadget-toting society, even while we drive, concerns over the dangers of distracted driving have reached a fever pitch. But while a growing number of traffic fatalities can be blamed on texting or talking while driving, two separate reports cited by AOL Autos claim that cell phone and texting bans have done very little to make us safer.

A report released on Sept. 28 by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) concluded that texting while driving bans have not reduced the number of crashes. In fact, the HLDI report found that collision insurance claims actually increased in states where such bans were recently enacted.

A study conducted by AAA of Southern California made similar conclusions.

The Duluth City Council hopes a new ordinance easing the city's open container ordinance will help revitalize its historic downtown district, WSBTV News reported. The "Great Recession" is perhaps the main catalyst for the change in law, which would provide limited dates and locations where residents could stroll outside with an open container of alcohol.

If approved, residents would be able to stroll through roped-off downtown streets during roughly a dozen city-approved events while sipping a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Vince Neil, lead singer of hard-rock band Motley Crue, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI and speeding charges in Las Vegas earlier this week, the New York Post reported. He was arrested after police stopped him for driving his Lamborghini 60 mph in a 45 mph zone.

This wouldn't be the first time Vince Neil was arrested after partying like, well, a rock star. He pleaded guilty to DUI and manslaughter charges after the death of friend and passenger Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley in 1984, back when Motley Crue was widely popular, according to People.

Former University of Georgia football player Demetre Baker, who was arrested for a DUI on Sept. 25, will try his luck with South Alabama, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The freshman said he is transferring to the University of South Alabama in January, after UGA coach Mark Richt kicked him off the team.

Mark Richt announced his "no tolerance" policy for the off-field shenanigans of his players just a few days before Demetre Baker's DUI arrest. His former teammate, tailback Caleb King, also tested his coach's policy when he was arrested and jailed on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid speeding ticket.

It may be a stretch to say that Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charles Bannister's arrest for DUI this past summer ultimately led to his recent resignation, which was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After all, his blood-alcohol concentration clocked in at a stone-cold sober 0.00 percent and he eventually was exonerated.

But it's worth mentioning that Charles Bannister failed three field sobriety tests after a Gwinnett deputy sheriff stopped him for an improper turn, according to a June 30 AJC article. His Georgia DUI attorney, though, was able to help his client avoid a conviction.

California may be a few thousand miles away, but its laws often set the pace for the rest of the country. That said, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill earlier this week that significantly strengthens the sentences of repeat DUI offenders, Sacramento's KCRA reported.

Specifically, the law will allow judges to suspend the driver's license of anyone convicted of three or more DUIs in 10 years for up to 10 years. Currently, a judge can pull a license for only three years under those circumstances.

Texas lawmakers are considering the addition of new category of impaired driving informally known as buzzed driving for those who are slightly below the DUI limit of 0.08 percent, according to the Austin American-Statesman. So far it's still being debated in the state Senate, but the offense of "driving while ability impaired" (DWAI) would impose a Class B misdemeanor penalty on drivers with a blood-alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.07 percent.

Those convicted of a first-offense DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), face up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, plus some license restrictions.

Cobb County woman Lucretia Phillips recently returned to the intersection where her husband was killed by a drunk driver two years ago. The driver was never caught but that doesn't stop the still-grieving widow from searching for answers, according to a profile story on the Web site of Atlanta's NBC affiliate:

"I wouldn't want this to happen to anybody's family. The pain and suffering that we're going through and that he had to deal with was horrible."

It would have been easier for Lucretia Phillips to move on after losing her husband had the perpetrator been arrested and charged. But he fled the scene, not willing to take his chances in court with a Georgia DUI lawyer.

Granted, Delaware is a long way away from Georgia and its DUI laws are probably a little different as well. But the DUI arrest of Siobhan G. Sullivan, a former state trooper who heads Delaware's Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, is making national headlines.

The Delaware News Journal reported that 46-year-old Siobhan Sullivan was stopped for speeding (while driving a state-owned car) at about 2:30 a.m. late last week. Her blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was not reported and it's unclear whether or not she consented to a breathalyzer test or blood draw.

Barney Bernard Phelps, who recently drove his 1998 Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck into a Clayton County home, didn't do a very good job of covering up his tracks, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article.  

Not only did the 48-year-old leave his mobile phone in the pile of rubble left by the crash, but it contained a photo of himself. Citizens who recognized Barney Phelps identified him to police, who apprehended him soon thereafter.

Officer Otis Willis with the Clayton County police said he told him, "I did wrong," when he was stopped and arrested.

Paulding County emergency employee Callie Hulsie was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after having been injured in a crash in August, according to the Rockmart Journal. The 27-year-old was a Redmond EMS employee when the wreck occurred.

Very few details of the incident leading up to her arrest were made available by the Paulding County Sheriff's Dept. other than the fact that Callie Hulsie was arrested on Sept. 25 for DUI and a tag light requirement.

In addition to Callie Hulsie, 22-year-old Christina McAdams and 26-year-old John Ross Branch were also injured in the one-vehicle crash at about 1:19 a.m. on Aug. 29. The three were heading west on Antioch Road in John Branch's Ford pickup truck, attempting to navigate a curve, when the car skidded off the shoulder.

The simple answer is that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Atlanta is 0.08 percent, but you already knew that. So what does it take to get to the limit and risk being arrested for driving under the influence? That's a much more difficult question to answer and it depends on a number of factors.

Insurance information Web site Insure.com cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's formula for calculating BAC, which takes into consideration the person's body weight, number of drinks, rate of consumption and gender.

Most motorists have probably heard about ways to evade detection by a breathalyzer test, such as placing a penny in your mouth, consuming something minty (like gum or an Altoid) or blowing gently on the tube. Some people may have gotten lucky and swear by their method, but do any of these tricks work?

Blood tests are generally considered the most reliable but breath tests are more common because they are easier to operate in the field, according to LawBrain. And they're quite accurate.

But can they be fooled?

Those who have been arrested for a DUI in Georgia but not convicted, or those who are able to prove their records are inaccurate, may pursue the expungement of such records, as explained by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). 

Expungement is the process whereby arrest records that don't end in a conviction are "erased in the eyes of the law," and hidden from the prying eyes of prospective employers or other interested parties, FindLaw explains. The records are not actually erased and can be accessed within the court, just not by outside parties.

No, that's not a typo. North Carolina (along with several other states) refer to a drunk driving charge as "driving while intoxicated" or DWI, instead of "driving under the influence" or DUI. 

This makes it the second time in less than three years that Carolina Panthers wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett has been arrested on an impaired driving charge, the Associated Press reported. He was released on $2,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court this afternoon.

Damon Evans, the former University of Georgia athletic director (AD) who resigned in disgrace on July 4 after being stopped on suspicion of a DUI while clutching his mistress' red panties, was granted a postponement of his trial, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. His trial now begins on Dec. 7 at 3 p.m.

Judge Calvin S. Graves consulted with Damon Evans' Georgia DUI attorney and prosecutor Raines Carter before making his decision about the court date. The prosecutor told the judge he needed more time to build his case against Damon Evans.

Modern technology has given us affordable devices that can give an approximate blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) reading, many of them small enough to fit on a key chain. But a growing chorus of police officers and lawyers, perhaps even some prominent Atlanta DUI attorneys, say the new devices may provide a false sense of security, as reported by WISTV in Columbia, South Carolina. 

In theory, at least, they seem to provide an early-warning system for bar-goers who also are driving. Some keychain models cost as little as $14.99 and others, including a popular model by Sharper Image, go for as much as a few hundred dollars. Many of them claim to show a yellow light for a BAC of less than 0.05 percent and a red light if you're over the limit. 

Most police officers who regularly make DUI-related traffic stops would probably say there's nothing they haven't already heard from motorists desperate to get off with a warning. But a misguided, if sweet, bribe from a 65-year-old Florida driver certainly gets points for originality.

An unnamed motorist called Marion County Sheriff's Deputy Calvin Batts about a Cadillac SUV that nearly caused a head-on collision, according to the Ocala Star-Banner. He followed the SUV, which was driven by Elsie Wright O'Conner, which he said was traveling erratically.

Actress Lindsay Lohan has been the butt of jokes in the past few years due to her well-publicized (over-publicized?) substance abuse and legal troubles. She has undergone rehab at a handful of clinics and now is seeking treatment at the infamous Betty Ford Center near Palm Springs, according to People. 

Perhaps it's fair to say that Lindsay Lohan's ongoing struggles are her own doing; but in this age of reality television and celebrity gossip, it's easy to forget that she's a human being. And like countless others who have sought treatment for substance abuse, it doesn't always work the first go around.

An investigative series by MSNBC suggests that while a sleepy motorist is just as dangerous as a drunk driver, U.S. transportation guidelines addressing the dangers of drowsy driving have failed to be adequately adopted. 

Reporters based their conclusions on what they believe is a disconnect between scientific research into sleep-deprived driving and the apparent apathy toward safety recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Miami New Times' Bike Blog wrote about Tampa Bay, Florida businessman Doug Vitello's plan to market an electric scooter to motorists who have lost their driver's license after a DUI conviction. He calls the low-speed vehicle, manufactured in China by X-Treme Scooters and street legal without a license, the "DUI Scooter."

Not surprisingly, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is already mobilizing to stop the DUI Scooter in its tracks, according to an article by ABC's Tampa affiliate. 

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed Senate Bill 360 into law earlier this year, banning the dangerous practice of texting while driving. But according a Douglas County Sentinel article, only a handful of citations have been issued since it went into affect July 1

The Caleb Sorohan Act was named after an 18-year-old Rutledge man who was killed last December when he crashed into another car while texting. While it was officially enacted on July 1, most police officers waited until August 1 to enforce the law.