The DUI With No Driving - Part 1

 

 

DUI stands for driving under the influence. However, years ago Arizona, like many other states, changed its DUI laws to cover situations where the person was not actually driving. Instead, to be guilty of DUI, a person just needed to be "controlling" a vehicle. The classic example is the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road and the driver is passed out drunk. That is an obvious case of someone controlling a car without driving.

However, there are many situations, where it is not so obvious that a person is "actually controlling" a car. There has been a growing debate regarding as to what it means to be "controlling" a car in a DUI case. For example, people can legally use their car as a shelter after they have been drinking alcohol.  Someone who sleeps in their properly parked car after getting drunk is not "controlling" their car for purposes of Arizona DUI law. However, if they put the key in the ignition to turn on the air condition, does that action create a DUI? The Arizona Supreme Court Case recently attempted to end the debate in the case of State v. Zaragoza.

Zaragoza was convicted on an Aggravated DUI charge after he was found at an apartment complex:

•    Sitting in his car
•    The engine was off
•    His hand on the wheel, and
•    The keys in the ignition,
•    Alcohol in his system

Zaragoza claimed that he had no intention to drive, but only to sleep in his car. He claims the reason the keys were in the ignition was to roll down the window, and turn on the radio. 

He appealed his conviction based on the argument that the jury was provided inappropriate instructions regarding the law of actual physical control of vehicle.

The Arizona DUI statute does not define what “actual physical control” of a vehicle is, and there have been varying types of jury instructions on the meaning of this phrase through-out the courts. 

The Arizona Supreme Court took this case, and attempted to clarify the law’s definition. They stated that actual physical control has nothing to do with the intent of the driver to move or use the vehicle, but the actual and imminent danger to the him/her self or others at the time alleged to have control. This means that all facts must be looked at together in order to appropriately determine if there was an actual or imminent danger.

The Court also held that in this case, the instructions did not mislead the jury, but that they may have misstated the law. Because of the variations in instruction, and the result of Zaragoza's case, the Arizona Supreme Court decided to provide a new jury instruction for future cases.

The new instruction will be published in Part II of the blog post.

If you need assistance or additional information about an Arizona DUI case, please contact the Koplow Law Firm Online or by phone at (602) 494-3444.

Lawrence Koplow

 

How accurate is blood testing for alcohol?

The truth of the matter is we don’t really know. Most labs in the Phoenix Arizona area claim to be accurate within 5%. That means if your blood result came back at .08, then the true result can be anywhere from 5% lower or 5% higher.

Other scientific organizations claim 5% is not a realistic range of accuracy. For example, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences claims that the accepted range of accuracy is 10% higher or lower.

After interviewing toxicologists over 100 times, doing a substantial number of DUI trials with blood results at issue, I am convinced that the accuracy is totally dependent on the procedures used by the lab, and most labs overstate their accuracy.

To support my conclusion, I need to explain how blood testing with a gas chromatograph works. At its most basic level, gas chromatography simply compares known alcohol concentrations to unknown blood samples. A blood tester does not inherently know what a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is. You must calibrate it every time you do a test. You teach the machine what a .08 is by putting known alcohol concentrations into it, and essentially build a ruler.

Most labs in the Phoenix area put four known alcohol concentrations into the blood tester to build their ruler. These known concentrations are called calibrators. It is important to remember these calibrators are water based. That is, they are known alcohol concentrations in water. See the graphic below for an illustration.


As you can see in the example, there are four points on the ruler. The blood tester simply connects the dots on the ruler. If the four places on the ruler are accurate, then you should have a fairly accurate ruler. However, many labs make their own calibrators, and there is no way to know how accurate the ruler really is. There is no outside agency auditing their work. All we have is their word that they are accurate.

In addition, while it is a good first step to be able to build a ruler using water and alcohol, we are not testing alcohol in water in DUI cases. We are testing alcohol in blood. In science, we need to take into account what is known as the matrix effect. Simply put, water and blood are not the same substance. Water does not have red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, virus, and bacteria. In order to measure alcohol in blood, we need a blood-based ruler. However, law enforcement labs do not actually use a blood-based ruler. This is where the procedures of the lab really make a difference.

Labs will use a known concentration of alcohol in blood and compare it to their water-based ruler. This is known as a calibrator. This procedure may be acceptable if done enough times with an accurate blood based sample.

Here is the problem. There are very few companies that make the blood based alcohol concentrations, they are not accurate, and some labs use only one calibrator (not four like the water-based.) When the blood-based alcohol sample comes from the manufacturer, there is an insert. The insert tells you that the stated blood alcohol concentration is just a target value. It states that the known concentration it is really just a range. For example, I recently had a case with a blood-based control with a target value of .182. However, upon reviewing the insert that came with the sample, according to the manufacturer, .182 could be anywhere between a .166 and a .198. Thus, the ruler used is not as accurate as we would like it to be. That is a tremendous range when we are trying to determine someone’s true blood alcohol concentration. The picture below illustrates what the blood-based ruler looks like with only one this one known value.


As you can see, you can’t build a ruler with only one point on a line. Thus, with using only one known value, your ruler just is not very accurate – unlike the water-based ruler. The less accurate your ruler is, the less accurate your test result will be. Consequently, the true range of accuracy could be significantly greater than even 10%.
 

 

A Well Written Post on The Source Code Issue

I ran across an excellent post discussing the source code issue.  That is, the fight between criminal defense attorneys and the maker of the breath tester (CMI) to disclose the code used in their breath testers.  CMI will not allow an inspection of the code.  Consequently, it cannot be checked for accuracy.  CMI essentially tells everyone charged with DUI to "just trust us."

Ed Brayton, a journalist and the co-founder of Michigan Citizens for Science, discusses the source code litigation in Florida.

Here's a very interesting case from Florida, where an appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that threw out evidence from a breathalyzer test in a drunk driving case because the manufacturer of the device refused to release the source code and allow defense experts to analyze the accuracy of the machines.

The results of breath tests in more than 100 local drunken-driving cases will not be allowed at trial, a judge announced Tuesday.

The validity of those breathalyzer tests has been challenged for more than three years because of the Intoxilyzer 5000, a machine that uses a breath sample to measure a person's blood-alcohol content.

Manatee County Judge Doug Henderson ruled two years ago that any Intoxilyzer 5000 tests were inadmissible in trial, but prosecutors appealed. On Tuesday, Henderson told lawyers that his ruling had been affirmed by the Second District Court of Appeal and Circuit Court.

Breath analysis machines are notoriously inaccurate and this has been a problem for a very long time. Dr. David Hanson, a sociologist who has written on this issue for decades, writes:

Breath analyzers (Breathalyzer, Intoxilyzer, Alcosensor, Alcoscan and BAC Datamaster are common brand names) don't actually test blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which requires the analysis of a blood sample. Instead, they estimate BAC indirectly. Different types of machine use different techniqes and larger machines generally yield better estimates than do hand-held models. Therefore, some states don't permit data or "readings" from hand-held machines to be presented as evidence in court. South Dakota does not even permit evidence from any type or size breath tester but relies entirely on blood tests to ensure accuracy and protect the innocent.

A major problem with some machines is that they not only identify the ethyl alcohol (or ethanol) found in alcohol beverages, but also other substances similar in molecular structure. Those machines identify any compound containing the methyl group structure. Over one hundred compounds can be found in the human breath at any one time and 70 to 80 percent of them contain methyl group structure and will be incorrectly detected as ethyl alcohol. Important is the fact that the more different ethyl group substances the machine detects, the higher will be the false BAC estimate.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that dieters and diabetics can have acetone levels hundreds and even thousand of times higher than that in others. Acetone is one of the many substances that can be falsely identified as ethyl alcohol by some breath machines.

One investigator has reported that alcohol-free subjects can generate BAC readings of about .05 after eating various types of bread products.

Substances in the environment can also lead to false BAC readings. For example, an alcohol-free subject was asked to apply a pint of contact cement to a piece of plywood and then to apply a gallon of oil-base paint to a wall. The total activity lasted about an hour. Twenty minutes later the subject was tested on an Intoxilyzer, which registered a BAC of .12 percent. This level is 50% higher than a BAC of .08, which constitutes legal intoxication in many states.

Similarly, a painter with a protective mask spray painted a room for 20 minutes. Although a blood test showed no alcohol, an Intoxilyzer falsely reported his BAC as .075.

Any number of other products found in the environment can cause erroneous BAC results. These include compounds found in lacquers, paint removers, celluloid, gasoline, and cleaning fluids.

Other common things that can cause false BAC levels are alcohol, blood or vomit in the subject's mouth, electrical interference from cell phones and police radios, tobacco smoke, dirt, and moisture.

Breath testers can be very sensitive to temperature and will give false reasings if not adjusted or recalibrated to account for ambient or surrounding air temperatures. The temperature of the subject is also very important. Each one degree of body temperature above normal will cause a substantial elevation (about 8%) in apparent BAC.

Many breath testing machines asume a 2,100-to-1 ratio in converting alcohol in the breath to estimates of alcohol in the blood. However, this ratio varies from 1,900 to 2,400 among people and also within a person over time. This variation will lead to false BAC readings.

Physical activity and hyperventilation can lower apparent BAC levels. One study found that the BAC readings of subjects decreased 11 to 14% after running up one flight of stairs and 22-25% after doing so twice. Another study found a 15% decrease in BAC readings after vigorous exercise or hyperventilaion.

Some breath analysis machinnes assume a hematocrit (cell volume of blood) of 47%. However, hematocrit values range from 42 to 52% in men and from 37 to 47% in women. A person with a lower hematocrit will have a falsely high BAC reading.

It's about time a judge took a stand on this issue.

Please Think About This Before You Drink And Drive This Holiday Season

There is significantly more drinking and driving during the holidays.  It happens every year, in every place.  I have plenty of business.  However, I don't want you to become a customer. Trust me, you have better things to do than hang out with me in a courtroom for the next three or four months.  Thus, I am going to republish a post that I have previously written.  The post is titled: "3 Things I Wish People Knew Before Drinking & Driving."

Before you read the post, please watch this video.  The story is more persuasive than anything I could ever write.

 

 

This post was originally published on 07/31/08:

It's 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon in Phoenix, and Joe just walked through the door of his favorite restaurant to meet some friends for happy hour.  He drove himself to the restaurant.  When he is done, he is going to drive to his house in Scottsdale.

At the table, Joe sees everyone has one of the restaurant's signature margaritas in front of them.  The waiter comes to the table and asks Joe: "can I get you something to drink?"  Before Joe answers this question, I wish he would consider the following facts:

  1. There is no crime of Drunk Driving in Arizona.  Arizona law makes it illegal to drive while Joe is impaired to at least the slightest degree by alcohol.  This means that if Joe's ability to drive is impaired to any degree, Joe is technically in violation of the law;
  2. If Joe is stopped by the police, they will stick a needle in Joe's arm.  Regardless of the law on this subject, it has been my experience that if Joe is stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation, and the officer smells any alcohol, Joe is going to end up taking a chemical test.  Many police agencies are now using blood testing instead of breath testing.  If the officer smells alcohol on Joe's breath (or just imagines it), Joe is going to have a needle stuck in his arm and a blood sample will be taken.  The results of the blood test will probably take at least 30 days to come back.  While Joe is waiting to find out the results of the blood test, he will not sleep very much or very well;
  3. If Joe refuses the blood test, the officer will get a warrant and forcibly take his blood.  Once the officer meets the requirements of Arizona's implied consent law, he may require Joe to submit to a chemical test.  If Joe says "no," he will then lose his driver's license for 12 months.  Moreover, the officer will then make a phone call to the judge.  Within minutes, the judge can then issue a telephonic warrant.  If Joe still refuses, he will be held down by several police officers, and a needle will be shoved into his vein. 

Now if Joe knew these three things when the waiter asked him: "can I get you something to drink" - how might Joe answer?  I think the average Joe would say: "Yes...Diet Coke."

Please consider the above before you drink and drive.  Moreover, if you know someone who needs to become aware of these "3 Things" please use the "email this post" button at the bottom and send it to them.  This is a subtle way of possibly preventing a life changing tragedy. Thanks!

This Video Demonstrates True Field Sobriety Testing

In case you ever wondered what happens on the side of the road when a person is stopped for DUI, here is a video showing exactly what goes on.  Enjoy:

 


DUI Stop from konu on Vimeo.

Wonder Bread Does it Again!

It turns out my previous post showing Wonder Bread causing a false blood alcohol concentration reading was not an isolated incident.  The same forensic toxicologist and drug recognition expert did another Wonder Bread experiment.  Here it is:

 

Can Bread Cause the Intoxilyzer to Give a False Reading?

As demonstrated below, it appears that Wonder Bread is like Kryptonite to the Intoxilyzer 8000. While I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the test that occurred in this video, I have very little reason to doubt its veracity.  Especially since the manufacture of the Intoxilyzer 8000 (CMI) will not allow anyone (including the government) to inspect the source code used in this contraption.  Enjoy:

 

 

Follow Arizona DUI Law Updates on our Twitter Feed

You can keep track of all the news about the Arizona DUI laws by watching our Twitter Feed

The Cutting Edge of Arizona Criminal Law

To find out everything going on regarding Arizona criminal law check out our newest project:

www.arizonacriminaldefenseblog.com/

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Arizona DUI Penalties

1.  If I am convicted of an Arizona DUI, do I have to go to jail?

The only way to avoid going to jail is to avoid a DUI conviction.  However, if you are convicted, Arizona DUI law requires a mandatory term of jail.  The amount of jail will depend on several factors.  To start, the results of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test will generally control the amount of mandatory jail required.  Here are the mandatory minimum terms of jail based on a person's BAC: 

  • BAC under .150 - 1 day
  • BAC of .150 and below .200 (new laws) - 30 days
  • BAC of .200 and above - 45 days

These jail terms apply to first time DUI convictions.  Second time DUI convictions have much longer mandatory minimums. 

2.  Will I lose my driver's license if I am convicted of a DUI in Arizona?

A person's driver's license will be suspended if the results of a chemical test are above .08.  This suspension is actually through the Motor Vehicle Division - not the courts.  Thus, the suspension often occurs prior to a court conviction. 

To illustrate, take the example of a person who is arrested for DUI and performs a breath test.  Suppose the breath test results are .100 and .101.  Because the test results are above a .08, the officer will give that person a form called an admin per se / implied consent affidavit.  The affidavit will state that the person's driver's license will be suspended in 15 days.  The term of suspension is 90 days.  However, after the first 30 days the person may be eligible for a restricted driving permit.  Thus, a conviction is not even necessary for the suspension to take effect.

3.  What is the penalty if I refuse to take a breath or a blood test?

Arizona law requires that a person submit to a chemical test.  If a person refuses the test, then a 1 year driver's license suspension is triggered.  However, the person may be eligible for a special restricted driver's license after the first 90 days.  If a person is considering refusing a chemical test, they should attempt to contact an attorney to assist with this decision.

4.  Are there any other penalties to my driver's license in addition to suspension?

Yes.  After September 2007, all Arizona DUI convictions require a person to install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle.  This device takes a sample of a person's breath and measures if there is any alcohol in their system.  If alcohol is found to be present in the person's system, then the vehicle will not start.

5.  If I am convicted of a DUI, will I have to go to substance abuse treatment?

A conviction for DUI requires that a person go to a drug and alcohol screening.  Based on the results of the screening the person will be required to attend substance abuse education and possibly treatment. 

Thank You for Clicking on My Twitter Page

If you were wondering who is this person that is writing about Arizona DUI and criminal law, then you can read more about my practice on the About page and the Arizona DUI Attorney Services Page.

You are now on my DUI Blog.  Here you will find in depth discussions on Arizona DUI law.  Some of the topics include:

My firm also publishes an Arizona Criminal Defense Blog.

Thank you for reading our blogs and if you have any question please contact me.