WY Supreme Court Ruling Could Change DUI Procedures

The Wyoming Supreme Court recently issued a ruling overturning a felony DUI conviction, stating the evidence used in the trial had been unconstitutionally obtained. Samuel Snell was charged and convicted of a felony DUI after crashing his truck in July 2012.  He had previously been convicted of three DUIs, so the 2012 charge was charged as a felony under state law. What would have been a fairly typical felony DUI case turned into a State Supreme Court case that could impact future DUI cases throughout Wyoming.

The case’s odd circumstances were the focal point of the Supreme Court’s decision. After the July 2012 crash, which was witnessed by a neighbor, police claimed that Snell fled the scene. Police investigated the crash, and eventually located Snell at a relative’s home. Upon finding Snell, officers observed injuries consistent with the crash the witness had described, and they also noticed the odor of alcohol. Police then administered a sobriety test, which Snell failed, and attempted to administer a breathalyzer test. Snell refused the breathalyzer test, which would have immediately revealed his blood alcohol content level. Following the refusal, officers then tried to get a warrant to draw his blood for an alcohol blood test. 

This routine procedure fell off track based on what the arresting officer wrote in the warrant request, delivered on a standardized form. The officer’s affidavit requesting the warrant read: “[Snell] ran away from a traffic crash in which his vehicle rolled on a county road and ended on its side on a property not belonging to the driver. Upon contact with the driver, I detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on the driver’s breath.” The warrant was granted based on the affidavit language. The blood test revealed Snell had a BAC of 0.21%, and he was later convicted of a felony DUI and sentenced to two to four years in state prison.

Snell’s attorney argued to the Supreme Court that the vague language in the warrant request made it seem as though Snell had been discovered at the scene of the accident, thus giving officers enough probable cause to think he had in fact been driving under the influence.  In fact, officers had not observed Snell at the scene of the accident and had to make an assumption that he had been impaired while driving. That assumption did not translate when the officers requested the warrant. Snell’s lawyer claimed the lack of information included in the warrant request violated Snell’s constitutional rights guaranteeing protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court agreed, overturning Snell’s conviction.

Surprisingly, police believe the whole problem could have been avoided had the warrant request form been a little longer. The Supreme Court also observed this problem in its opinion, noting that more space on the warrant form could have prevented the vague, incomplete language that ultimately led to Snell’s conviction. Now law enforcement officials will have to rethink the format of warrant request forms to avoid little errors turning into big constitutional problems in future DUI cases.

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Underage Drinking During the Holidays

This holiday season it is very important to make sure that your teenager is safe especially with all of the holiday parties and the free flowing of alcohol. While holidays are certainly a time to celebrate, it does not give you an excuse to drive under the influence or to get in the car with someone who is highly intoxicated. There are a few precautionary steps you can take to ensure that your teenager remains safe this holiday season. New York State in particular created numerous initiatives in 2013 to help stop DUI/DWUIs.

Here are a few ways you can ensure that your teenager stays safe this holiday season:

1) Take advantage of free state-wide initiatives. As previously mentioned New York State as well as numerous other states across the US has initiated free taxi ride services on holidays that have been associated with heavy drinking patterns. Take advantage of these services, especially if you think your college age student would possibly be drinking. While you don’t want to encourage them to drink, you also want to educate them if they choose to do so anyway.

2) Arrange for a sober designated driver (DD). Make sure you talk to your teen about getting in a car with someone who is intoxicated. Always offer to pick up your teen no matter what circumstance. It’s also a good idea to know where they are going or who they are staying with. It’s important for your teen to know they can call you without fear. Otherwise they may decide getting in trouble for drinking behind your back is too risky and get in the car with someone who is intoxicated.

3) Speak your concerns. For an older teen or 20 year old, it may be harder to control their actions. Chances are they have their own car or have been away at college for one or even three years before turning 21. This is where it gets hard to speak with your older teen. It’s better to start conversations about alcohol at a younger age rather than to keep alcohol or drug use taboo in your household. These will open the doors of communication for your teen to open up to you. It’s best to be preventative when it comes to substance use education. However, have in mind that scare tactics are less effective. You want your teen to always be armed with the best education no matter what situation arises. Chances are if something does go wrong no adult will be present, just their peers and in some cases these could be life and death situations.

In any cases it’s important for teens to know the consequences of drinking, whether that is jail time, academic probation from college, an underage drinking record or a loss of license, knowing the consequences of their actions ahead of time may help a teen to decide not to engage in underage drinking or driving while under the influence. This holiday try to make family time an important priority so your teen is not bored and looking for entertainment that involves alcohol.

Bio: Melissa currently writes for St. Jude Retreats, a non 12 step alternative to traditional alcohol and drug rehab. As well as writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa enjoys blogging about health and relationships.

Student Video: Flashes – Between the Lines

We received a recent note from a group of students in Evergreen Valley High School, who produced a video that shows the effects of drinking and driving and the consequences that can follow.

To help promote safe driving, we’re sharing their video here as well:

Video Credit: Aaron Kalodrich, Dana Ngo, and Vincent Wang Evergreen Valley High School

3-month-old baby boy dies in hot car as father allegedly smoked pot

PHOENIX - Three-month-old Jamison Dean Gray died Thursday in a hot car when he was left there for over an hour by his father who was smoking marijuana at the time.

According to police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson, 31-year-old Daniel Bryant Gray, left his son in a parked car and forgot about him while smoking pot with a co-worker. The baby died due to excessive heat in the car.

Gray was charged with manslaughter and child abuse. He was locked up in an Arizona jail. Thompson said that late Thursday night, they got information due to which they believe that Gray was smoking pot with a colleague when he forgot that his son, Jamison Dean Gray, was in his car. By the time Gray realized that his son was in the car, it was too late.

On Wednesday, the temperature in Phoenix was 102 degrees. Gray’s 3-month-old son was pronounced dead at the hospital and the reason was hot weather.

At first, police report showed that Gray got busy and forgot about the boy but court documents showed that after the investigation, the investigators came to know by a witness that Gray and a colleague had been standing beside Gray’s car and they both were smoking pot.

The other employee who was smoking with Gray was not identified by the police and he said he didn’t see the baby in the car and didn’t know Gray was a father.

Gray told police he lost track of time after he stopped at BT’s Sports Pub in Phoenix, where he works as a kitchen manager.

During the 1st court hearing, a prosecutor said, “There’s no question” that Gray didn’t intend his son to die. Deputy Maricopa County Attorney George Kelemen Jr. said that the death is just like an impaired driver causes a death of his/her passenger. Kelemen also noted that Gray has a criminal record that includes convictions for possession of marijuana and aggravated DUI. He said that Gray’s history shows that he was charged with substance abuse. Kelemen told a judge who set bail for Gray, “The state believes the tragedy that occurred Wednesday is not simply an unavoidable mistake of a thoughtful parent”.

Gray is being held on $100,000 bond. He didn’t have a lawyer.

On Thursday, Phoenix police sent their investigation to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to determine if charges would be filed. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said, “There are circumstances where we look at the situation and have to determine that even the most attentive parent might have made a similar decision that again resulted in a horrific accident”.

Jamison’s mother, Rebecca Hillary, is trying to cope with the loss of her child. On Friday afternoon she said, “He was always such a good boy; all he wanted to do is smile, that’s all he did. He just loved to smile and play and he was just so happy”.

“Our family is beyond devastated. There are no words to describe the pain and heartache we are experiencing. I can’t even imagine what his mother is going through”, Jamison’s aunt wrote on her blog.
Police are still investigating the incident.

Author Bio:
Attorney Jeanne Morales is an experienced Attorney who represents people for bankruptcy, SSD and Immigration cases in Texas.

Arizona’s Dram Shop Law

In any sort of drunken-driving incident, it is very likely that there are grave losses or injury. While the drunken driver must certainly be held accountable for their careless actions, Arizona believe the driver may not be the only party who must be held responsible.

In Arizona, a person who has been injured or a family who has lost a loved one due to a drunken-driving accident has the right to not only pursue the offender, but also the right to pursue a dram shop action against the establishment that knowingly sold alcohol to a minor or to an intoxicated individual. It can be any establishment that holds a liquor license issued by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control (ADLLC). The liquor license may be required to pay for losses caused by property damage and personal injuries. The establishment can also be named a defendant in a wrongful death suit.

Arizona officials believe this law will encourage establishments that sell alcohol to take reasonable steps to protect the public from foreseeable danger. Establishments implicitly accept this duty to the public in exchange for the right to sell alcohol.

Under Arizona law, serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person creates a foreseeable risk to the public. Officially, an “obviously intoxicated person” is someone who shows physical signs of intoxication, such as uncoordinated movements, slurred speech or other significant physical dysfunctions that would make it obvious to a reasonable person he or she was intoxicated.

The state legislature believes the person serving the alcohol has the best judgment to know whether the person buying is drunk and should no longer be served. Thus, liquor licensees that knew or under reasonable circumstance should have known the customer was intoxicated and continued to serve him or her are just as responsible as the offending driver for any injuries or deaths caused after leaving the establishment.