Every state prohibits drunk driving.  Every state also acknowledges that it is legal to drink alcohol and then drive if the alcohol consumed does not impair one’s abilities.

The amount of alcohol that a person can drink in an evening and be safely under the legal limit varies from person to person.  The main factors of weight, number of drinks, size of the drink, concentration (proof) of the alcohol, gender, and time of drinking all affect the outcome.  In the 1930’s a Swedish scientist named Erik Widmark came up with a formula to calculate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) based on these factors.  Using Widmark’s formula, it is possible to estimate BAC.   In these calculations, there is a rough equivalence between a 12 oz. beer, and 6 oz. glass of wine, and a mixed drink containing 1.5 oz. of alcohol.

A woman will have a higher BAC than a man of the same weight because alcohol is more concentrated in the cells of a female.   Since many women weigh less than many men, this difference is exaggerated with most people.

Mitchell was arrested for DUI.  He subsequently became unconscious.  Since he could not submit to a breath test, the arresting officer could not obtain his consent to a blood test, and he needed medical attention, the officer took him to a hospital for treatment and to have his blood drawn without a warrant.  The State conceded that exigent circumstances were not present to justify the warrantless blood draw.  Instead, the State argued that the blood draw was justified under the State’s implied consent law, that an unconscious suspect is deemed to not have withdrawn consent to a test where the officer has probable cause to believe the driver is impaired by alcohol.  In Mitchell v. Wisconsin, although the Supreme Court accepted review based on the implied consent issue, a plurality of four justices held that dealing with an unconscious driver will almost always involve exigent circumstances.

The court said:

When police have probable cause to believe a person has committed a drunk-driving offense and the driver’s unconsciousness or stupor requires him to be taken to the hospital or similar facility before police have a reasonable opportunity to administer a standard evidentiary breath test, they may almost always order a warrantless blood test to measure the driver’s BAC without offending the Fourth Amendment. We do not rule out the possibility that in an unusual case a defendant would be able to show that his blood would not have been drawn if police had not been seeking BAC information, and that police could not have reasonably judged that a warrant application would interfere with other pressing needs or duties. Because Mitchell did not have a chance to attempt to make that showing, a remand for that purpose is necessary. [1]

On Wednesday, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller gave a public statement that basically said, “Read my report.”  Decoding Robert Mueller, NY Times, Opinion, May 29, 2019.  He said he could not come to a conclusion, unless he could exonerate the President.  That is not entirely accurate because reading his thorough analysis provides the answers.  However, the report is so long and detailed that virtually all of the news articles and commentary refer to the report in very general terms, rarely discussing the essential underlying facts, instead focusing on conclusions: whether he obstructed justice or whether impeachment should occur.  But conclusions without facts are not very helpful.  This has enabled the President to falsely claim the report exonerated him, and the Attorney General, in his March letter, to falsely claim the elements of obstruction were not met, the exact opposite of what the report says.  It is as if they have decided, “we can say whatever we want because most people won’t read the report.”  However, it is possible to summarize the essence of the report – the facts – as follows.

Obstruction of justice is a crime containing three requirements, according to Mueller, an obstructive act, a connection to a pending or foreseeable proceeding, and a corrupt intent.  An obstructive act “would naturally obstruct the investigation and any grand jury proceedings that might flow from the  inquiry.”  It is no defense to say the obstruction was prevented by aides, as the crime of obstruction is defined as the attempt, irrespective of outcome.  Mueller found ten potentially obstructive acts or series of acts and analyzed each to see if they were obstructive acts, whether there was a connection to a pending or foreseeable proceeding and whether there was an intent to obstruct that proceeding.

With respect to four of these, Mueller found “substantial evidence” that satisfied the elements: (1) efforts to fire the special counsel; (2) efforts to change the special counsel’s charge to focus on interference with future elections; (3) ordering White House counsel McGahn to deny Trump tried to fire the special counsel; and (4) efforts to keep Michael Cohen from cooperating with federal authorities.  The only thing Mueller didn’t say was the conclusion that he had enough evidence to indict the President for obstruction of justice, instead saying he couldn’t clear the President.  But his conclusion IS in the report.  And the facts can be simplified, as above, or amplified, if necessary, for public consumption.

 

The State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, has announced on January 29, 2019, that marijuana possession cases will no longer be prosecuted in Baltimore.  In an article in the New York Times, Marilyn Mosby stated that it makes no sense to prosecute marijuana cases because it diverts resources from investigating more serious crimes and it alienates members of the community whose support police need to investigate these crimes.  Additionally, the State’s Attorneys’ office will be reviewing 5,000 marijuana possession convictions and proposing legislation to make it easier to vacate convictions for marijuana possession.

As the Daily Record reported yesterday (Jan. 23, 2019), a bill will be introduced in the Maryland legislature to expand Noah’s Law (named after Noah Leotta – a police officer killed by a drunk driver) to require an ignition interlock be installed as a condition of a probation before judgment.  Currently, first offenders who blow a .15 or higher, or refuse to submit to a breath or blood test are required to obtain an ignition interlock for one year or have their licenses suspended for 180 or 270 days respectively (for a first test failure or refusal).  If the driver submits to a test with a result of .08 or more but less than .15, the 180 day interlock is optional.  That person may elect instead to drive with a permit that allows driving for work, school, medical, or alcohol education restricted driving privileges.  Currently, some first offenders escape the interlock where they win the MVA hearing for a test failure or refusal, or if they have an out of state driver’s license.

There are some significant problems with the proposal, such as dealing with individuals who share cars with family members, who don’t own a car, who have to drive clients to earn a living or who live out of state.  Currently, out of state drivers are not allowed to participate in Maryland’s ignition interlock program.  This can be a devastating problem for drivers who live out of state and work in Maryland.  Additionally, the law would deprive judges of the discretion to deny interlock in an appropriate case.  This was the decision the legislature made a few years ago when Noah’s Law was enacted.  Also commercial drivers are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles while their licenses are restricted in this way.

As the Daily Record reported:

On Thursday, the nation was transfixed as the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.  Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by Ford and a number of other females when they were in high school and college.  All of the complaints say that Kavanaugh was extremely inebriated at the time.  However, when Kavanaugh was asked about his drinking habits he became very defensive and refused to answer the questions, although he did admit to on occasion drinking too much and liking beer.  At all costs, he had to deny his alcoholism, if he suffered from it, because that would lead to questions of whether he drank to the extent of experiencing blackouts, a symptom of heavy drinking, where the person has no memory of their conduct while drunk.  If he experienced blackouts, then his denials would be much less credible.  Although the senators’ questions for the most part avoided touching on his alcoholism, it appears evident that his alcoholism or lack is central to the case.

In drunk driving cases, all clients represented by attorney Leonard Stamm are referred to a program approved by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine if the client has a drinking problem and to receive an appropriate level of education and treatment.  A directory of programs nationwide can be found here.

Clients are assessed to determine if they have a drinking problem using a number of psychological screening tests.  The most well known is probably the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test also known as the MAST test.  Clients are give a score based on their answers.  A higher score indicates a likely drinking problem.  Other tests include the Alcohol Use Disorders Test or AUDIT test.

On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, Leonard Stamm appeared in the Court of Appeals to argue the case of Owusu v. MVA.  Owusu was arrested for drunk driving and taken to the police station.  At the police station he was read the DR-15 Advice of Rights Form.  This is a form police officers are required to read to DUI suspects advising them of the penalties for refusing or failing a breath test for alcohol.  In Owusu’s case he was read the form and told that if he failed the test he would lose his driver’s license for 180 days, but that if he refused he would lose his license for 270 days.  Additionally he was told that since he had a commercial driver’s license or CDL, that if he refused the test his CDL would be disqualified for one year.  The one year disqualification meant that he not be able to perform his job as a bus driver for one year.

Immediately after reading the form, that contained a lot of other information as well, to Owusu, the officer tried to be helpful.  He told Owusu that since he was a bus driver he would be out of work for 180 days if he failed the test and 270 days if he refused.  Although probably well meaning, the officer’s statement was false. Critically, the officer did not tell Owusu he would be out of work for one year if he refused as a result of the one year disqualification of his CDL.  The one year disqualification was huge because it means Owusu will have to retake the CDL knowledge and skill tests with it, but not with a 270 day suspension.  Owusu testified at the hearing that after the officer advised him, he was not aware he would lose his CDL, and that, if he had he would have submitted to the test.

As Stamm had argued in the MVA hearing and again in the Montgomery County Circuit Court without success that the giving of the false advice failed to comply with the relevant law requiring the arresting officer to “fully advise” the driver of the administrative penalties and also violated Owusu’s due process rights.  Stamm also unsuccessfully argued in the hearing and appellate court that the DR-15’s form’s advice of a 270 day suspension on a refusal, and eligibility for a restricted license, without telling drivers that the required period of interlock restriction is longer, one year, violated his statutory and due process rights.

I was born in 1955, ten years after the end of the Holocaust.  Growing up, I was fascinated and terrified by thoughts of it.  What would it have been like to have lived through that period?  What would it have felt like?  I am Jewish.  Would I have survived?  Would I have ended in a death camp, as a slave laborer, hiding in a cellar, or fought in the Resistance?  How would other people who were not Jewish have treated me or my family?  How could normal people let such a thing happen?  Could it happen anywhere else?  Were Germans different than other people or is any group of people capable of perpetrating such horrors? “Never again!” proclaimed the survivors.

In recent posts on Facebook, I have coined the term my “Never again radar.”  It is going off now.  The usual response to comparisons with Nazism and Hitler is that such comparisons are basically an admission of the weakness of the argument.  The misuse of such comparisons runs the risk of trivializing the comparisons, and of not being taken seriously when the comparison is justified.  With Trump however, I believe the comparison is justified for the reasons I argue below.

As I have thought about this blog for a while, I visualized about five similarities.  But then when I started to list them, it became apparent that five was too limited.  My first written list of ten grew quickly to eighteen.  Here is the list, I offer brief descriptions of each below: persistent lying; alternative facts; attacks on the press; promotion of bigotry and racism; loss of civility and respect for government officials; gaslighting opponents; hypocrisy; attacks on judges; nationalism and demanding obedience to the flag; demanding loyalty; mass rallies with exhortations to radicalism; encouragement of violence against opponents; advocating jail for political opponents; support for autocrats and attacks on democratic leaders; Nazi dog whistles; Nazi support; studying Hitler’s speeches, and attacks on the rule of law.  There is some overlap here.  I don’t claim this is an exclusive list, and I have deliberately left out some other equally odious character traits of Trump’s that do not necessarily justify invoking the Nazi comparison, such as his misogynistic treatment of women, nepotism, narcissism, corruption, theft, or the Russia investigation.  And my brief overview can’t possibly do justice to the myriad of ways Trump has attacked our country.

Many people will remember the nurse in Utah who refused to draw blood in a DUI case under directions from a police officer and was arrested.  She subsequently settled a lawsuit for $500,000 and the officer was fired.  As a result the Utah legislature tried to fix the problem.

In Anne Arundel County doctors and nurses have also refused to follow illegal directions from police officers.  In response, bills were introduced in the Maryland Senate and Maryland House of Delegates to try to fix the problem. The bill would require qualified medical persons to withdraw blood where the driver did not consent to a test after an officer developed reasonable grounds (defined as reasonable articulable suspicion) to believe a person was driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs and there was an accident resulting in a fatality or life threatening injury.

The problem is that the Supreme Court has held in two cases, Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 (2013) and Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), that before police may direct a qualified medical person to withdraw blood the officer must have probable cause and a warrant, unless an exception to the warrant requirement such as exigent circumstances or consent exists.  However, not every case involving a fatal or life threatening injury will involve exigent circumstances.