Our Miami DUI defense attorneys have been following a news story out of Illinois. A judge ruled that the state law aimed at penalizing repeat DUI offenders by giving police the authority to seize their vehicles is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the statute gives the state too broad an authority, saying the law violates the due process clauses protected in both state and federal constitutions.
The ruling came out of a case involving three men who claimed the law did not allow defendants to petition a judge for return of their vehicles until their drunk driving case was resolved. Seized vehicles are periodically auctioned off or assigned to local law enforcement officers for their use.
Anti-drunk driving groups say the damages imposed on the vehicle’s co-owners or family members are far less than the greater public good. The county’s attorney apparently hopes to appeal the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.
Source: Illinois Judge Rules Seizure of Drunk Drivers’ Vehicles is Unconstitutional, DUI.com, November 25, 2009 (more…)
Twenty years ago, Miami set up the nation’s first drug court as a way to get nonviolent offenders into court-supervised drug rehab programs instead of spending time in jail. Now over 2,300 drug courts have sprung up around the country, and the Obama administration hopes to boost funding to drug courts, because these specialized courts are currently only available to a very small percentage of drug offenders.
The problem, according to advocates for drug courts, is a lack of money. There are currently about 1.2 million drug-addicted offenders and the $64 million in federal funds received by drug courts this year are not enough to treat all those who need it. The drug court association says that would take about $1.5 billion over six years, as well as matching funding from states.
Some defense attorneys say that prosecutors tend not to choose defendants with serious drug problems and that requiring defendants to plead guilty in order to get into drug courts is unfair. Still, there is evidence that the programs are working. About three quarters of drug court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two years after completing the program.
Earlier this year, Travis the chimpanzee made headlines for attacking a woman unprovoked, ripping off her nose, hands, lips, and eyelids. She was left blind with multiple other injuries. The woman’s attorneys had filed a $50 million lawsuit against the chimp’s owner, but prosecutors announced in December that the owner will not face criminal charges.
An attorney for the state of Connecticut said there is nothing to indicate that the 200-pound chimp’s owner knew the animal was dangerous and ignored that danger. The chimp was reportedly shot and killed by police. Prior to the incident this year, the animal had escaped from his owner’s car in 2003 and led police on a chase for several hours.
Wildlife experts say the incident should serve as a reminder that chimps are unpredictable and unsuitable as pets.
While the laws in 41 states allow those accused or convicted of crimes to have their criminal records expunged, that right is being challenged by the proliferation of large commercial databases. Records that were once only available only to law enforcement agencies, courts, and corrections departments are now being digitized and sold in bulk to the private sector.
The trouble is that these databases are not always updated when someone’s criminal record is expunged, so those arrests or convictions can still show up in criminal background checks requested by employers or landlords. While these database companies claim that they are careful about updating records to reflect expungements, lawyers and other legal experts say that people do lose housing or jobs because of information that should have not expunged and was not.
In fact, a few lawsuits have illuminated this problem. One suit filed in federal court in 2006 involved a 33-year-old man who was convicted of disorderly conduct ten years prior and had a job offer rescinded because of misinformation in his background check.
At Michigan State, nine football players have been charged with misdemeanors in connection with a fight that broke out at a fraternity potluck dinner last month. Each of the nine players is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an assault and battery, punishable by up to one year in prison. The players also face at least one count each of assault or assault and battery, punishable with a maximum 93-day term in jail.
Two of the players who were charged with misdemeanors have been kicked off the team and five others were suspended. None of the suspended players will be able to play in the Alamo Bowl on January 2. Some wonder if charging several players is a legal strategy aimed at getting the truth out of the players, since charging one or two might not get the full the story about the altercation.
The incident is still under investigation.
Source: Legal strategy at issue in Michigan State altercation, Freep.com, December 10, 2009 (more…)
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