DUI: The Nature Of The Crime
Lawrence Taylor is interviewed by Richard Jacobs from MyDUIAttorney.org on Mr. Taylor’s stance on the law governing DUI and some specifics about how cities and municipalities are using DUI roadblocks to raise revenues. When Mr. Taylor began practicing DUI defense, there was a simple law which said, thou shall not drive under the influence of alcohol. This is no longer the law, as the focus now is on blood alcohol content. The laws on DUI today give the prosecutor a distinct advantage in being able to charge an arrestee with not only DUI, but also driving under the influence of .08 blood alcohol. If a DUI case goes to jury trial and the jury cannot make up their mind, that is reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is the burden of proof in a criminal case and, as such, the defendant should be acquitted. However, what the jury does is enter a compromise, where they convict on one count but dismiss the other count. In the end, the defendant suffers the same consequence as if there had been two convictions. These days’ municipalities and cities are deriving large sums of revenue by having DUI roadblocks. Very few DUI arrests result from these roadblocks and, in essence, they are very ineffective when it comes to taking DUI suspects off the highways. What they are effective in doing is citing hundreds of people with tickets for such things as drivers licenses that are not current, tinted windows, and out of date registration or insurance, which in turn leads to a large source of revenue for the municipality or city.
Richard Jacobs (RJ): Hi, Richard Jacobs from MyDUIAttorney.org, and I am here with Lawrence Taylor, the number one DUI attorney in the entire United States. A lot of people call him the “Dean of DUI”; he’s been involved with DUI for over twenty-nine years exclusively at his law firm based out of California and I am very pleased and very proud to have the opportunity to interview him today. Welcome Mr. Taylor!
Lawrence Taylor (LT): Thank you, thank you very much!
RJ: Okay, well, we will get right to it with the first question. Mr. Taylor, from your blog posts, one might get the impression that you are anti-law enforcement and against drunk driving – What’s your overall stance on DUI? Is it wrong? Is it not as bad as everyone makes it out to be?
LT: No, and I mean drunk driving and we’re talking about two different things, understand DUI and driving over 0.08 and they are not the same thing. Drunk driving is dangerous; it kills people. I have a son, I have a wife, I don’t want some drunk driver injuring or killing them. We need laws prohibiting drunk driving and punishing it severely, we always have. When I started practicing, there was a very good law, it just basically said thou shall not drive under the influence of alcohol . . .
LT: to the degree that it’s going to impair your driving and render you dangerous. That’s not the law anymore; now the focus is upon blood alcohol content. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been very effective in changing the laws, or adding a law I should say . . .
LT: so that the prosecution has two ways to try and convict the defendant. One of which is not being under the influence; they don’t care if you’re under the influence or not . . .
LT: they don’t care if you are a danger or not. All they care about is the blood alcohol content and your individual level of tolerance to the alcohol, assuming the level is accurate, is irrelevant.
RJ: So, now someone when they’re faced with a DUI, they’re actually facing two criminal cases, is what you’re saying?
LT: Yes, unless there is a case where the defendant or the suspect refuses to take a blood or breath test, in which case there is no blood or breath test, then cannot charge you with .08. They can only charge you with DUI, otherwise they are always going to charge both offenses. It not only gives the prosecutor two ways to convict and they, you can be convicted of both, by the way.
LT: Yes, but it also gives him a very unique tactical advantage and that is when you go to jury trial. Jurors often can’t make up their mind; now that’s supposed to be reasonable doubt and you get acquitted.
LT: What happens is they have a compromise because not everyone agrees and they can’t get a uniform verdict. So, they decide to acquit the client on one and convict him on the other, it’s a compromise, but they don’t realize, it’s no compromise. The person is convicted and is going to be punished the same as if there had been two convictions.
RJ: Oh, okay. Another question I have is that you recently made a blog post that tied in your two thousand five predictions on the future of DUI, and a lot of them have largely come to pass it seems. Has DUI simply become a convenient cash cow for cities and states so they can earn more money under the guise of public safety?
LT: Well there has been that; there is no question that in many municipalities DUI is a source of considerable municipal revenue.
LT: And that has been very influential and effective in their political pressures on local municipalities, as well as certain members of the bench, judges, and prosecutors and so on. A classic example of this is roadblocks, DUI roadblocks. Those were permitted in a five-to-four vote by the U.S. Supreme Court, but only for DUI; it cannot be used for anything else. Now these roadblocks have been set up and they’ve found that they’re not terribly effective, not nearly as effective as roving patrols . . .
LT: but in fact they have been expanded and the reason is not difficult to figure out. If you look at some of these roadblocks, there may be a thousand people stopped, and of those a thousand they may make one or two DUI arrests.
RJ: Oh, wow.
LT: But, they’ll make seventy, eighty, a hundred citations for registration out of date, drivers license not current, tinted windows, registration on the license plate, defective taillight, anything and of those maybe a third of those might get impounded, with further fees and moneys going to the local government. So, of course, they like that and they call it a DUI roadblock because that is the only legal way they can stop people.
RJ: I see, and in that circumstance it is hard to say that they are doing it to stop drunk drivers, it’s more obvious that it’s to raise revenue through all those methods.
LT: Well, you can see that in terms of the efficacy in finding DUIs and taking them off the highway, it’s not very effective.
LT: There have been all kinds of studies showing that simple roving patrols, officers, patrol officers in cars or motorcycles are far more effective than putting the money into roadblocks.