What Is Wrong With Today's Drunk Driving Laws And Law Enforcement?
Lawrence Taylor discusses the overall inconsistencies in today’s DUI system, which he credits mostly to the inaccurate methodologies and procedures that are used within the system. The DUI system often causes citizens’ constitutional rights to be violated and the system as a whole depends on methodologies that are simply inaccurate. Most of the evidence produced in a DUI case is based on the inaccurate breath test and the credibility and honesty of the arresting police officer. Most police officers are honest and credible, but there is an innate characteristic in DUI cases for the arresting officer to alter the evidence, thus making their case look better. There is proof that there are real inconsistencies in the DUI system based on three studies done by major universities, which concluded that trained police officers were no better than untrained bartenders in recognizing levels of intoxication.
Richard Jacobs (RJ): You often talk about the inaccuracy of breathalyzers, field sobriety tests, possibly blood and urine tests, and, at times, corruption of police, and you know destroying evidence, photocopying from one case to another or hiding evidence. Are you saying the DUI system is corrupt in any way, or what?
Lawrence Taylor (LT): No, I think corrupt is the wrong term. I think inefficient would be a good characterization. I think unfair and unjust commonly, and I think certainly violations of constitutional rights are routinely existing in these kinds of cases. These cases rely heavily on, first of all, breath machines and blood analysis. These are relatively unreliable, particularly the breath analysis, unreliable and inaccurate methods. A lot of the evidence is dependent very heavily upon the credibility and honesty of the officer. What is under the influence? Well, it’s what the officer says. It’s the field sobriety tests he administers and his decision of whether you pass or not. . .
RJ: Ah, okay.
LT: It’s, what you, he says that you told him about how much you’d been drinking.
LT: It’s his assessment of what you’re driving looked like. In other words, they’re his opinions and his observations and with a lot of police officers and I’m not certainly saying all, there are good police officers and bad. But among those officers, it’s human nature to fudge a little bit here and there to strengthen your case and it’s uniquely easy to do. There are no witnesses, there’s no type of evidence you often see in most cases. So it lends itself to inaccuracies in the machines and in the blood analysis and some, let’s just say subjective approaches by the police officer.
LT: Bearing in mind that we’re talking about a competent police officer and there are an awful lot of them out there who aren’t very competent at doing field sobriety tests and so on.
RJ: So, it sounds like what you’re saying is a lot of the prosecution’s case rests on a human being, this police offer and they have their faults.
LT: Absolutely, bearing in mind, again, most officers are honest; most officers are generally competent. Although, when we get into things like horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is one of the three standard field sobriety tests, I have never seen a police officer able and I have cross-examined many of them, hundreds of them, I have never seen one who really understood or were able to competently administer the test.
LT: Studies have been done at major universities trying to assess the abilities of police officers, taking groups of police officers, comparing them to groups of bartenders, groups of . . .
LT: social drinkers and so on, by such as having video tapes shown to the different groups of real suspects in the field, answering questions and doing field sobriety tests and so on. The conclusions in all three of the major studies were the difference between the three types of groups, were almost none existent.
LT: In other words, the trained police officer was no better at recognizing levels of intoxication than you or I or a bartender who is used to seeing people in a bar.
RJ: Very interesting.
LT: It is.