• This is a political forum that is non-biased/non-partisan and treats every persons position on topics equally. This debate forum is not aligned to any political party. In today's politics, many ideas are split between and even within all the political parties. Often we find ourselves agreeing on one platform but some topics break our mold. We are here to discuss them in a civil political debate. If this is your first visit to our political forums, be sure to check out the RULES. Registering for debate politics is necessary before posting. Register today to participate - it's free!

Decision on DUI frustrates officials

The Giant Noodle

DP Veteran
Joined
Mar 22, 2010
Messages
7,333
Reaction score
2,010
Location
Northern Illinois
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Independent
I am half and half on this one. BUUUUT... because DUI laws are WAY to harsh, I suppose Im glad the guy got off. No reason to destroy someones life and empty their bank account for sleeping in their car drunk. Buuuut also he could have been passed out. Hmmmm......

WILKES-BARRE – It seemed like a clear cut case of drunken driving when a city police officer came across a Hanover Township man asleep at the wheel of his car with the engine running.
The suspect, Victor Verdekal, had a strong odor of alcohol and staggered out of the vehicle when awakened, nearly falling several times, according to an arrest affidavit. A blood-alcohol test later revealed he had a level of 0.197 percent, nearly 2 � times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
But when the case went to court in April 2009, Senior Luzerne County Judge Patrick Toole ruled the District Attorney’s Office could not present any of the evidence police had gathered.
The reason?
The vehicle was parked at the time Verdekal, 27, of West St. Mary’s Road, was discovered, and police could not prove that he had actually operated the car in an intoxicated state.
It’s a legal distinction that’s been utilized to overturn DUI convictions in a number of cases statewide, frustrating prosecutors and police.
“If a police officer gets a call of someone slumped over a wheel and finds a person passed out drunk in the driver’s seat . . . . but has no information that tells him the car was moved, that officer has no probable cause to arrest that person,” said Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney James McMonagle. “As it stands now, the officer would have to stand by and wait for the car move to arrest the person.”
McMonagle appealed Toole’s ruling to the state Superior Court, but said he knew he faced a difficult challenge in overturning it given that the court has previously ruled in favor of defendants whose cases were similar to Verdekal’s.
He was right. A three-member panel of the court voted 2-1 this week to affirm Toole’s decision. Barring a potential appeal to the state Supreme Court, the ruling means prosecutors will have to drop the charges against Verdekal for lack of evidence.
The key issue in the Verdekal and other cases revolves around a provision within the drunken driving statute that permits police to charge a driver - even if the vehicle is not moving - as long as the officer can show the operator was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. The problem for police has been in how appellate courts have interpreted what constitutes “actual physical control,” McMonagle said.
In Verdekal’s case, he was discovered asleep at the wheel while his car was legally parked on North Washington Street at around 1:35 a.m. on April 10, 2008. The engine was running, but his headlights were not on, he was not wearing a seatbelt, and his hands were not on the wheel, according to court records.
Verdekal’s attorney, Ferris Webby, said numerous appellate court rulings have said the mere presence of an intoxicated person behind the wheel of a vehicle that is stationary is not sufficient to prove the person drove the vehicle while intoxicated.
Webby said the courts have held that police must look at the “totality of the circumstances” in making that call. There must be some other evidence – such as the car being stopped in the middle of the road, or its tire up on a curb – that would indicate the driver had driven the vehicle while intoxicated prior to the arrival of police at the scene.
Webby said the courts have made that distinction because the justices realize there could be situations where a person who is not yet intoxicated drives to bar, goes inside, becomes intoxicated, then leaves the establishment to “sleep it off” in their car.
That’s what Webby said happened in Verdekal’s case. Verdekal had gone to the car to sleep while waiting for his brother, whom he was out drinking with, to return. He started the engine so that he could get heat in the vehicle, but never moved it.
“If an intoxicated person starts his vehicle that is not, in and of itself, enough for an officer to have probable cause to believe a driver is under the influence,” Webby said. “They (the courts) don’t want to put a chilling effect on people who know they can’t drive and are using a car to sleep.”
But McMonagle said the responsibility of police is to ensure the safety of the public. The law puts police in a difficult position because, without evidence the operator drove the car, the officer can’t arrest the person on suspicion of DUI.
“At best the officer can prevent the person from driving, but does he have the time to stand by the car to make sure they do not drive away?” McMonagle said.
McMonagle said he’s discussing appealing the Verdekal decision to the state Supreme Court, but no decision has yet been made.
If an appeal is filed, it would likely allege the courts have improperly interpreted the DUI statute in Verdekal’s case, as well as others. He noted the statute says the person must be in “control” of the vehicle. It does not say anything about having to prove the defendant “moved” the vehicle.
“They are making the commonwealth prove the defendant drove the car. That’s not what the statute means,” he said.
Cumberland County District Attorney David J. Freed, who sits on the board of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, said he believes McMonagle has valid argument to present to the state’s high court, should he decide to do so.
“The courts have interpreted movement into the statute and it does not say that,” Freed said. “It’s frustrating . . . . These cases are hard enough. When the courts read things into a statute that are not there, it makes it doubly tough for us.”

Decision on DUI frustrates officials | The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA
 
Last edited:

MaggieD

Supporting Member
Monthly Subscriber
DP Veteran
Joined
Jul 9, 2010
Messages
43,244
Reaction score
44,659
Location
Chicago Area
Gender
Female
Political Leaning
Moderate
I agree with the decision. As you say, drunk driving penalties are severe (I don't think they're TOO severe, though). So, if someone is going to be arrested for DUI, they should be D'ing. We can't yet be convicted of things we just "think about doing."
 

Lord Tammerlain

DP Veteran
Joined
Jan 25, 2010
Messages
19,079
Reaction score
8,136
Gender
Undisclosed
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
In the above case


If a person is in the car drunkl but not driving I would suggest the police take the keys and either toss them in the trunk, or take them to the police station so when the person sobers up he can then get them. Public safety is ensured
 

LaMidRighter

Klattu Verata Nicto
DP Veteran
Joined
May 19, 2005
Messages
30,534
Reaction score
10,682
Location
Louisiana
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Libertarian - Right
In the above case


If a person is in the car drunkl but not driving I would suggest the police take the keys and either toss them in the trunk, or take them to the police station so when the person sobers up he can then get them. Public safety is ensured
That actually seems like the most reasonable position here, he wasn't driving and obviously not attempting so detaining him temporarily which is legal seems to be the best option. As well, it is safer for him in case he would get ill or be severely and potentially lethally intoxicated then medical attention would be in the general area.
 

molten_dragon

Anti-Hypocrite
DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 24, 2009
Messages
10,114
Reaction score
4,744
Location
Southeast Michigan
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Slightly Liberal
That actually seems like the most reasonable position here, he wasn't driving and obviously not attempting so detaining him temporarily which is legal seems to be the best option. As well, it is safer for him in case he would get ill or be severely and potentially lethally intoxicated then medical attention would be in the general area.
Agreed. It seems like a reasonable reaction to me.

If you aren't driving, you shouldn't be arrested for driving under the influence. It simply doesn't make any sense.
 

LaMidRighter

Klattu Verata Nicto
DP Veteran
Joined
May 19, 2005
Messages
30,534
Reaction score
10,682
Location
Louisiana
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Libertarian - Right
Agreed. It seems like a reasonable reaction to me.

If you aren't driving, you shouldn't be arrested for driving under the influence. It simply doesn't make any sense.
Yep, they get some people like that here. They basically say that if you park the vehicle with the keys in the cab you were attempting or could attempt so it's the same thing. Well, not even close and I'd rather someone have enough sense to stay off the road then figure they're going down anyway and might as well try to get home.
 

Caine

DP Veteran
Joined
Sep 28, 2005
Messages
23,344
Reaction score
7,210
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Independent
I am no fan of DWI while parked. Its not my shtick.

However, in my state we CAN charge someone like in the above situation, and reading the bottom half of the article where the district attorney makes his comments makes me believe that this state's laws read similar.
The courts here have defined 'operation' as being in the driver's seat of a vehicle with its engine running. If this state above has defined operation in a similar manner, then the district attorney has a case for appeal. The district attorney's comments as recorded in the bottom part of the article lead me to believe this is the case.

As for myself, I always attempt to wake impaired individuals and give them a ride home rather than make an arrest. Ive never had to make an arrest for such a DWI. I cant say that I never WOULD make an arrest for a DWI like this. It would all depend on the attitude of the 'driver'. I havent come across someone who is being such as asshole from the thought of me providing a public service like giving them a ride home free of that life threatening crash into a tree as to cause problems and put me in the situation where an arrest is acceptable.

In fact, I've only ever made a DWI arrest in a "public vehicular area" (parking lot) once, and that was a police sergeant's 18 year old daughter who was stealing beer from a convenience store when I happened to be gassing up there. She drove all of about 15 feet towards the main road.
 
M

Mathewkey

Many states have a progressive DUI policy, which generally means that a first-time offender may not receive the maximum penalty allowed under the law. A judge can use some discretion when sentencing those convicted of DUI, especially if the accused pleads guilty and demonstrates remorse for his or her actions.You may also be guilty of DUI / DWI for driving when your physical abilities are impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. In the eyes of the law, it makes no difference whether the drug is legal or illegal, prescription or over-the-counter
So,If you have been charged with a DUI you should seek legal help at once from a DUI Lawyers
 

Ikari

Moderator
DP Veteran
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
74,464
Reaction score
42,537
Location
Colorado
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Libertarian - Left
DUIs are big business though. It enacts all sorts of things, a lot of little humming and moving. It's almost like that scene from 5th Element where the bad guy breaks his glass and then all the robots come out to clean up and stuff like that. DUI makes a lot of people a lot of money, and so they seem to really like to enforce it beyond means. Caine is honestly the only cop I've ever heard try to approach the entire DUI situation in a rational manner with focus on serving the community and keeping people safe. I have seen cops in my own city sit in their cars watching people leave the bar, waiting for them to get in their car, and then pulling them over hoping to get a DUI. In fact, we have a lot of laws in town which have pretty much ran a lot of cab companies out. So you can call a cab at 1 AM (bars close at 2); but good luck with it ever showing up.

In the end I think drinking and driving require two things. Being drunk and also driving. If one of those two things are not met, you cannot be drinking and driving; you cannot be DUI. There are people who have gotten tickets waiting in the backseat of their car for a friend to show up and pick them up after the bars have closed. How is that fair? I think DUI laws have gone well too far. The punishments are too stiff, the definitions too loose (DUI is 0.08 in most places, but most places also have the little DUI, DWAI is what we call it, it's 0.05! and it comes with almost all the same punishments. Realistically a person gets the same thing for DUI that they get for DWAI), the government too eager to make money off of this. We've sensationalized the crime so much that we've left the realm of rational thought and proper punishment to the MADD sorta outlook where the punishments must be raised and raised and raised until there are zero incidents (BTW, the only way to get 0 is to ban either cars or booze). And because of this, we've allowed the government to play fast and loose with DUI punishment and enforcement. It's time to scale it back to something more reasonable.
 
Top Bottom