MADD pushes for more laws as Ohio DUI debate continues

If Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) can convince the Ohio Statehouse to pass “Annie’s Law” or HB 469, all first-time DUI offenders wishing to drive during any probationary period will have to install a breathalyzer in their car and pass it for the car to start.
  MADD’s Ohio office in Columbus believes the law is innovative because it allows driving privileges to first-time offenders in lieu of a judge denying them the right to drive for any determined amount of time.
  The bill is known as Annie’s Law in honor of 36-year-old Annie Rooney, a successful lawyer from Chillicothe who lost her life last year when her SUV was slammed into by a habitual drunk driver.
  MADD says they’ve gotten the message that single mothers, occupational drivers – and anyone else dependent on their car for that matter – need to drive to survive.
  “It’s like having an electronic probation officer in the front seat,” says MADD Ohio State Executive Director Doug Scoles from his Columbus office. “You can’t drink and drive, period. The point is, why do we care where they go? That’s ridiculous. Let them go to work. Let them go to the game. Let them go to the store. That’s our whole mentality behind this. I think it’s a win-win-win situation. Nobody loses on this.”
  DUI defense attorneys across the state and lobbyists for the Ohio’s bars and taverns beg to differ on whether this is a win-win situation.
  They believe if the bill were to pass, it’s another victory for MADD as it pushes society to accept a new style of Prohibition. They told The Free Press that MADD in due course wants to lower the current legal limit of driving under the influence from .08 BAC (blood alcohol content) to .05, and ultimately to .00, which of course is zero percent.
  The Ohio Licensed Beverage Association (OLBA), which represents the state’s roughly 10,000 liquor license holders, says lowering the BAC even further is simply going to give more good people a criminal record they can’t shake. Unlike cocaine or heroin convictions, a DUI can never be expunged.
  “We think the law is working where it’s at (.08), and truth be known, on a federal and state level, we thought it was working pretty well where it was before, and would not support any further restrictions on adult beverages,” says OLBA’s executive director Phil Craig of Columbus. “It’s our position that our culture has responded, and people are much more cognizant and careful about the way they consume adult beverages and whether they drive.”
  Also opposing the bill is the Ohio Judicial Conference (OJC), an association representing every judge working in the state. The OJC states the bill is costly for working-class families as the in-car breathalyzers are expensive to purchase and install, while indigent offenders will cost the state much needed public funds.
  What’s more, said the OJC, the majority of first-time offenders “do not reoffend.”
  Debating DUI laws is an emotional and super sensitive debate that affects many (see the for further coverage). Consider that one in seven licensed drivers in Ohio – or 1.3 million Ohioans – have at least one DUI conviction, while 300 to 400 Ohioans a year die from drunk drivers.
  With those numbers in mind, does the state need to toughen its already uncompromising approach to impaired driving? Or should the state soften its heavy-handed tactics so to curb the anxiety DUI felonies have perpetuated throughout the responsible drinking public?
  At the moment, the DUI debate in Ohio could come to boil considering a lawsuit arguing against the reliability of the state’s most utilized breathalyzer machine – the Intoxilyzer 8000 – will soon be taken up by the Ohio Supreme Court.
  The lawsuit, Cincinnati v. Daniel Ilg, essentially claims the Intoxilyzer 8000 erroneously inflated a Cincinnati man’s BAC the night he was arrested for a DUI. Beside that lawsuit, there are 50 other challenges against the Intoxilyzer 8000 currently percolating within appeals courts across the state.
  When the Intoxilyzer 8000 was first introduced in Ohio in 2009, Florida and several other states had already banned the breathalyzer for being unreliable. After pressure from local DUI defense attorneys, Franklin County also would ban the breathalyzer, and go with the DataMaster, which is manufactured in Mansfield and carries less controversial baggage than the I 8000, which is manufactured in Kentucky.
  However, the Intoxilyzer’s predecessor, the I 5000, is used in Hilliard, Westerville and Gahanna, and local defense attorneys say the I 5000 is more unreliable than the I 8000.
  Cincinnati defense attorney Steven Adams, a former prosecutor who mainly tried DUI suspects, is representing Daniel Ilg (of Cincinnati v. Daniel Ilg). Adams is outspoken against DUI laws because he believes the state and local law-enforcement agencies have hijacked these laws and forced upon the public questionable breathalyzer machines to reap huge money in fines and federal traffic safety grants.
  “Do I think there’s an abuse out there? Absolutely,” said Adams. “Do I feel there are some people who drink too much and drive and need to be off the streets? Yes. But do I think this Ohio DUI prosecution system gets abused? Absolutely.”
  Cincinnati v. Daniel Ilg has become a key battle in the Ohio DUI debate because if Ilg wins it may finally give DUI suspects in Ohio a right to a fair defense, says Adams and other Ohio defense attorneys.
  Many Ohioans aren’t aware their breathalyzer test cannot be challenged because of State v. Vega, a controversial ruling made by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1984. It denies a DUI suspect the right to challenge the science and engineering of any breathalyzer machine that has been certified by the state.
  During Ilg’s DUI criminal trial in Hamilton County Municipal Court, Adams motioned the court to force the state of Ohio to hand over computer records related to the Intoxilyzer 8000 Ilg had tested on. The state refused to hand over a particular set of data that would have clearly shown whether or not the machine was malfunctioning the night of his arrest. Adams believes the state refused the data because it knows the Intoxilyzer 8000 is wrongly convicting DUI suspects.
  The trial court in turn ruled Ilg’s breathalyzer test inadmissible, and chastised the state for not complying with the court’s order for discovery. The Cincinnati prosecutor’s office has subsequently appealed the trial court’s decision all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. MADD has filed an amicus brief for Cincinnati v. Ilg on behalf of Cincinnati and in support of the city’s right to deny a DUI suspect from challenging any breathalyzer machine.
  Some Ohio defense attorneys believe MADD has overstepped their bounds with the amicus brief because the suit is also about a plaintiff’s right to pursue evidence.
  “Why is MADD weighing in on a question related to a person’s ability to discover evidence that might show a machine is unreliable? What does this have to do with their mission?” asks Columbus-based defense attorney Tim Huey of Columbus, a past president of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and considered one of the best DUI defense attorneys in the state. “Shouldn’t their mission be, if someone is legitimately convicted of a DUI, this is what we think the penalty should be?”
  If Annie’s Law passes and the Intoxilyzer 8000 survives the Ilg lawsuit, it could foreshadow a future where the law stipulates a blood alcohol content level of zilch for driving.

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