There were three big stories this week about drunk driving. First, Al Michaels, an NBC sports announcer best known for his commentary on Sunday Night Football, was arrested on Friday, April 19th, according to abclocal.com. Second, Reese Witherspoon's husband, James Toth, was also arrested on suspicion of drunk driving on that same day, according to cbsnews.com. Lastly, San Diego Police Detective Jeffrey Blackford was sentenced Monday, April 22nd, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor DUI and reckless driving last week, according to utsandiego.com.
Allegedly, Al Michaels made an illegal U-turn near a DUI roadblock in Santa Monica, California. Officers conducting the checkpoint arrested him, took him to the police station and booked him on suspicion of drunk driving for allegedly having a blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08 percent. He was released on his own recognizance (OR release) and is due in court on June 26th.
The California Supreme Court's landmark case on DUI checkpoints is Ingersoll v. Palmer. In that opinion, the Court explained the specific requirements for a drunk driving roadblock to be constitutional. One requirement is there must be an opportunity for a driver to avoid the checkpoint if they choose and police cannot arrest someone just for using the outlet. Cops can stop the car, however, if the driver commits a moving violation or they display signs of intoxication.
According to the reports about Al Michaels arrest, he was seen making an illegal U-turn. This would give the officers probable cause to detain him. Once they smelled an odor of an alcoholic beverage, they would be able to legally initiate a drunk driving investigation.
James Toth was weaving while driving in Atlanta, Georgia, which prompted law enforcement to pull him over. Police allegedly saw evidence that Toth was under the influence including "droopy eyelids, watery, bloodshot eyes, and his breath smelled strongly of alcohol."
Officers use these cues to legally begin a drunken driving investigation. Regardless of the reason why a person was pulled over, if the officer see signs of intoxication, they can prolong the detention and further investigate for DUI. Often, defendants argue that the officer never cited them for the underlying violation, and therefore, the case should be thrown out. The Court will not agree with this argument. The officer may pull over a vehicle on suspicion of any violation, regardless of the ultimate charges brought against the driver.
Lastly, this blog has previously commented on the Blackford matter, (see "SD Police Officers Investigated: Possible DUI Cover Up For One Of Their Own"). Although the San Diego District Attorney's Office is still reviewing this matter for a possible officer cover up, Blackford was sentenced for the DUI in the San Diego Superior Court.
The San Diego Deputy City Attorney requested 60 days in custody to be served in jail or by another in-custody alternative. However, Judge Frederick Maguire ordered 25 days of public work service, 5 years of informal probation, the standard fines and fees, the MADD victim impact panel class, and a first conviction program.
Whether you are a famous sports announcer, an agent, or a cop, if you drink and drive and you are pulled over you will likely be charged with drunk driving. You owe it to yourself to hire a criminal defense attorney who handles drunk driving matters. Do not just plead guilty!