Thursday, July 5, 2007

Same time works fine

Last Thursday, Capt. Joy Citta and I tag-teamed a day-long meeting called by the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. She handled the morning, I took the afternoon. The meeting was a forum to discuss how to improve Nebraska’s Administrative License Revocation (ALR) process. A group of about a hundred prosecutors and police officers had been invited to to provide input.

ALR revokes the driver’s license of a person arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Research has supposedly shown that ALR has a measurable impact on reducing drunk driving. Apparently it is the immediacy of the loss of driving privilege that causes the effect.

Courts have ruled that administrative revocation requires that the driver be provided with an opportunity to challenge the revocation and in Nebraska, the police officer who made the stop and/or administered any test is summoned to a hearing whenever the revocation is challenged. ALR hearings are a major pain in the neck for our police officers. First, it is yet another hearing on the same case you are going to court for—and drunk driving cases typically involve more than one court appearance. Second, unlike court, when you appear at the hearing there is no attorney there to represent you. Defense attorneys can badger officers in ways they would never get away with in a court room.

Finally, ALR hearings are a significant impostion on the personal lives of police officers. Think about it: the officers who arrest drunk drivers, especially lots of drunk drivers, all work on the graveyard shift. They are being constantly called to court and to ALR hearings during that are effectively in the middle of their night. You get overtime pay when you are required to appear at an ALR hearing. That has cost us $47,262 so far this fiscal year. Court appearances and ALR hearings may add a little extra on your paycheck but it hardly offsets the disruption to your sleep, health, and family life.

When the time came to brainstorm improvements, there was a lot of discussion. I had some suggestions. A couple of them caused laughter, but I was not joking at all, and was quite serious in making these proposals. First, I think the State should pay the overtime cost. Second, I think that instead of impounding your driver’s license, we should change the law to allow the officer to impound both your car and your driver’s license. You can have it back as soon as the hearing has been held and any period of revocation expires.

Third (and my favorite), I think that ALR hearings should be scheduled on exactly the same day of the week and at exactly the same time as the arrest was made. If you get yourself arrested for drunk driving on Saturday morning at 1:23 A.M., the ALR hearing should be on a Saturday morning at 1:23 A.M..

Bet that would reduce the number of hearings quite a bit. Somehow I think fewer people would contest the ALR. And if a hearing actaully was held, it would be during the arresting officer’s normal work time—not in the middle of his or her sleep time.


Mr. Wilson said...

Your second proposal seems to blatantly disregard the due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution. (I'm too lazy to see what the Nebraska Constitution has to say on the matter.) How do you defend your proposal against that hurdle?

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 6:27 AM: The hearings would happen so infrequently that I don't think it would be much of a problem.

Mr. Wilson:

I'm no lawyer, but several States already authorize the impounding of vehicles. Nebraska law authorizes pretty much precisely what I am proposing for supsended drivers, so the due process concerns must not be insurmountable. Maybe you could just modify this statute to include drunk drivers, or drunk drivers with at least one prior conviction in the past decade.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that might be worth some study is the average blood alcohol content of those arrested for DUI.

I get really frustrated with this perception that these folks are victims of an over agressive police department and that having more than a glass of wine is going to get you busted.

In the years that I was in law enforcement (in western NE) the DUI's I got were never under 1.5, were always on their way to a girl friend's house, the truck stop or someplace other than "just trying to get home".

I got folks who thought they were in different cities than they were, who passed out reaching for their registration, who urinated or defecated on themselves etc.

I think people would be shocked as to how drunk most DUIs are - and perhaps be a little more willing to support aggressive enforcement efforts like impounding a vehicle upon arrest

Jenn said...

I know this is an old post, but I am just catching up after a few weeks...

THANK YOU CHIEF!!! I am so sick of this state giving SO many rights to drunk drivers!! I am not a drinker, and why should I have to put up with some @!#$ that wants to put me and my family in danger? They know they can get away with it! I am also sick of people blamming LPD for not keeping DUI's in jail. Blame the courts and the judges!

Anonymous said...

Now just tell the command staff not to limit the amount of DUI's an Officer can do. Yes this is happening. We would not want to break the OT budget for court!

Tom Casady said...

Now wait just a minute. That's a little hard to believe. Are you sure there's not some kind of a communication issue here? Give me the details, and I'll check into it.