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DUI Arrests Double it Myrtle Beach This Year

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Eleven DUI arrests were made between Saturday and Sunday in Myrtle Beach. Police said this number was higher than a typical weekend.

In 2012, 159 arrests have been made in connection with driving under the influence. In 2011 at this time, only 49 arrests had been made.

Myrtle Beach Traffic Division Police Officer Kevin Cast said there are many reasons for the influx in arrests. He said the new training offered to recruits allows officers who enter the field for the first time to be completely trained to detect an impaired driver.

It is a certification in advanced DUI detection that recruits receive. Cast said until now, officers in the past had gone up to three years before receiving that specific type of training.

Cast said there is also an increased number of field sobriety instructors. Two years ago, there were only two certified field sobriety instructors compared to the seven officers the Myrtle Beach Police have now.

Local Criminal Defense Attorney, Amy Lawrence, said she thinks the nice weather earlier than usual is a reason for the high rate of arrests.

“We have better weather earlier in the game, so we have a lot more people. Anytime in Myrtle Beach, we can have hundreds of thousands of extra people and a lot of those are families and people here on vacation and so the influx in people alone is what brings our numbers up a lot,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said finding balance between getting dangerous drivers off the roads and making unnecessary arrests could be really tough.

“We’ve got a state and city who’s trying to protect their constituents and family members and we’ve got all these tourists and the issue becomes, do we arrest more people in an abundance of caution or do we let it go and not have those DUI’s?  I think they’re just willing to arrest, and ask questions later,” Lawrence said.

Officer Cast said so far in 2012, there has been one vehicle fatality that was related to alcohol.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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1,700 Blood Alcohol Test Redone After Mistakes Revealed in DUI cases

The Colorado Department of Health is currently reviewing more than 1,700 blood alcohol test samples after it came to light that an employee may have made mistakes in many drunk driving cases. The fact is that although these tests are scientific, human error can be introduced-and even if not, they may not be 100 percent accurate.

According to the state’s health department, an independent test revealed that a certain lab employee misreported the results of several blood alcohol level tests. The findings have called into question the reliability of many of the blood alcohol tests that the state has received from the health department. Scientists and lab technicians are putting in night and weekend hours in order to retest the samples in question, according to CBS News.

Ten of the first 250 samples have so far proven to have been reported incorrectly. While the health department is not aware whether the employee, who has since been fired, was making the mistakes on accident or on purpose, the investigation demonstrates the importance of questioning such DUI evidence.

http://denver.cbslocal.com/2012/04/20/samples-from-dui-cases-being-re-tested/

Paralyzed DUI Crash Victim Gets a Second Shot at Prom

Going to prom was a dream Leeslyee Huerta had long given up, until she met the drunken driver who put her in a wheelchair.

Tonight, Huerta will be a guest of honor at Metea Valley High School’s senior prom — thanks in part to 27-year-old Nick Chodzko, whose intoxicated driving left her paralyzed five years ago.

AAIM helps Leeslyee, other DUI victimsThe Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists is a nonprofit group that assists victims and families of victims of DUI crashes.

In addition to providing Leeslyee Huerta with a courtroom advocate, and filling her request to meet the driver who paralyzed her, the agency raised money to pay her family’s mortgage for three months, make a car payment, and buy her a computer so she can take online college courses.

Lorraine Wesolowski, an AAIM advocate, said many victims of DUI crashes struggle financially following such a devastating turn of events. “There are so many things that could make anybody buckle under the pressure,” she said.

For more information, visit www.aaim1.org.

Chodzko and Huerta recently met at Huerta’s request and, last week, appeared before a crowd of Metea seniors who were captivated by their friendship.

Now the Aurora school is treating Huerta and her boyfriend to the prom they never had — complete with a makeover, flowers, a dress, tux, limo and dinner, all donated by local businesses and students.

“I’m so thrilled to be going because we never got to go to mine,” Huerta said Thursday. “I’m going to use this moment as if it was mine.”

Huerta, of Bolingbrook, was 18 years old and in her last semester of high school when the crash occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 11, 2007.

Chodzko, then 21, had been drinking at a party and ended up driving the wrong way on the Stevenson Expressway near Harlem Avenue when he slammed head-on into a van driven by Huerta’s aunt.

Huerta, who was asleep and buckled into a back seat, still remembers the sound of the collision and glass breaking.

When she awoke in a hospital more than a week later, she learned her back was “broken in two” and that she likely wouldn’t walk again.

For a year, Huerta was unable to go to court and face her offender.

She said she fell into a deep depression and, at one time, contemplated cutting her wrists.

“I was focusing so much on my hate, I was losing my life,” she said.

The burden began to ease when Huerta learned she was pregnant in 2009 — unexpected but welcomed news that gave her hope.

She also recognized sincere remorse in Chodzko, who she said borrowed money to buy her a specially equipped van to get around, even as his criminal case was pending.

Chodzko pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI in June 2010, receiving four years of probation and 480 hours of community service.

Huerta said she would never forget his apology in court.

“He said, ‘I’m very sorry, and I don’t expect you to forgive me because I don’t deserve that,'” she recalled. “He didn’t read it from a piece of paper, so I knew it came from his heart.”

Still, questions lingered.

Huerta said she wanted to hear what Chodzko experienced firsthand and find out whether his life changed as drastically as hers did. “I needed that,” she said. So at her request, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists last month arranged a supervised meeting with them at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

They talked for three hours.

“It felt amazing,” Chodzko said. “We talked about what we experienced in the accident, what life is like now — just everything. She knows that I didn’t intend what I did. It was a mistake.”

“I told him, ‘I don’t hate you anymore. I don’t want you to feel that way anymore,’” Huerta said.

Chodzko also had no easy road to recovery. After the crash, he was in a coma for more than a month. When he regained consciousness, he learned his neck, elbow, ribs, femur and kneecap were broken, and that he had a traumatic brain injury that would require months of therapy and rehabilitation.

“I had no cognitive skills, no motor skills, no memory,” the Chicago Ridge man said.

Chodzko said he doesn’t remember the crash or much of the week before it, but he’s been told he was at a party before getting behind the wheel. He had no prior criminal record.

Chodzko is now in his second year of giving speeches about the dangers of drinking and driving, which is what brought him to Metea last week.

Assistant Principal Joy Ross said seniors watched a DUI crash simulation and heard a moving speech by Chodzko, who at the end pointed out “my victim” sitting nearby.

He told students that Huerta never went to prom or graduation, and it was his fault.

“That, in and of itself, was jolting for the kids,” Ross said.

Afterward, students met with the two in the lunchroom and talked.

“We really wanted the students to see how impactful this is, how emotional it is,” Ross said. “It was very surreal, very sobering.”

Chodzko said giving speeches brings him peace because “I know at least one person out of the group will listen to me. If I get more, that’s absolutely amazing.”

As for prom, he said he’s happy Huerta gets to go.

“I want her to enjoy it and for it to be memorable,” he said. “That’s her night.”

Lorraine Wesolowski, who advocated for Huerta on behalf of AAIM and helped arrange the meeting with Chodzko, described the situation as “absolute magic.”

Wesolowski, whose own daughter was killed by a drunken driver on Dec. 26, 1999, said she’s never seen an offender and victim connect in such a way.

“I’m in court with victims’ and defendants’ families all the time, and I see people hug and shake hands,” she said. “But this? I don’t know if I’ll ever see anything like it again. It’s a wonderful, healing thing.”

Police & Fire Police: No ‘Special Treatment’ in Redskins’ Meriweather DUI Arrest

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather was charged with driving under the influence this week after being stopped for speeding on Interstate 66, according to Arlington County police.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Thursday, an Arlington officer observed a Lincoln going 73 mph on I-66 westbound in the vicinity of North Ohio Street, police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said.

The posted speed limit for that area is 55 mph.

The officer pulled the vehicle over and smelled the strong odor of alcohol coming from the driver, who was later identified as Meriweather, Sternbeck said.

Meriweather refused to take a breath test and subsequently failed a field sobriety test, Sternbeck said.

The football player told the officer that he had been drinking at a nightclub in Washington, though he did not indicate the name of the club, how much he had to drink or where he was going, Sternbeck said.

Meriweather was arrested and taken to Arlington County jail. He was released later Thursday.

“This DUI was no different than any other DUI arrest or traffic stop initiated by our officers,” Sternbeck said. “It was handled exactly the same from the initial stop to walking up to the vehicle to the identification process.”

Sternbeck continued: “Even though he is a Washington Redskins athlete, that does not grant him special treatment. He was speeding while under the influence of alcohol, and he’s got consequences he now must face.”

A spokesman for the Redskins did not return a phone message or email inquiring if or how this charge would affect Meriweather’s standing with the team.

Meriweather signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Redskins just last month, according to the Associated Press.

Two-day DUI blitz nets 373 arrests

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INDIANAPOLIS(WANE) – Indiana State Police reported Monday that two-day campaign took 373 impaired drivers off state roadways over the weekend.

In addition to the DUI arrests on Friday and Saturday, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., troopers also issued 3,717 traffic citations and 6,262 warnings. Officers also made 402 arrests for various criminal violations.

The purpose of the two day enforcement campaign was to remove impaired drivers from Indiana roadways before they caused needless pain, suffering, and death to innocent victims. The Indiana State Police is committed to reducing the number of impaired driving crashes.

ISP said impaired driving remains one of America’s deadliest problems. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009, 33,808 people were killed nationally in motor vehicle crashes. That same year, 10,839 people were killed in crashes that involved a driver or motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. That means every 48 minutes someone died in a crash involving an impaired driver. In Indiana, in 2009, there were a total of 189,676 crashes, 8,855 of them were alcohol related, resulting in 168 deaths.

Motorists are encouraged to report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911. Give a vehicle description, location, and direction of travel. Never follow an impaired driver.

 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1stpix_diecast_dioramas/5156481501/

Reposted: http://www.wane.com/dpp/news/indiana/two-day-dui-blitz-nets-373-arrests

Stoned-driving epidemic puts wrinkle in pot debate By Kristen Wyatt

Associated Press Sunday, March 18, 2012

Angeline Chilton of suburban Denver smokes marijuana twice a day to ease tremors from multiple sclerosis. Ms. Chilton insists that she never drives high, but she fears that officials will rush to set an unproven blood-level standard that would put her at risk of breaking the law. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Angeline Chilton of suburban Denver smokes marijuana twice a day to ease tremors from multiple sclerosis. Ms. Chilton insists that she never drives high, but she fears that officials will rush to set an unproven blood-level standard that would put her at risk of breaking the law. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER (AP) — Angeline Chilton says she can’t drive unless she smokes pot.

The suburban Denver woman uses medical marijuana to ease multiple sclerosis symptoms and says she never would get behind the wheel right after smoking. But her case underscores a problem that no one’s sure how to solve: How do you tell if someone is too stoned to drive?

States that allow medical marijuana have grappled with determining impairment levels for years. And voters in Colorado and Washington state will decide this fall whether to legalize the drug for recreational use, bringing a new urgency to the issue.

A Denver marijuana advocate says officials are scrambling for limits in part because more drivers acknowledge using the drug.

“The explosion of medical marijuana patients has led to a lot of drivers sticking the (marijuana) card in law enforcement’s face, saying, ‘You can’t do anything to me — I’m legal,”’ said Sean McAllister, a lawyer who defends people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.

It’s not that simple. Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in all states.

But it highlights the challenges law enforcement officers face using old tools to try to fix a new problem. Most convictions for drugged driving now are based on police observations, followed later by a blood test.

Authorities envision a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving.

But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone’s level of impairment — not that scientists haven’t been working on it.

Dr. Marilyn Huestis of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government research lab, said that soon there will be a saliva test to detect recent marijuana use.

But government officials say that doesn’t address the question of impairment.

“I’ll be dead — and so will lots of other people — from old age before we know the impairment levels” for marijuana and other drugs, said White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.

Authorities recognize the need for a solution. Marijuana causes dizziness and slowed reaction time, and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they’re high.

Dr. Bob DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, a non-government institute that works to reduce drug abuse, says research proves “the terrible carnage out there on the roads caused by marijuana.”

 

Reposted: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/18/stoned-driving-epidemic-puts-wrinkle-pot-debate/

MDDP Costs $$$

“goes on to provide that acourt order for a MDDP shall order the offender to pay the Secretary an administrationfee of not more than $30 a month, for a deposit into a special fund by the Secretary. Section 1001.444 of the new rules sets this dee a tthat figure and requires the offender to pay the fee for the entire suspension up front, at the same time the Secretary receives the order”.

MDDP Costs according to 625 ILCS 5/6-206.1(a)

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