Bexar County Assistant D.A. Advises Friend Against Breath Test

Breathalyzer Exam

An assistant district attorney from Bexar County was recently fired after advising a friend, stopped for suspicion of DWI, to refuse a breath test. With less than a year of prosecuting cases in the DA’s office, Tara D. Richardson has already been officially dismissed for her conduct during the arrest of her friend.

Earlier this month, Richardson and her friend, Ricardo Ramirez, were stopped by San Antonio officials when their vehicle was seen drifting across the highway. The officials believed Ramirez (the driver) to be under the influence of alcohol, administered a field sobriety test and requested that he also take a breath test. Upon hearing this, Richardson urged Ramirez to avoid taking the breathalyzer, even though her job forbids her from dispensing such advice.

For obvious reasons, an attorney cannot defend and prosecute the same action. Advising her friend against taking the breath test conflicts with her responsibility to uphold justice, and that advice cost her her job.

In addition to giving her friend on-the-spot legal counsel, Richardson also identified herself with her badge to officers at the scene. Her behavior was interpreted as an attempt to “pull rank” on the officers and use her position to influence their handling of Ramirez.

But more importantly, it’s interesting to see how Richardson behaved during the episode with Ramirez. With her knowledge of the justice system, Richardson clearly believed that her friend should refuse the Breath test. Richardson’s instinctive behavior shows us that she, a prosecutor, believed that the best way to avoid a DWI was to refuse the breath test. If an assistant D.A. is encouraging her friends to refuse the breath exam, then why should we as citizens consent to a breath test?

Furthermore, we should all be very cautious when it comes to submitting to any type of sobriety testing. These tests are designed to make drivers fail – even sober drivers. The failure of one of these tests can be enough to convict a person in many cases, and your DWI attorney should inform you of how harmful they are. Tasha Richardson knew that there would be serious repercussions if Ramirez were to accept the breathalyzer. Never consent to a breath or blood test. Make the officer get a warrant.

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News and Entertaiment: Crime Scene Exacerbators

Crime and EntertainmentCable network TNT is reportedly releasing a series this summer entitled “Cold Justice”. The series, featuring Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler and crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary, will reopen abandoned cases of violent crimes; with a combined 68 murder cases and 7,000 criminal cases, respectively, the duo aims to finally bring at-large criminals to justice with the latest crime-fighting technology. Executive production credits for the show go to Dick Wolf, the creator of crime-drama’s flagship series, Law & Order.

In a television culture that relishes in the delivery of justice, it won’t be surprising if Wolf’s new brainchild meets a warm reception. Shows like Law & Order as well as the countless iterations of the CSI brand earn their success by simulating newsworthy events where justice is always swiftly and thoroughly delivered to the fictitious perpetrators; the show’s added reality element should make it fit nicely within the tastes of America’s viewers.

However, it is interesting to see how little variation there is in America’s taste. Families will gather around their televisions for a news hour that details violent happenings around the world, only to remain seated when a series about more violence is scheduled right afterward. Rather than keeping our informative and entertaining media separate, we’ve allowed the two to blend into one large nebulous viewing experience. In a poignant blog on media coverage, Grits for Breakfast suggested, “Crime used to be ‘news’, but now it’s treated by the media mainly as entertainment.”

Crime receives some of the most sensationalized coverage of any newsworthy topic. Devastating stories about domestic violence and school shootings receive priority attention and are covered for weeks and weeks after the events have happened. Is there new evidence about the issue? Typically not. Are there any new developments, at all? No, but we “stay tuned” in case there are.

So this summer “Cold Justice” hopes to satisfy our thirst for what media coverage can’t give us. Where media coverage lures us into weeks and weeks of viewing with no guarantee of judicial gratification, “Cold Justice” steps in and lays down the law. It’s almost as if entertainment and news are engaged in some kind of dance where one compensates for what the other lacks; it’s as if the two are merging before us into one big show.

Photo: dhammza

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Utah Trooper Accused of Fake DUIs

Police BadgeAfter the recent arrests of two law enforcement officers for DWI, it has now come to light that another officer has been accused of criminal activity, this time on the other side of the Intoxilyzer.

Utah Highway Patrol officer Lisa Steed has been terminated after allegedly arresting at least 40 people on fraudulent drug or DUI/DWI charges. Steed had previously been lauded for her history with the force. After bringing in over 200 DUI arrests in 2007; Steed received the “Trooper of the Year” award.

Nearly all of the arrests in which Steed was involved have been called into question. Keep in mind – these are legal decisions that have likely come at considerable expense to the alleged “offenders” who were on the receiving end of Steed’s egregious conduct. One man in particular was allegedly arrested by Steed on DUI charges although no alcohol was detected in his system. Even worse, after Steed arrested the man, she apparently proceeded to drop his wife off at a local fast-food restaurant with no means of communication or transportation to help her get home safely. Steed’s mishandling of the situation reportedly left the man with roughly $3,000 in impound fees in order to retrieve his vehicle, and his wife stranded without a reliable method of returning home.

Dashcam video captured much of Steed’s activities, including one instance in which a woman apparently performs almost flawlessly on the field sobriety tests administered by Steed, yet is still arrested for DUI. The civilian was said to be released thanks to a clean blood test, and intends to file a lawsuit against Steed for the incident.

Steed also has a history of not following proper protocol for DUI checks in the past. Earlier this year, she admitted that she deliberately removed her microphone to keep an unauthorized action off of the audio record of the arrest. Fortunately for recent “offenders”, Steed’s arrest history will likely lead to the reversal of some convictions.

Despite the overwhelming evidence demeaning Steed’s credibility, her attorney insists that her trustworthiness as an officer has not been compromised. Surely, the sober man who was allegedly stun-gunned by Steed in 2009 (an event that was also captured by dashcam) would disagree. If Steed’s misconduct isn’t enough to jeopardize her reputation, and even if these cases could be attributed to accidents or general misunderstandings, much of the responsibility for this unfortunate situation lies with her superiors. DUI-related charges are serious allegations that carry serious consequences, and it is very disconcerting to know that there are law enforcement officers who find it necessary to stack the deck against drivers regardless of whether they have consumed an intoxicant!

In light of recent drunk driving charges against officials, what do you think the news about Lisa Steed’s behavior communicates about DUI/DWI law enforcement?

The article can be seen here

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An Interesting Arrest

This story was just released the other day concerning a DWI arrest in Westlake. Normally this type of news is mundane, but what makes this particular story unique is not only who the offender was, but what the implications are for us as drivers in general.

Just before 1:00 Wednesday morning (or Tuesday night, if you’re the nocturnal type), 32-year-old Nicolas Ramirez was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation and arrested for suspicion of drunk driving near Westlake. But, the reason why the media covered this story so extensively is because Mr. Ramirez—as you may already know—is a commissioned peace officer. And not only is Mr. Ramirez a police officer, but he is a Forth Worth Police Department DWI enforcement officer!

Mr. Ramirez submitted to a breath test and was alleged to be more than twice the legal limit (.08 in Texas).

How do you feel about the news surrounding Officer Ramirez’s alleged offense?

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Texas State Troopers Being Sued For “Roadside Body Cavity Search”

On July 13th near Irving, TX, 38 year old Angel Dobbs and her 24 year old niece, Ashley Dobbs, were stopped by David Farrell, a state trooper, for littering. They had each tossed their cigarettes out of the car on State Highway 161, which prompted the initial stop. Both women are now suing the two state troopers and the head of their department in federal court because they feel they have been subjected to a humiliating and illegal “roadside body cavity search” during this traffic stop. The incident captured on the officer’s dash cam can be seen here.
Farrell stated that he suspected an odor of marijuana and called for Kelley Helleson, a female officer, to help search the two women. In full view of passing traffic the female officer put on a pair of gloves search one woman’s body. After the first woman is searched both anally and vaginally in plain view of passing traffic the first officer’s dash cam captures the female officer using the same pair of gloves to search the second female in the same fashion.
Such an invasive search should never occur on the roadside and should not be conducted in the presence of the public.
According to the law, the odor of marijuana gives law enforcement officers the authority to search a vehicle for marijuana. Unfortunately, this allows dishonest officers to claim they smelled marijuana to justify an otherwise illegal search. To extend this exception to allow an invasive body cavity search based on nothing more than an alleged odor of marijuana inside the vehicle is ridiculous and excessive. What if one or both of these ladies had just gotten into the vehicle and the odor was already there? Assuming, of course, it was ever there in the first place.
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Will Deep Lung Devices Decrease Wrong-Way Accidents?

DWI Collin CountyOn Tuesday afternoon NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman led a meeting discussing recent investigations concerning wrong-way accidents. The meeting adjourned after arriving at the conclusion that deep lung devices (DLD’s) should be assigned in an effort to mitigate the frequency of wrong-way accidents. DLD’s are the devices that evaluate the driver’s breath for traces of alcohol before he or she is allowed to start the vehicle. If the driver passes, the car starts; if the device detects a BAC higher than its designated limit, the car doesn’t start. DLD’s are regarded by the NTSB as a very effective method in keeping the roads free of impaired drivers, so they would naturally be explored as a solution to combat wrong-way accidents. The controversy in Chairman Hersman’s request, however, is that it would require all states to install these devices on every DWI offender’s vehicle – even first-time offenders.
Chairman Hersman frequently referred to the notion of “automobility” in her argument: the idea that we are an automobile-centric nation.  It’s an accurate observation by the Chairman and she uses it to illustrate that the amount of time we are spending in cars naturally makes us more vulnerable to violent accidents with other drivers. Regardless of whether someone is impaired or not, we are all more susceptible to serious injury in an automobile accident just based on our increased exposure to the road. But is the proposed solution a responsible way for the problem to be addressed? Should first time offenders be treated in a manner usually reserved for someone who has made the mistake twice, or even three times?
Additionally, the NTSB discussed some technological improvements that can help avoid these types of accidents in the future. GPS designs with built-in wrong-way alerts are a proposed solution, and the NTSB strongly advocates a passive alcohol detection initiative for all vehicles, not just those of previous offenders. But more practical alternatives were proposed as well: improved signage and highway design could benefit elderly drivers (a group that was heavily represented in the studies).
In discussing these avenues for prevention, the Chairman made an interesting remark: “A rising tide does lift all boats”. The phrase was intended to comment on how developing a solid prevention solution could benefit all drivers—but there is still more wisdom in the phrase. Similar to Chairman Hersman’s illustration, the tide of automobility is also rising, and with it all drivers are increasingly vulnerable on the road. The risk of fatality will only increase with the amount of time we spend in our vehicles, so how should wrong-way accidents be prevented in the future?
Should all drunk-driving offenders be subject to a DLD installation? Is this a reasonable way to discourage drunk driving, or does it treat certain offenses too severely?
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Deferred Adjudication for DWI?

AUSTIN, Texas – A new legislative proposal would allow first-time drunken drivers (DWI) in Texas to be acquitted if they complete supervision and treatment, a move supporters say would reduce court backlogs and shift the judicial system’s focus to punishing repeat DWI offenders.

Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, filed the proposal that would allow for deferred adjudication for first-time DWI offenders. Repetition of the offense would become grounds to increase future punishments.

The bill, which has supporters including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, prosecutors and defense attorneys, would be a change from the state’s stance that all drunken drivers should face fines and jail. In the mid-1980s, deferred adjudication for such offenses was abolished in the state. Opponents at the time, including MADD, had argued that the form of probation was being accepted for repeat offenders.

“It’s a needed change,” said Richard Alpert, a Tarrant County prosecutor. “It’s not like they are getting a free DWI, but a type of probation that would not technically be a conviction. If they don’t reoffend, they can say they have not been convicted. But if they do reoffend, it can be used to enhance their punishment.”

Supporters say that by routing cases out of courtrooms, the plan could ease court backlogs. Also, they say, it could improve efforts to track and punish repeat DWI offenders and remove the threat of jail that makes some first-timers refuse guilty pleas.

“Generally we do not support deferred adjudication bills, but we are going to support this one,” Bill Lewis, public policy liaison for the Irving-based nonprofit group MADD, told the Austin American-Statesman. “Right now, we are hearing that many cases are not getting prosecuted for DWI but for a bogus charge. We hope the practice of reducing charges will be reduced if this bill does indeed pass.”

Supporters of the bill also say it could give prosecutors a new negotiating tool.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said that the plan would still require supervision of the defendant and could enforce fines and allow a judge to impose jail time as a condition of probation.

“This would be a first step to putting some sanity in that system as long as people make sure to retain it only for the true first-time offender,” Bradley said.

While the proposal has been in front of the Legislature before, Alpert said there is plenty of support this time.

“I think there is some momentum for this,” Alpert said. “It would give people who want to take responsibility an incentive to plead guilty, as opposed to setting these cases for trial. We have too many cases on the docket.”

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California Man “Loses” Child Following Night of Heavy Drinking

A 3-year-old was located late Sunday night following a frenzied search over 24 hours after his intoxicated father lost him after leaving a wedding reception in Pasedena, California.

Dylan Kurihara was found asleep in his car seat in his father’s car by Pasadena resident Rowdy Metzger, 39. According to Pasadena Police, the boy was a little thirsty but otherwise fine and was taken for a checkup to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.

Dylan was located at 10:40 p.m. Sunday in a parking lot just two blocks away from where his father, Joe Kurihara, was arrested the night before for public intoxication and resisting arrest. At the time of his arrest, Kurihara did not mention he had a child nearby. Witnesses, including Dylan’s mother, last saw the child with Kurihara at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

When Dylan’s mother didn’t hear from Kurihara for hours, she began to call police stations and hospitals. She reached Pasadena police about 8 a.m. “We checked our records and found the father was arrested for public intoxication,” said Qualls. The mother’s call launched an intensive search. Dogs traced the scent of the boy or his father to the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, about two miles from the parking garage, officials said. But that turned out to be a blind lead.

Investigators took Kurihara from jail back to the scene of his arrest in the hopes that he might remember where his child was located. That effort was futile. Officers were concerned Kuhira’s car may have been stolen and the child abducted. The FBI was standing by to assist in that regard. Kurihara is currently being held at the Pasadena city jail in lieu of $10,000 bail on a charge of resisting arrest.

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Welcome to our new blog site, Collin County DWI blog!  This blog is intended to cover topics of interest and current events related to DWI and Criminal Law in Collin and the surrounding counties.

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