Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Iowa: Cops May Not Snoop On DUI Consultations With Lawyers
A motorist suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) has the right in Iowa to consult privately with an attorney to decide whether to take a breathalyzer test, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday. The unanimous decision threw out the evidence against David Joseph Hellstern because a police officer eavesdropped on Hellstern's phone call. Though Hellstern asked for privacy, the officer failed to disclose that private in-person attorney consultations are permitted under state law.
Ankeny Police Officer Brandon Dyer pulled Hellstern over on March 31, 2013, claiming Hellstern's vehicle weaved over the road's center line twice. Officer Dyer smelled alcohol on Hellstern's breath and noted that he was lethargic and somewhat confused. After Hellstern refused the field sobriety tests he was arrested and booked at the Polk County Jail. Officer Dyer read the "implied consent" advisory and asked Hellstern whether he wanted to make a phone call.
Although Hellstern is a lawyer, he specializes in family law, real estate and corporate law. He claims no expertise in DUI or criminal law. As it was 2:19am, none of the five attorneys he called answered. Finally, attorney Meegan Keller returned a message at 3am, and Officer Dyer stood close by while Hellstern consulted with her over the phone.
"Can I have a moment with my attorney?" Hellstern asked.
Officer Dyer refused, thinking the law did not require him to tell Hellstern that he could have a private conversation with the lawyer if she came to the jail in person. At 3:36am, Hellstern took the breath test under protest. He blew a 0.19, more than double the legal limit.
Polk County District Court Judge Joe E. Smith agreed with Officer Dyer that there was no right to be informed about the possibility of a private conversation with a lawyer. He fined Hellstern $1250 and sentenced him to three days in jail. Hellstern appealed on the grounds that he had a constitutional right to counsel and that Iowa law provides a clear right to privacy for anyone arrested.
"An attorney shall be permitted to see and consult confidentially with such person alone and in private at the jail or other place of custody without unreasonable delay," Iowa Code Section 804.20 states.
The high court reviewed case law stretching back to 1990 that held whenever an arrestee invokes a statutory right, even if imperfectly phrased, the police officer must explain what the arrestee is allowed to do.
"In this case, Hellstern unequivocally requested a private attorney-client conference before he submitted to the Breathalyzer test," Justice Thomas D. Waterman wrote for the court. "We hold that Hellstern adequately invoked his statutory right to a confidential consultation with his attorney under section 804.20 by requesting privacy during his phone call, triggering Officer Dyer's duty to inform him that the attorney must come to the jail for a confidential conference. Officer Dyer's failure to explain the scope of the right to a confidential consultation violated section 804.20. The remedy for such a violation of section 804.20 is suppression of the chemical test results."
Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justice Bruce B. Zager agreed with their colleagues but argued separately that the court must go further. The current system where some know their rights and others do not should be changed, they argued.
"No rule of law should work as a trap for any person or the government," the justices wrote in a concurring opinion. "To ensure a fair and neutral application of the statute into the future, our prior cases should be reversed and replaced with a simple rule that a peace officer must advise every arrested person of the statutory right to counsel."
A copy of the decision is available in a 120k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Iowa v. Hellstern (Iowa Supreme Court, 11/21/2014)
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Saudi Arabia: Speed Cameras Cause Accidents
Speed cameras played a central role in a pair of recent, high-profile accidents in Saudi Arabia. At the beginning of the month, a dozen vehicles crashed into one another in Qassim after a motorist saw a speed camera, panicked and jammed the brake pedal to the floor. Four people were injured as one car slammed into the next. One man was hospitalized.
Eyewitnesses told local media that a car driving on King Fahd Road in Buraydah hit the brakes right as he came within view of the "Saher" photo radar unit. The panic braking triggered a chain reaction of rear end collisions that included a police car.
Another motorist in Saudi Arabia who slammed on the brakes to avoid receiving an automated ticket from a camera ended up flipped on his side. An SUV approaching an intersection tried so hard to stop that it left a visible trail of skid marks on the pavement. The vehicle veered to the right under the heavy braking and spun onto the curb, which caused the car to flip on its side. View video of the incident on YouTube.
Similar incidents have been caught on video in the UK. In 2008, the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a news story highlighting the local government's crackdown on speeding. The piece inadvertently included footage of a car going out of control after jamming on the brakes, nearly causing a multi-car collision. Another clip showed a car careening into an embankment in view of the speed camera (view video). Once BBC officials realized the significance of what was shown, the video was removed. A motorist came forward after recording the broadcast.
UK officials maintain that speed cameras "save lives," and they cite statistics to prove it. According to a 2006 expose in the British Medical Journal, those figures were bogus (view study). A UK Department for Transport-funded report suggests that the panic braking seen in the Norfolk footage may not be an uncommon response. A 2005 study of speed camera usage in highway construction zones showed that accidents increased by 55 percent in the locations where speed camera vans were used (read report).
Monday, November 24, 2014
Ireland: Speed Camera Firm Fined For Worker Discrimination
Photo enforcement companies are finding themselves in increasingly hot water over their labor practices. The state of California has fined Redflex and American Traffic Solutions for underpaying its employees. A multimillion-dollar lawsuit is pending over poor pay and work conditions. The US Department of Labor ruled that Redflex fired US employees so that it could replace them with cheaper Australian workers. Now the Irish government has ruled that a speed camera consortium discriminated against an employee.
In a decision handed down last month, Ireland's Equality Tribunal found the Go Safe consortium had violated the rights of former employee John McDonald by firing him over a disability. Go Safe consists of Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, Spectra of Ireland and Egis Projects of France.
McDonald had been on the job for just three months sitting in a Go Safe speed camera van when two vigilantes set fire to the automated ticketing vehicle while McDonald was inside. McDonald escaped the burning van without suffering any physical injury, but he claims he has since been wracked with sleepless nights and depression over the traumatic incident.
Go Safe covered the cost of a psychiatrist and counselor, but after seven months it fired McDonald. Medmark Occupational Healthcare examined McDonald and issued a report on June 27, 2011 saying it was not yet sure when McDonald would be ready to return to work. McDonald says he wanted to come up with a reasonable solution, but he says he was cut loose without any attempt at accommodation that would allow him to work doing something other than sitting in a camera van. McDonald appealed the decision, and GoSafe set up a company-run appeal hearing at Dublin Airport where his case was given five minutes of consideration before concluding that the firing was appropriate. The photo enforcement consortium insisted that there was no job available for him to take, and since he was unable to do the work he was trained to do, he had to be terminated. This violated Irish law, according to the government's review.
"Although it is the respondent's contention that the complainant [McDonald] was dismissed due to his health and due to his inability to return to his position, it is clear that the complainant's absence and his inability to return to work were due to his disability it thus follows that the complainant's disability contributed to or was the reason for his dismissal," Equality Officer Orla Jones ruled. "I am thus satisfied that the decision to dismiss the complainant was influenced by his disability in that it was influenced by his absence and by his inability to return to his position. Accordingly based on the totality of the evidence adduced on this issue I am satisfied that the complainant has established a prima facie case of less favorable treatment on grounds of disability in relation to his dismissal."
Jones ordered the speed camera consortium to pay McDonald 28,000 euros (US $34,600) in compensation, an amount that is tax-free to McDonald.
A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Equality Officer Decision No. DEC-E/2014/069 (Equality Tribunal of Ireland, 10/3/2014)
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Italy, The Netherlands: Traffic Cameras Under Attack
Vigilantes in the village of Loosdrecht, The Netherlands disabled a pair of newly installed speed cameras on Friday. The automated ticketing machines were spraypainted red, RTV Utrecht reported.
In Rovigo, Italy, vigilantes completely destroyed a speed camera last week Sunday. According to Il Mattino, the automated ticketing machine on the Via Forlanini was blown up in the early morning hours.
Friday, November 21, 2014
Illinois Supreme Court Punts On Red Light Camera Legality
Red light camera programs have grown so controversial in Illinois that the state Supreme Court could not come to agreement on whether the automated ticketing program in Chicago is legal or not. The justices deadlocked on the case brought by Patrick J. Keating, who argued that the people ticketed in the Windy City before the state legislature authorized the program are entitled to a refund in a class action suit.
"This is an exceedingly rare occurrence in Illinois jurisprudence," Keating told TheNewspaper in an email. "We are disappointed that we did not receive a substantive opinion from the court, but we respect and appreciate the consideration the justices gave to the case. It appears likely that two or three of the remaining justices felt strongly that we had established the illegality of Chicago's program."
Keating argued that Chicago jumped the gun in setting up its photo enforcement program. With the encouragement of what the US Department of Justice says were bribes from Redflex Traffic Systems, Chicago gave the Australian firm the green light in 2003 to begin building what was to become the world's largest municipal red light camera program. The General Assembly did not endorse cameras until three years later.
Keating argued that even this authorization was flawed, as state lawmakers were not universally enthusiastic about having photo ticketing in their jurisdictions. So lawmakers carved up the state, only allowing photo enforcement in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair, and Will Counties, excluding the rest. The state constitution says laws must be "general" and not carve out exceptions for particular jurisdictions.
The justices split three against two on the questions that Keating raised, but the court failed to reach enough of a consensus to resolve the dispute definitively.
"In this case, two justices of this court have recused themselves and the remaining members of the court are divided so that it is not possible to secure the constitutionally required concurrence of four judges for a decision," the court announced. "Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed."
As a result, the Court of Appeals decision stands as the final result of the case (view opinion), but this outcome cannot be cited as precedent.
A copy of the one-paragraph opinion is available in a 15k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Keating v. Chicago (Illinois Supreme Court, 11/20/2014)