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Entries in Breathalyzer (2)

Thursday
Mar292012

Former Trooper of the Year Admits to Violating DUI Procedure

Thinkstock/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Lisa Steed was named Utah Highway Patrol's "Trooper of the Year" in 2007 for making more than 200 DUI arrests, but now all of her cases could be in question because she admitted she did not follow proper protocol while administering a DUI check.

It is the second time Steed's DUI arrests have gained notoriety. A 2009 dashcam video shows her Tasering a motorist who was later determined to be sober.

"The cumulative facts may well have a significant ripple effect across every case she's touched," Salt Lake City attorney Joseph Jardine told ABC News. "This could become the basis for overturning multiple convictions in the past."

Jardine is representing Theron Alexander, who claims Steed violated procedure when she administered a breathalyzer test before a field sobriety test in March 2010.

"The credibility of an investigating officer is paramount. If you can't trust the cop at their word, there's very little left that you can trust with an investigation," Jardine said.

At a court hearing on Tuesday, Steed admitted that she had removed her microphone during the incident in order to perform an unauthorized action.

"She specifically stated [Tuesday] that she took the microphone off so her superior wouldn't know what she was doing," Jardine said. "We're concerned that she may have a tendency to stretch the truth when it suits her purposes. Our objective is to probe her credibility."

Steed's attorney Greg Skordas does not believe that the incident is any reflection of his client's credibility.

"It doesn't affect her credibility. It affects the way she does things, her ability to follow instructions," Skordas told ABC News. "It doesn't mean she's dishonest."

Skordas said that Steed was simply trying to give the person she had pulled over "the benefit of the doubt" by skipping straight to the breathalyzer test and not having them get out of the car.

"It wasn't anyone she knew. I think she was just being overly sensitive," Skordas said. "There wasn't any bad intent. It was one of those, no good deed goes unpunished."

In 2009, a police car dashcam recording caught her Tasering a man during a DUI stop after he refuses to get out of his car, saying he'd like to call a lawyer.

The man, Ryan Jones, can be heard calmly saying, "Ma'am, please don't shoot me with a Taser," before Steed zaps him and he begins to scream. When Jones was eventually tested, his blood alcohol level was a 0.03, well below the legal limit.

The case was settled in November 2011 when the state paid Jones $40,000 without admitting wrongdoing.

When asked about the Taser case, Skordas said, "She took her lumps, she was reprimanded and we move on."

"Unfortunately, you have 300 cases and two go south and then all of a sudden you have a history," he said. "She wasn't named Trooper of the Year because she has a history. She works very, very hard and had a couple of unfortunate incidents, which she also stepped up to the plate for."

Steed has not been charged with a crime at this point, but Jardine believes she has a "huge insubordination problem" that needs to be dealt with.

"It's hard to say why she would do it specifically," Jardine said. "Is it pressure from her past achievements? Is it her desire to outdo the other officers in the state? Is it for advancement? Is it for all of the above? Who knows?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec312010

'No Refusal' on New Year's Eve: Drunk Driving Policy May Save Lives But Stirs Controversy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If history holds up, this New Year's Eve will prove to have been a deadly night on America's roads. Deaths typically shoot up about 150 percent during the holiday, as intoxicated revelers get behind the wheel.

To combat drunk driving this year, police, prosecutors, and judges in several states are turning to an aggressive and controversial tactic -- the "No Refusal" strategy. Officials in at least seven states, including Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Utah and Idaho, have made this a "no refusal" weekend.

The tactic is designed to close a loophole that police see all too often, when a drunk driving suspect says no to a breathalyzer test, hoping to beat any charges in court. Instead this weekend, judges in the no-refusal states will be right there on standby, ready to issue warrants so police can take a blood sample if a suspect declines a breathalyzer test. The results from the blood test provide evidence for prosecutors.

"The no refusal program is a unique program that brings together judges, police officers, nurses and prosecutors in one centralized facility that takes away the ability of impaired drivers to prevent the police from getting evidence," said Warren Diepraam., the chief vehicular crimes prosecutor at the District Attorney's office in Montgomery County, Texas.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 22.4 percent of drunk driving suspects refuse breathalyzer tests. NHTSA reports that 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2009, a figure that accounts for nearly a third of all traffic fatalities in the U.S.

The federal government and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have firmly supported the "no refusal" strategy as a way to curtail deaths. NHTSA says the "no refusal" program results in more guilty pleas and fewer trials.

Still, there are critics of the "no refusal" plan, including criminal defense attorneys and the ACLU.

"There are two problems with this. One is the potential invalidity of the search warrants," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "If they're being issued assembly-line style, there may not be the kind of individualized investigation in each particular case that's necessary for a valid search warrant."

"The other concern is the medical privacy issue," Esman said. "We don't know what they're doing with the blood samples -- whether they're data banking it, what kind of information they're going to glean from it."

But law enforcers say that little else has worked to keep drunk drivers off roads, and they hope that this tough tactic can save lives.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio