/ December 12, 2008

DUI Flashlights And Legal Rights

Along with the joy of holiday celebrations comes an increase in DUIs on the roads. This season, a new legal dilemma reared its perky head with the use of some of the recent tools used in DUI investigations in California—  including the alcohol-sensing flashlight. 

This flashlight, also called a passive alcohol sensor,  works much like a regular flashlight, providing light for officers who have stopped someone for a traffic violation. Here comes the controversial part: The device also senses alcohol. A sensor on the flashlight triggers a color-based measurement scale, which goes from red to green, depending on the amount of alcohol it picks up. 

Proponents of the tool believe that these censored flashlights are a superior aid in the fight against DUIs. “It can be a vital tool in DUI enforcement when used properly,” said Livermore, Ca. police Lt. Mike Peretti, who has been using them for a couple of years. However, opponents like Michael Risher, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said he worries this tool is violating people’s legal rights. Richer explains that California’s  vehicle code requires a driver’s permission before taking a preliminary alcohol screening test. This is why a driver voluntarily blows into a hand-held device  when stopped on suspicion on driving under the influence. Additionally, Richer explains that a designated driver could be stopped by officers with intoxicated passengers in the car, and the flashlight would still sense alcohol in the car — even when the driver is completely sober. 

Source: Mercury News 

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