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Why Judges Favor the Prosecution in DUI Cases

It would seem that testimony and evidence are important factors to the defense of a California DUI case. As the accused, you would expect that the judge hearing your case would come to legally fair decisions with unbiased opinions based on testimony and evidence. However, are the courts' judgments in a DUI case really objective? Unfortunately, a large proportion of judges used to be prosecutors who now construct their rulings as judges based on their trainings and experience as a prosecutor. Not only are some judges biased because of their former profession, they tend to be influenced by groups such as MADD, police agencies and other prosecutors, especially during re-election when the judges need the support of these groups.

The National Association of State Judicial Educators (NASJE) has agreed to support and maintain the DUI: A National Online Resource Library on Impaired Driving website for the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This website provides judges across the nation with access to online resources, educational classes and written material on the topic of drunk driving and how to deal with DUI cases in court. For example, the NASJE site references the Overcoming Impaired Driving Defenses article published by the American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI). This particular article mentions a variety of common defense claims used such as the invalid stop, the invalid arrest and the Miranda (5th Amendment) defenses, along with a response to disprove each claim. NASJE also references the Handling Impaired Driving Cases article. NASJE illustrates that this article discusses "...common aspects of impaired driving cases: anticipating defense issues..." The article begins with a discussion on a variety of blood-alcohol problems and how "Prosecutors can easily skewer defenses like those..."

The topic of standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) can also be found at the NASJE site. The Admissibility of Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), also from the APRI, informs the reader that "The HGN test is the most accurate of all the tests, the best test for apprehending drivers between .08% to 0.12%, and the most researched of all the SFST's." A report submitted to the NHTSA, Validation of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery at BACs Below 0.10 Percent, demonstrates the accuracy of SFST's. Based on these tests, the results "...provide clear evidence of the validity of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery to discriminate above and below 0.08 percent BAC...".Finally, NASJE recommends a 2-day training class established by the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education at their Annual Traffic Seminar. NASJE describes this class as a seminar where "judges learn about the use of the Intoxilyzer 5000, indications of drug impairment, laying a foundation for police officer testimony...and synergistic impairments."

If judges are reading these types of articles, seeing the results of these types of testing and attending these types of classes, one might conclude that they are already predisposed to favor the prosecution before any testimony or evidence are presented to them. Judges should not be anticipating legal defenses that may be brought up in court. They should be making decisions based on California drunk driving laws and evidence and testimony, not because they were already informed on how to dispute valid defenses.

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