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Does Heightened Police Enforcement Affect a Kona DUI Lawyer’s Strategy?

In the late twentieth century, most Hawaiians supported heavy-handed police tactics. Many jurors had parents or grandparents who lived during World War II. These jurors saw a cause-and-effect relationship between oppressive policing and public safety.

But things are different now. The Second World War feels as remote as the Franco-Prussian War, and Hawaii is one of the bluest of blue states. Overall, public confidence in police officers recently hit a 22-year low.

What does all this mean to Kona DUI lawyers? Hawaii County prosecutors could once count on sympathetic jurors who would support things like STEP campaigns and DUI roadblocks. Now, that support is waning. As a result, prosecutors make better pretrial offers than they made before. Furthermore, Kona lawyers can be more aggressive in their pretrial tactics.

What is at Stake?

In terms of their severity, Hawaii’s DUI laws are pretty much in the middle of the road. They are not overly harsh, and they are by no means lenient. A first-time conviction could mean:

1. Six months in jail (mandatory forty-eight-hour minimum),
2. $1,000 fine,
3. One year drivers’ license suspension, and
4. Substance abuse program.

Let’s look at the drivers’ license suspension a bit more closely. Any Kona attorney will tell you that if the defendant obtains an Ignition Interlock Device, limited driving may be allowed during the suspension. IIDs are basically portable Breathalyzers attached to the vehicle’s ignition. If the driver’s BAC is above a certain level, usually .04, the vehicle will not start.

On a related note, DUI offenders must generally obtain SR-22 auto insurance and keep it for at least three years. This high-risk insurance could easily double, triple, or even quadruple premiums. These higher rates make up most of the average $10,000 cost of a first-time DUI.

Kona DUI Lawyers and Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs

STEP campaigns are essentially police dragnets. The stated intent of a STEP campaign is to make as many arrests as possible for a designated offense. These efforts often have catchy nicknames, like “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Click It or Ticket.” Some marketing interns probably stayed up all night thinking of these names.

Exact program specifications vary. But generally, the department receives a state or federal grant. This money primarily goes to police overtime. Officers have pulled off their regular duties and reassigned to a particular area of town and instructed to arrest as many DUI offenders as possible. In other words, STEP campaigns create biased officers, which creates an opportunity for Kona lawyers.

The pressure to make arrests often causes officers to take illegal shortcuts. Frequently, they may lack probable cause to request a chemical sample. Furthermore, the nature of a STEP campaign makes suspicious jurors even more suspicious. So, when a Kona DUI lawyer asks questions like “Were you on your normal route that night?” The answers may set up a police officer bias defense.

DUI Roadblocks

STEP campaigns have no legal requirements, so police departments have much flexibility. Experienced Kona attorneys are aware that that’s not true with regard to DUI checkpoints. Since roadblocks allow officers to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, they must meet certain specifications, such as:

1. A department supervisor, normally a police captain or police chief, must authorize the checkpoint and set up most operational details,
2. These operational details must include a neutral formula, such as every third or fourth vehicle, for stopping motorists,
3. All checkpoints must include signage and traffic cones which inform motorists of the nature of the checkpoint and give them the opportunity to  turn around before traffic backs up,
4. That traffic delay, which includes the time waiting in line and the time at the checkpoint itself, must not be more than about thirty seconds, and
5. Officers must respect individual rights, such as the right to remain silent (motorists should be able to flash documents and pull through the checkpoint without interfacing with officers).

These requirements come from a line of Supreme Court cases, most notably the 1990’s Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz.

Even if the checkpoint meets all requirements, Kona DUI lawyers can focus on the perception problem. Many jurors see roadblocks as enhanced speed traps which are deliberately designed to ensnare unsuspecting motorists. That’s especially true if the DUI checkpoint was in a part of town not normally associated with drinking and driving and/or officers made a number of unrelated arrests.

Police credibility matters because prosecutors must establish facts beyond a reasonable doubt. If jurors question officer integrity, their credibility is reduced. And, DUI prosecutions are often one-witness cases.

Contact an Experienced Kona DUI Attorney for Help

Poor police officer’s perception often affects trial strategies. However, with a skillful Kona lawyer by your side, you have no reason to worry. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Kona DUI lawyer, contact Olson & Sons, L.C. Call us for sound legal counsel in your case at 808-745-1565. We have offices in Kona and Kamuela.