Ambien Sleep Driving: The Problem

January 25th, 2012 Allen Trapp Posted in Driving under the Influence of Drugs, Health Issues | No Comments »

     Zolpidem Tartrate, sold under the brand name Ambien, is a non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotic. The non-benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that have pharmacological characteristics similar to the benzodiazepines, with similar benefits, side effects, and risks, although they have dissimilar chemical structures. A sedative hypnotic is a drug that depresses the activity of the central nervous system and is used chiefly to induce sleep and to allay anxiety.

     Barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other sedative-hypnotics have diverse chemical and pharmacologic properties that share the ability to depress the activity of all excitable tissue, especially the arousal center in the brainstem. Sedative-hypnotics are used in the treatment of insomnia, acute convulsive conditions, and anxiety states and to facilitate the induction of anesthesia. Although sedative-hypnotics are generally sleep inducing, they may also interfere with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that is associated with dreaming. It has also been noted that when administered to patients with fever some of these drugs may act paradoxically and cause excitement rather than relaxation.

Sedative hypnotics may interfere with temperature regulation, depress oxygen consumption in various tissues, and produce nausea and skin rashes. In elderly patients they may cause dizziness, confusion, and ataxia. Drugs in this group have a high potential for abuse that may cause physical and psychological dependence. Treatment of dependence involves gradual reduction of the dosage because abrupt withdrawal frequently causes serious disorders, including convulsions. Buspirone and zolpidem are among the newer non-barbiturate non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics.

     Zolpidem is a benzodiazepine receptor agonist with high binding affinity for the GABA receptor. It was developed as a drug with a structure different from the benzodiazepines in order to provide it with an affinity for only a subset of the benzodiazepine receptors resulting in hypnotic properties without significant anti-convulsant, anti-anxiety, or muscle relaxant properties associated with the various benzodiazepines. Therefore, Zolpidem may be said to “compete” with the benzo’s for the attention of only some of the same receptors.

     Zolpidem has been available in this country since 1993, and for several years has also been available in a time release formula. It is available in both a five milligram and ten milligram tablet. The manufacturer recommends that it only be taken when a person has eight hours available for uninterrupted sleep. The peak concentration of the drug usually appears in the bloodstream between one and a half to two and a half hours. Therapeutic levels are reported as 29 to 113 ng/ml following a 5 mg. dose and 58 to 272 ng/ml following a 10 mg. dose according to the package insert.

     By around 2005 reports of parasomnias began surfacing. These are undesirable motor, verbal, or experiential events that occur during sleep. One of the more common was uncontrolled sleep eating. Raw eggs, uncooked rice, loaves of bread – they were all fair game. Cooking – and we are not talking about dishes that are particularly appetizing – was also reported, as well as sleep walking and sleep driving.

     Initially the manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, took the position that four percent of the population already suffered from somnambulism, and that while “events of sleepwalking have occurred during treatment with Ambien, these instances cannot be systemically linked to the product.”

     Finally, in March of 2007 there were two important developments. First, the Food and Drug Administration demanded that the makers of thirteen sedative hypnotic drugs include warnings about possible unusual behavior including sleep driving and recommended that the manufacturers conduct clinical studies to investigate the frequency with which sleep driving and other parasomnias occur in association with each product. Second, the manufacturers notified health care providers (i.e, the doctors prescribing the stuff) that the precautions were being revised to warn patients about the possibility of sleep driving and that such “complex behaviors” had been reported. Sanofi Aventis conceded that these events could occur in sedative hypnotic naive as well as sedative hypnotic experienced persons. Ambien (Zolpidem) was not the only drug affected. The others included Butisol Sodium, Carbrital, Dalmane, Doral, Halcion, Lunesta, Placidyl, Prosom, Restoril, Rozerem, Seconal, and Sonata. While Ambien related sleep driving cases have been encountered by all DUI defense attorneys, cases involving the other drugs are rare. Nevertheless, these drugs are on the same list as Ambien, so if a defense is viable for Ambien, it should be viable for these other medications as well.

     The question remains why would someone who has taken Ambien get out of bed and eat unappetizing food, cook stranger things, drive their cars into telephone poles, and have no memory of the event? A possible explanation for zolpidem induced nocturnal behavior is that after a person is aroused from sleep, he or she will walk, drive, or eat, and subsequently not recall the event after returning to sleep because of the sedation-mediated amnesic properties of zolpidem. Another possibility is that an arousal occurred out of deep sleep with the parasomnia occurring in this electroencephalographically verifiable stage of sleep. The author believes that at least in some cases the latter has been experienced, because the drivers’ interaction with police and other individuals was extremely incoherent, their behavior was “zombie-like”, and they stared blankly at the police as if looking through them.
Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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Son of Famous American Televangelist Arrested

January 25th, 2012 Allen Trapp Posted in DUI Arrests That Made the News, Top 50 DUI Arrests of All-Time | No Comments »

     Richard Roberts, former president of Tulsa’s Oral Roberts University and son of the the man who founded the school and spoke to millions on his Sunday morning program for decdades, was arrested early on morning of January 24, 2012, on suspicion of DUI and speeding, officials told The Times.

     Shortly after midnight an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer stopped Roberts, who was reportedly driving a black 2006 Mercedes at 93 mph in a 65 mph zone on a highway west of U.S. 169, according to the arrest report.  After stopping Roberts, 63, the trooper noted that he smelled strongly of alcohol.  Roberts allegedly failed two coordination tests and his breath test result was .11.  Roberts was booked into the Tulsa jail and released a few hours later on $1,100 bail, officials told The Times.

     He resigned as president of Oral Roberts Universityin 2007 after he and his family were accused of abusing university and ministry assets.  Later he was named President Emeritus.  All ORU employees are required to sign a pledge to avoid consuming any alcoholic beverages.
Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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Braves Star Arrested for DUI

April 30th, 2011 Allen Trapp Posted in Current Events, DUI Arrests That Made the News, Top 50 DUI Arrests of All-Time, Uncategorized | No Comments »

      Braves pitcher Derek Lowe was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol within days after pitching coach Roger McDowell was accused of making anti-homosexual comments before a game in San Francisco last weekend.  Gordy Wright, a spokesman for the Georgia State Patrol, said a trooper stopped Lowe’s vehicle about 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 28th, on an Atlanta street. The trooper detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage and administered a “field sobriety test,” which resulted in Lowe’s arrest.  Initial reports failed to identify the nature of this test, but additional information should be forthcoming. 

     The 37-year-old right-hander was charged with DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change, according to the Georgia State Patrol.  Lowe declined to take a breath test before he was released, and the officer did not attempt to obtain a search warrant for a blood best, although he could have done so under state law.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that Lowe was allegedly racing another vehicle when he was pulled over.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website
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Flawed Breath Tests in California

April 21st, 2011 Allen Trapp Posted in Breath Tests, Current Events | No Comments »

     Hundreds of drunk driving convictions in Ventura County could be tossed out because a defect in some of the handheld Breathalyzer machines purchased earlier this year is causing inaccurate blood-alcohol readings. The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office has sent memos to local attorneys saying that eight Intoximeter Alco-Sensor V breathalyzers have shown “erratic results” in blood-alcohol tests taken between January 20th and March 31st, according to Kevin Drescher, the supervising attorney with the felony unit.

     The county purchased 128 of the devices, paying about $4,800 for each one. Drescher said he didn’t know how many people charged with DUI were tested with the Alco-Sensor V during that time. “I don’t have the actual numbers,” he said, adding that the office was still looking into the matter. “Obviously, we are trying to do what’s right in this situation.” He added the information on who used the eight defective devices should be easy to obtain since it is data entered into the machine. Drescher said law enforcement has stopped using all Alco-Sensor V devices.Assistant Sheriff Gary Pentis said Alco-Sensor V had a defective mouthpiece resulting in “irregular readings.” He said the defective machines will be fixed, tested and returned to the county in about three months. The department will use the older model, Alco-Sensor IV in the meantime. He said every law enforcement agency in the county uses the device.

     The District Attorney’s Office sent the memo to the Public Defender’s Office on April 15th, said Chief Deputy Public Defender Monica Cummins. She said about 160 clients who were either convicted of DUI during this time or have cases pending, will be contacted by the office. “Some cases are still open,” she said. Cummins said the defective machines had “no evidentiary value” that could be used in court, but could have resulted in people getting convicted or pleading guilty to drunk driving based on erroneous Breathalyzer tests results.Drescher said his office will check on a “case by case” basis where defective devices were used to determine the appropriate thing to do.

     Attorney Robert Sandbach said a client’s arraignment for drunk driving was postponed because he needs more information about the Alco-Sensor V. He and his client went to the Department of Motor Vehicles Tuesday to request a postponement on a hearing to suspend the client’s license. He said his client was “alarmed and shocked” after finding out the machine was unreliable and possibly inaccurate. Sandbach said he is aware of two other clients who were arrested for DUI and were tested by the Alco-Sensor V. 

     Sandbach said on top of the jail time, fines and fees, and getting a license suspended, there is another toll for the wrongly accused. “The embarrassment of going through the process only to find out that the evidence was not reliable,” said Sandbach.

     During a news conference in January, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said the use of the microphone-sized instrument would improve safety in the community, providing instant reading of a motorist’s blood-alcohol level. The devices were funded through a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Officers were given about four hours of training on the devices before being sent out into the field.

     Attorney Mindy McQueen, who specializes in DUI cases, said Breathalyzer devices have never been infallible. She said the technology to make the devices faster, smaller and more economical has resulted in manufacturer design flaws.”These machines have never been infallible and that’s something that defense attorneys have tried to point out for years,” said McQueen, a member of the California DUI Attorneys Association.

     Pentis said the machines passed stringent testing before they were put to use. He said an officer in the field discovered the problem, reported it immediately, and the machines were pulled out and tested. Apparently temperature played a part in the false readings. Pentis said the only way the sheriff’s crime laboratory could duplicate the flaw in the Alco-Sensor V was to put it into a freezer. Pentis said the Alco-Sensor must be 100 percent accurate before it will be used by law enforcement. He did not explain why it was put into use when it was clearly not 100 percent accurate.

     Cummins said the Public Defender’s Office will move to have the convictions dismissed in cases where there may have been blood-alcohol errors. But some people who were found guilty or pleaded guilty as a result of these false readings have already served jail time, paid thousands of dollars in fines and have done community service as part of the conviction, Cummins noted. Also, harsher penalties are meted out to motorists who blow a .15 percent blood-alcohol level, said Cummins. In California, a blood-alcohol reading of .08 is considered the benchmark for being legally intoxicated.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website
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Former MADD president charged with DUI

April 4th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A former MADD chapter president in Gainesville, FL was charged with DUI, see news article.  Debra Oberlin, 48, was arrested around 1:00 a.m. February 18 after police say the car she was driving was swerving on Northwest 39th Street. According to the arrest report she was given two breathalyzer tests and measured .234 and .239. The limit in Florida is .08.  Written by Richard N. Blevins, Jr.

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Driving While under the Influence of Drugs

March 27th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Driving under the Influence of Drugs, Field Sobriety Tests | No Comments »

In Georgia you can be arrested and prosecuted for driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs.  Some law enforcement officers have completed the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (A.R.I.D.E.) course and are trained to conduct additional tests to determine if someone should be arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs.  I just completed the course, the same one that law enforcement officer complete in their training.  I learned about the three additional tests that are used on the roadside to determine if someone is under the influence of a drug.  Drugs are broken down into seven categories:  CNS Depressants, CNS Stimulants, Hallucinogens, Dissociative Anesthetics, Narcotic Analgesics, Inhalants, and Cannabis.To test for a subject for operating a vehicle DUI-Drugs, the look at general indicators and place them into a matrix to determine what drug you are under the influence of.   They are required to administer the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (VGN), Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand tests.  Next they perform three more evaluations:  Pupil Size Observation, Lack of Convergence and the Romberg Balance Test.  Written by Richard N. Blevins, visit my website.

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Hundreds of Breath Tests Tossed in Philadelphia

March 12th, 2011 Allen Trapp Posted in Breath Tests, Current Events | No Comments »

Dozens of DUI cases in Philadelphia will be re-tried because of a bad breathalyzer, officials announced on March 9th.  Prosecutors have conceded that at least one of the breath testing devices used in the city was showing incorrect blood alcohol levels.

The district attorney’s office has agreed that in cases where people were found guilty solely because of the test (sounds like only guilty pleas to us), they will get a new trial.  In cases where other evidence was obtained, such as witness testimony (any case that ever went to trial?) or a blood test, the defendants would not be affected by this development.  The problem could affect about 200 convictions.

As of this date we have not been able to determine the exact nature of the problem with Philadelphia’s breath testing device.  We will update this post if more details come to our attention. 
Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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NFL Player Braylon Edwards’ DUI case continued until May

March 10th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Breath Tests, Top 50 DUI Arrests of All-Time | No Comments »

NFL player Braylon Edwards‘ DUI trial has been continued in New York until May.  His attorney is attempting to suppress the breath test taken.  Edwards gave a breath test the registered .16, which is twice the legal limit in Georgia.  Suppressing the breath test is a good way to attack the State’s case against you.  It appears his attorney is doing what our firm would do in a case like that.

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Tiger’s First Baseman Miguel Cabrera Charged in Florida

March 2nd, 2011 Allen Trapp Posted in Current Events, DUI Arrests That Made the News, Top 50 DUI Arrests of All-Time | No Comments »

     Miguel Cabrera, the slugging first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, was arrested in Florida on February 16th for driving under the influence of alcohol and two counts of resisting an officer without violence.  According to Mark Weinberg with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, he was booked into the St. Lucie County Jail at 12:20 a.m. and released at 7:45 a.m., after posting $1,350 bond.

     Cabrera had not yet reported to Tigers spring training in Lakeland, Florida, and the arrest complicated matters because there were issues to work through with the office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and the players’ association.  He made one very smart move in the days that followed.  Instead of hiring a “celebrity” lawyer or one with a silk stocking civil background, he retained Michael Kessler, who is perhaps the finest DUI attorney in south Florida.  Kessler is well known nationally and highly regarded by other members of the National College for DUI Defense.  This baseball player chose a formidable DUI defense – not a quick guilty plea. 
Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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Hiring a DUI lawyer for your case

March 2nd, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you are charged with DUI, you need to find and hire a lawyer that will help you in your case, if you just don’t want to walk in and enter a guilty plea.  Some things to look for in hiring your attorney:  Does he/she know their stuff?  Do they attend seminars, and are they trained in SFST and Intox?  Are they members of any professional DUI or criminal organizations?  Are they current with the latest DUI law?  Ask around the courthouse and see who the bailiffs, lawyers and court clerks recommend.  I am a member of the National College of DUI Defense, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, certified in NHTSA and the State of Georgia Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and DUI Detection, certified as an operator of the Intox 5000, 10 years of law enforcement experience with the U.S. Army, DeKalb County Police, Milledgeville Police and Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, 4 years of experience as a prosecutor in Cobb County with the Solicitor’s office and District Attorney’s office and 7 years as a DUI Defense attorney.  Written by Richard Blevins  visit my website.

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Consequences of a DUI conviction in Georgia

March 1st, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction, Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you are stopped and arrested by a law enforcement officer in Georgia for DUI, you may face several things if you are convicted in court. The maximum penalty for a first DUI conviction in Georgia is 12 months in custody and a $1,000.00 fine. The minimum penalty for a first DUI in Georgia is 10 days in jail and $300.00 fine. There are a few mandatory requirements: 40 hours of community service, Risk Reduction course, known as DUI school, an alcohol evaluation and any complete any treatment that is recommended. The is also a one year suspension of your driver’s license. You may be eligible for a temporary driving permit for 120 days.    Written by Richard Blevins  visit my website.

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Cobb County and Kennesaw cracking down on underage drinking

February 11th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Current Events | No Comments »

The City of Kennesaw, Georgia and other local law enforcement agencies located in Cobb County are cracking down on underage drinking.   In 2010, 4,197 citations or arrests in Cobb County were reported for DUI and minor in possession of alcohol. As reported in the Marietta Daily Journal.  Our office has experienced this increase through the representation of numerous individuals charged with DUI or minor in possession of alcohol.  In Georgia minor in possession of alcohol carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and/or a $300.00 fine.  You can be eligible for a diversion program or a conditional discharge.  Our law firm has the experience to assist you with these charges to avoid a conviction and work to get your arrest record expunged.  Written by Richard N. Blevins, Jr., a former Cobb County prosecutor and former police officer, visit my website.

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My Recent DUI Training in Field Sobriety Testing

February 10th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Field Sobriety Tests | No Comments »

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of undergoing training to be certified in DUI detection and Field Sobreity Testing (FST) in accordance to the standards set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  I had priously been certified by the State of Georgia in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, while I was a police officer in DeKalb County, Georgia.  During the training, I learned how to administer the three standardized field sobriety tests, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN), the Walk and Turn test and the One Leg Stand test.  The HGN test looks for nystagmus in the eyes.  Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eyes.  The officers are trained to look for 6 clues.  The clues are lack of smooth pursuit, distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation, and onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.  If four clues are found, then NHTSA has conducted studies to show that it is 88% accurate that the person has a BAC over a .08.  On the second test, the walk and turn, the officer is looking for eight clues.  Two are in the instructional phase and six are in the walking stage.  They are: Starts too soon, unable to maintain balance, stops while walking, misses heel to toe, walks off line, raises arms, improper turn, and wrong number of steps.  If the officer observes two clues then NHTSA’s study shows it is 79% accurate that the person has a BAC of .08 or more.  The final standardized test is the one leg stand test.  Here, the officer is looking for four clues.  They are: Puts foot down, raises arms, hops, and sways.  If the officers observes two clues then NHTSA’s study shows it is 83% accurate that the person has a BAC of .08 or more.

Hiring the right attorney to look at the administration of the tests and other factors that could compromise the validity of each test is important in your DUI case.  If you are charged with DUI in Cobb County, Georgia or any surrounding county, please visit my website to discuss your case.

Written by Richard N. Blevins, Jr., former Cobb County State Court prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney in Cobb County, and former police officer.

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NHTSA’s Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

February 6th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Field Sobriety Tests, Uncategorized | No Comments »

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created three standardized field sobriety tests that law enforcement officers use in their DUI investigations.  They are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN), Walk and Turn test, and the One leg stand test.  Officers are trained to look for a number of clues in each test.  In the HGN they are looking for 6 clues, in the walk and turn, they are looking for 8 clues and the one leg stand they are looking for 4 clues.  NHTSA conducted a study and it was shown that 88% of individuals who exhibit 4 or more clues in the HGN have a .08 or higher BAC (Blood Alcohol Content).  If 2 or more clues are found on the walk and turn test, 79% of the individuals have a .08 or higher BAC in the study.  If 2 or more clues are found on the one leg stand test, 83% of the individuals have a BAC of .08 or higher in the study.Hiring an experienced attorney to assist you in looking to see if these tests are administered correctly, could go along way in helping you with your DUI case.  Written by Richard N. Blevins visit me at my website or

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Acetone in Blood Alcohol Tests

February 4th, 2011 Allen Trapp Posted in Blood Test, Chemical Test | No Comments »

     Something we are seeing more frequently in gas chromatograms, the charts that show how much of certain substances were found in a person’s blood by the state crime lab, is the presence of acetone.  Sometimes, the crime lab actually reports the amount of acetone in their two-page summary, which is all that most prosecutors or defense attorneys ever see, but more often than not they don’t.  We have also seen a number of tests with isopropyl alcohol present in the blood.

When acetone and isopropyl alcohol are present, it means that the person is probably an uncontrolled diabetic.  Acetone alone is also indicative of this problem.  So what impact does diabetes have on a blood test?  It means that the person has an elvated glucose (sugar) level in the blood, and that sugar with just a little help from an organism known as candida albicans will be fermented into alcohol.  In other words, the sugar in the blood of an uncontrolled (and sometimes undiagnosed) diabetic will be converted to alcohol, which will result in an erroneously high result.  This is particularly true if the blood is not refrigerated, which it never is while it spends three to four days in transit to the crime lab.  The blood alcohol level reported will not be adjusted to reflect the increase in the amount of ethyl alcohol in the blood caused by the endogenous production of alcohol.

The bottom line is that innocent people will be convicted.  An attorney who knows what to look for and a highly qualified forensic toxicologist who knows how to find it are your best protection.
Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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Administrative license suspension

January 19th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction, Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you are stopped in Georgia by law enforcement and ultimately arrested for DUI, you may have more problems than with the court system. The state of Georgia has a right to suspend your ability to drive in Georgia if you are operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. This proceedure is known as an administrative license suspension (ALS). After your arrest the officer may submit a petition to suspend your driver’s license. The petition is known as a 1205 form. The officer will do this if you register a .08 grams or more or if you refuse the state’s test. If this occurs you have ten days to file a request for a hearing with an administrative law judge. Your request for a hearing must be accompanied by a fee of $150.00.If this happens to you, contact an attorney as soon as possible so they may prepare your defense.Written by Richard Blevins visit me at my website.

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Want to visit Canada? Think again if you have a DUI conviction.

January 11th, 2011 Richard Blevins Posted in Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction, Hiring a Lawyer | 1 Comment »

Not too long ago visiting Canada was easy as flashing your driver’s license and waving at the border guard.  After 9/11, things changed dramatically.  A DUI is an extremely serious offense.  According to the Canadian Immigration Act, any offense that is indictable in Canada, which includes DUI convictions, makes you a member of the inadmissible class.  As a member if this class you are ineligible to visit, stay or travel through Canada.  After many years, approximately ten years, you may apply with the Canadian Minister’s Approval of Rehabilitation to be removed from this class.  All hope of travel to Canada is not lost, if you are a member of the inadmissible class.  You can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit.  However these are difficult to obtain.  There are two ways to to apply for this permit.  First, you can apply for one at the border, this is less paperwork, but you stand a greater chance of getting denied.  Secondly, you can apply in advance with a Canadian Consulate.  When applying for any permit, I strongly encourage you to consult with an immigration attorney.  If you have a pending DUI case and want to travel to Canada, it is helpful to have a letter from your attorney outlining the case.  Written by  Richard N. Blevins, Jr.,  191 Roswell Street, Marietta, GA 30060    678-354-2290  For more information, please visit our firm website or our Criminal Defense website.

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Roadblocks in Georgia: The Basics

March 21st, 2010 Allen Trapp Posted in PC for arrest, The Stop | No Comments »

     In order for a roadblock to comply with the Constitutional standards laid down by our Court of Appeals, it must be shown that all drivers were stopped at a specific location, that the delay to the motorists was minimal, the roadblock was well identified as a police checkpoint, and the screening officer had sufficient training and experience. Perhaps most importantly, it must be shown that the roadblock (sometimes called a license checkpoint or sobriety checkpoint) had what the courts call “a legitimate primary purpose at the programmatic level.”  In other words, it must be approved by a supervisor for a purpose other than general law enforcement, and that supervisor must be cloaked with the authority to approve roadblocks.
     Some roadblocks have been upheld even when a supervisor testifies that the primary purpose was enforcement of traffic laws and enumerates several purposes. On the other hand, when it can be shown that drug interdiction was a primary focus of the roadblock, it may be struck down as invalid. Sometimes a prosecutor will be unable to introduce live testimony from the supervisor or documents to prove the purpose of the roadblock, and the testimony of other officers on the scene is hearsay.  Occasionally it can be shown through dispatch and testing records that some automobiles were not stopped due to a manpower shortage. And, from time to time the delay to motorists is anything but minimal.  When a roadblock does not meet the criteria set forth by the Court of Appeals, all evidence obtained as a result of that roadblock should be suppressed, and the charges will consequently be dismissed.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website
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Blood Alcohol Tests: The Hematocrit Conundrum

October 8th, 2009 Allen Trapp Posted in Blood Test, Chemical Test | 1 Comment »

     Whole blood is comprised of red and white blood cells, platelets and other clotting and cellular material, dissolved salts, amino acids, fats, and water.  Those solid materials are frequently referred to as “hematocrit.”  The hematocrit level is, therefore, the percentage of the total volume of blood taken up by the solid particles.  Determining a person’s hematocrit level at the time the blood is drawn is the only way to know what the correct conversion ratio is for the person who was tested at the time of the blood alcohol test.

     The average hematocrit for men is 47% with a “normal” range between 42% and 52%.  The average for women is 42% with a range from 37% to 47%.  Studies have shown, however, that over time an individual’s hematocrit can vary by up to 15%. 

     In general, the higher the hematocrit level, the higher the reported blood alcohol concentration in a serum or plasma test, which is the kind most frequently encountered in a hospital setting.  The higher someone’s hematocrit level, the less liquid we can expect to find in their blood.  Since the alcohol will migrate or remain with the liquid portion of the blood, a person with a higher hematocrit will have a higher blood alcohol test result when that blood alcohol test is a plasma or serum test performed in a hospital. 

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website
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Additional Information on GERD and Breath Tests

October 8th, 2009 Allen Trapp Posted in Breath Tests | No Comments »

     GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease.  It is manifested by heartburn and the regurgitation of stomach contents back into the esophagus.  The condition is caused by a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the valve that relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes in order to keep it there.  When a person has GERD, that sphincter simply does not remain shut but allows stomach contents to escape back into the esophagus.

     Numerous medications such as Prilosec and Nexium are now available.  Other means of minimizing the effects of GERD include not drinking alcohol, avoiding spicy food, and losing weight.  The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn or acid indigestion, which is a burning sensation just above the stomach. 

     It has been suggested that many people who suffer from GERD would be unable to continuously blow into a breath testing device long enough to provide an adequate sample, thus leading to a false accusation that an individual refused to take a state administered test.  However, the most serious problem is the potential for distorting the breath alcohol test result.  It has been recognized for many years that mouth alcohol can cause falsely elevated breath test readings, which accounts for the fifteen or twenty minute waiting period required in many states.

     If alcohol is still in the stomach at the time a breath alcohol test is taken, it may find its way into the mouth via regurgitation, hiccupping, or belching.  The absorption of alcohol may be delayed by a pyloric spasm or by simply eating a meal.  Furthermore, eating spicy foods, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol are all known to cause GERD symptoms. 

     New studies have shown that the slope detector software (designed to “catch” mouth alcohol) is not sensitive enough to always detect mouth alcohol  when the amount in the mouth is fairly small.  Therefore, GERD cannot be ruled out, especially when the amount of alcohol consumed is inconsistent with the breath alcohol test reading, and the person has a history of GERD.  The most prolific student of the phenomenon, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University, has observed breath test results double the actual blood alcohol concentration when testing GERD patients.  More experimental work may be needed with people of different ages and gender and with different doses of alcohol and under different drinking conditions.  However, it appears that GERD is a problem, and anyone who suffers from the condition should be aware of the problem if arrested for DUI. 
Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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