An inmate driver’s license would become a reality in Alabama if a sweeping bill to reform the state’s troubled prison system is enacted into law. The bill was approved by a House Committee last Thursday, moving it closer to passage by the full house. Among other changes, the bill would authorize an inmate driver’s license as soon as the inmate leaves prison. The license would be a limited form of the standard license and allow inmates to drive to work and other appointments. Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said “The lack of the ability to drive has kept many inmates from getting jobs, ultimately landing them behind bars again.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Wednesday re-stated his opposition to licensing undocumented drivers on a talk radio show. Governor Christie, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, seemed to confuse an undocumented driver’s license with a traditional form of identification. “It is the single most important form of identification, it gets you on to airplanes…all the things that you need to do to identify yourself a driver’s license does that. I cannot give drivers licenses to people who I cannot be sure who they are and it’s that simple.” Christie becomes the second presidential contender in two weeks to announce a position on licensing undocumented drivers, following that of Hillary Rodham Clinton last week.
The “Cannibuster” has been a long time in the making. A roadside marijuana test has been the holy grail of law enforcement for some time now, and researchers at the University of Akron believe they have invented it. Unlike testing for alcohol–which can be done at roadside with a simple breath test–quantifying the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a driver’s system has required a blood test and a much greater time commitment by law enforcement. Called “The Cannibuster,” the new device was recently presented at the ninth annual LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards. The event celebrates five competitors representing some of the brightest and most innovative ideas being produced at northeast Ohio universities. Researchers are seeking funding for creating prototype, and they have vowed to work with law enforcement to develop it. Currently California law provides for an immediate administrative driver’s license suspension for any motorist who drives with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater. Legislative efforts to establish a “per se” level of illegality for THC have stalled in California, in part because of the expense of performing blood tests for every motorist stopped. Look for devices like the Cannnibuster to spawn an entirely new “per se” suspension scheme at DMV (as has been done in Colorado and Washington for 5 nanograms of THC per millimeter of whole blood), as officers can determine THC levels
An ACLU App for your smartphone promises to change the very nature of police-citizen interaction. Reported today by the L.A. Times, the ACLU of California has released the app this morning. Called Mobile Justice CA, the ACLU app allows a citizen to send recordings directly to the ACLU, ensuring that video of potential police misconduct is preserved, even if their cellphone is tampered with or destroyed. This follows on the heels Monday of the Missouri Chapter launching its version of the ACLU App. Cell phone video has become the center of a national debate following the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina by a police officer now charged with murder. A citizen bystander recorded the shooting on his cell phone camera and came forward with it after the officer lied about the encounter. Most commentators believe that without the video, the officer’s fabricated account would have been believed and he would have gotten away with murder. Peter Bibring, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU Southern California Chapter, said work began on the app before the recent controversy. “As we’ve seen in headlines over the previous few months, recordings by members of the public is a crucial check on police abuse,” Bibring said. “We’ve seen a number of examples of high-profile incidents of abuse and unlawful shootings or killings that never would have come
Arizona joins a growing list of other states in making driver’s licenses available at privately owned businesses. The new offices across Arizona are part of an effort by the Arizona Department of Transportation to privatize some of its services. The move brings to 14 the number of private DMVs operating in Arizona now. These businesses offer many of the same services as the state, but often at two to five times the price. In neighboring California, more than 1800 private businesses are authorized to provide private DMV services.
DUI video recordings during arrests have been mandatory in South Carolina since 1998. Every DUI arrest must be recorded from start to finish–including any breath test the motorist agrees to take. Apparently the law is hindering prosecution efforts, because two bills currently pending in the South Carolina legislature aim to lessen the importance of the video recordings. In typical prosecutor fashion, Barry Barnette, the chief prosecutor for Spartanburg and Cherokee counties, says far too many cases are thrown out because the DUI video recording is “not perfect.” (Read: the DUI video recording has so many problems that it cannot be used to validate the arrest.) Problems–which Barnette refers to as “technicalities,” can range from malfunctioning audio to the suspect temporarily stumbling out of view. (Read: the officer positioned the motorist out of audio range or view of the camera.) The proposal before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday specifies that a case can’t be tossed simply because video equipment fails to capture field sobriety tests. Barnette prefers a House version, which ties automatic dismissal to a recording being intentionally damaged or missing. Not surprisingly, appearing in favor of weakening the law were members of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, prosecutors and victim’s advocates.