The number of arrests for dui in Indiana has decreased significantly since the onset of the Covid virus within our borders. The reasons for these decreases are varied. Most notably, stay at home orders have forcibly cleared our roadways of automobiles. Further, the closure of small businesses including restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues has eliminated public gatherings where alcohol has been legally served.
Apart from the above referenced factors that have reduced traffic stops, I believe another significant consideration could be in play; police officer concern for their own health and welfare.
Whether in Indiana or throughout the United States, law enforcement’s willingness to engage in the necessary procedures required to sustain a legally binding dui arrest could now be in question.
The validity of many dui prosecutions nationwide require that bodily samples whether through blood draws and/or breath testing be collected and preserved as admissible evidence within a court of law.
Probable cause for arrests is almost always accompanied by preliminary breath tests at the scene of an arrest that require robust blowing into an apparatus held by a police officer. Thereafter, continued certified testing of breath or blood is initiated so as to fulfill the legal requirements of a lawful drunk driving prosecution.
Understandably, many law enforcement officials have grown reluctant to engage in such procedures during the course of our present global pandemic. Based upon my own anecdotal evidence many police officers have grown hesitant to put their own personal safety at risk if it means lawful compliance with proper dui arrest procedure.
More to the point, many officers may be in the midst of selective enforcement of criminal activity that does not require them to be in the close proximity of those legally required to expend breath samples.
Police officers are human beings with the same fears and concern for their families as other individuals. All things being equal, it makes more sense for such law enforcement officials to be less than enthusiastic to engage in such arrests at the present time.
Ironically, one of the recurring criticisms of police officers who have specialized in drunk driving arrests is that such arrests allow for the gratitude of engaging in a perceived public service without the typical risk of physical harm.
Once the Covid pandemic subsides and civilization begins to return to normal, it will be interesting for dui lawyers such as myself to follow whether the rate of dui arrests continues to diminish or returns to pre Covid levels.
Already, I have observed case files with subpar arrest procedures that I have come to believe are the result of officer hesitancy and fear. For example, where portable breath testing would typically be initiated as a basis for probable cause, such testing has on more than one occasion been curiously omitted as a basis for arrest.
All attorneys focused in the area of dui defense must be cognizant of these present and potentially future realities as a means by which to challenge the legal validity of a respective dui arrest.
Time will tell as to what continued effect a global pandemic will have upon nationwide arrests for drunk driving both now and in the future. More importantly, whether shortchanged legal procedures and subjective observations of impairment will be prevalent as a means by which to establish probable cause without on the scene breath testing.
As a result, defense attorneys such as myself must remain vigilant in challenging such legally deficient dui arrest procedures that will potentially cause the civil liberties of countless numbers of American citizens to be deprived.