Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yet another assault on motorists

On May 30, 2011, the Texas Legislature sent HB 1199 to the governor, it having passed both houses. Under Texas law, the governor may sign a bill into law, veto a bill or allow it become law by letting it sit on his desk for ten days. Since the regular legislative session ended before the expiration of the ten days, the bill must sit for twenty days before it can become law without the governor's signature.

That means that June 19, 2011 is the day on which the Abdallah Khader Act will become law in the Lone Star State. Now, first of all, if a bill is named after a person, you know it can't be good for anyone charged with a crime since Rule No. 1 of lawmaking is that bad facts make bad laws.

Abdallah Khader just turned five. When he was two, his parents' car was rear-ended by a man alleged to have had an alcohol concentration three times the legal limit. Abdallah has been in a vegetative state ever since.

It's a tragedy. There are no two ways about it. But there are people who are injured and killed by motorists who aren't intoxicated. There are people who are injured and killed by motorists with alcohol concentrations just over the legal limit.

HB 1199 won't do anything to bring Abdallah out of his coma. HB 1199 won't do anything to prevent another accident. What HB 1199 will do is subject motorists to more severe punishment even if there is no accident and no injuries.

If HB 1199 becomes law it will become a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail, to have an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher at the time of a breath or blood test. That's right - not at the time of driving, but at the time of the test. The problem with that is that it's not against the law to have an alcohol concentration of greater than .08 unless you are driving at the time. And why 0.15? That's less than twice the legal limit. What relationship does that have with the sad case of Abdallah Khader?

Current law requires the state to prove that a motorist's alcohol concentration was over the legal limit at the time of driving. This means we must sit through an exercise in pseudo-science known as retrograde extrapolation where the state's "expert" testifies that a person's BAC was a certain level at the time of driving based solely on the BAC at the time of the test and the length of time that passed between the time of the stop and the time of the test.

The state needn't concern itself with such details as the weight or sex of the motorist. Never mind the make up of the motorist's blood. No need to concern yourself with what the motorist last had to eat or whether he's in the elimination or absorption phase. Who cares what that particular person's ratio of breath to blood is? Just give the state's "expert" a calculator, a BAC and two times and voila, proof of intoxication.

Now the legislature wants to make it even easier for the state.

HB 1199 is yet another reason a motorist should never submit voluntarily to a breath or blood test. The next step in the state's assault on our rights is to "criminalize" a breath or blood test refusal.

I'm just curious why the fair-haired one hasn't signed this one into law as part of his campaign to show America just how tough on crime he is.

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