[Connecticut] High Court Affirms Conviction
By LYNNE TUOHY
COURANT STAFF WRITER
August 15 2006
Responsible drunks don't put, or leave, the key in the ignition.
The [Connecticut] state Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that a key in the ignition, even if the engine is not running, is grounds for charging an intoxicated person with operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
The court upheld the conviction of Andrew Haight, who was found asleep behind the wheel of his legally parked Lexus by a New Canaan police officer just after midnight Oct. 20, 2001. His car key was in the ignition, in either the "off" or "accessory" position - a deduction based on the chimes that sounded when Officer Kevin J. Dowling opened the car door.
[What sort of evidence have you used to establish "operating" when the car is stopped?]
I had an appeal of one where the guy drove over a few people's front yards. We used the unidentified liquids leaking from the trailer he was pulling and the tree still lodged under his trailer (from a few yards back) to prove recent operation.
In England, intoxicated drivers can be prosecuted if the car keys are anywhere on the driver's person or anywhere in the vehicle. The remedy is to throw the keys away! Suspect a few folks with hangovers might be crawling around in the pub's forecourt the next morning, looking for the right set of keys. (John Stride, set me straight if I got something wrong. We left UK some years ago.)
DWI laws have really changed over the pond and I haven't really kept up with the specifics. But when I was a teenager and still living there, drinking and driving was all too common. One of my earliest related memories was when we lived in Scotland (I was only 4). In Edinburgh, a completely smashed up Mini Traveler (a tiny woody) had been set on the pavement (sidewalk) of the main throughfare to remind drivers of the hazards of DWI. It had been reduced to the size of something smaller than a Smart car (this was in the days before the "jaws of life" and the car was so crushed I think that whatever remained of the ocupants must have been poured out). I stood staring at the wreakage for quite a time and it had a profound effect on me. I have heard some high schools over here employ a similar tactic to warn kids against DWI. It worked for me.
I have also found that the crime scene photos taken after intoxication crashes far exceed the goriness of regular homicide cases. Perhaps they should be circulated too.
I think the LA coroners office used to have a program to which courts would sentence first-time juvenile DUI offenders. The offenders would get a closeup and personal look at the world of autopsies and dead bodies, and of course they got to see what really can happen to a person who drinks and drives, or who has the misfortune to encounter a drunk driver.
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