I was amused Wednesday evening when Ignatius stopped in with a comment on a comment (since deleted by NOLA.com on their site) regarding the second Times Picayune news article that appeared Wednesday evening on Team Theriot suing the blogosphere. The second article was modified by T-P editor Drew Broach whom evidently maintains ties to Team Theriot and who slipped the word “deadhead” into the lede along with changing the author from Rich Rainey to himself. Now I honestly could not tell our readers exactly what a newspaper editor does besides proofing stories but one thing is certain, Mr Broach must have had his head firmly inserted in Mr Theriot’s hiney when we profiled a true deadhead worker in Aaron Broussard’s daughter in law Norma, the lady responsible for keeping a drunk in Craig Codina on the road until he finally killed someone. The other posts in our original series on Norma Broussard and how a lawyer with little to no experience was put in charge of the prosecution of every traffic offense in Jefferson parish can be found here (We busted the Picayune making excuses for Norma) and here (Tax Assessor Lawrence Chehardy’s law firm could not “de-Norma” their website fast enough after our first post).
Norma and her handlers must have thought the coast was clear after months in hiding from the media, so this past week she got up with Times Picayune reporter Melinda Morris. The story is sadly of the variety that I term “lazy journalism” and not because of the big wet kiss the Picayune planted on Norma but rather because it touched on very important constitutional issues the reporter flat-out missed (along with any semblance of reality about life in local traffic court). Let’s begin with Ms Morris’ report from team Broussard:
People arrested on suspicion of DWI know it’s harder for them to get convicted if they refuse the breath test, so they often do refuse, according to a Jefferson Parish prosecutor.
While the law states that she should be able to prosecute those cases without that evidence, “judges and juries want that scientific data,” said Norma Broussard, who handles DWI cases for the Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office.
So the DA’s office has a plan for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend: forced blood tests.
“We looked at what other states have done” in coming up with the plan, Broussard said.
When suspected DWI offenders are brought into the lockup over Memorial Day weekend, if they refuse to take the breath test, a judge will be ready to review evidence and sign off on a search warrant, giving officials the authority to draw blood from the suspect regardless of whether they agree.
“It’s like any other search warrant,” Broussard said. If necessary, “We’ll strap you down.”
This is pure nonsense and I knew it as soon as I read it. So I did what Ms Morris could have done but evidently did not: Check with the local legal community to get the skinny and here is what I found:
Although I am against anything that helps drunk drivers, I think forcefully drawing blood, unless there’s an injury or death, is unconstitutional. But hey, it’s Jefferson Parish.
It gets better as the lawyer continues:
The drawing of blood would have to be conducted by a trained medical professional, including a phlebotomist. I’m pretty sure that in any DWI case in which blood has been drawn, it was done at a hospital and at the request of the police. What this means is that everyone who refuses a breath test will have to be brought to the hospital after waiting for a judge to issue a warrant.
I cut my trial teeth doing DWI defense work and later stopped doing any DWI cases as a matter of principle. Believe me when I tell you that I have never seen a case in Jefferson Parish wherein an intoxicated defendant could not be convicted without a blood test, or even a breath test.
Makes sense as the courts tend to believe the police in such matters pretty much everywhere unless perhaps the perpetrator is a district court judge who despite being injured in an accident he caused while driving impaired was not compelled to take a blood test. Not satisfied with just one legal opinion I went to a lawyer who still handles such cases, our very own NRB who was more than happy to comment as well:
In Louisiana, you have the right to refuse ALL tests. Many times, arrestees think they can only refuse the breathalyzer and thus, submit to the field sobriety. The field sobriety test is subjective, and in my opinion completely unreliable, but judges who are elected very rarely side with the arrestee as opposed to the law enforcement officer.
As far as the probative value of refusing the test, it is admissible, but has almost zero evidentiary weight. I have never had any D.A. press on where there was no field sobriety or breathalyzer. It is what is, a refusal. Remember, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is heavy burden, unlike in civil cases where the burden of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence” or more probable than not.
I became very involved with DWI defense after a state trooper tried to railroad a buddy of mine. Norma Broussard met with me in the case and said “You’re right, but the judge will have to find him not guilty”.
The above comments took me right around 3 minutes to solicit earlier this week.
Maybe instead of bullshitting the local paper, Norma, Paul and the gang should get Louis Grunz to lean on State Senator Danny Martiny to put more bite in the DWI laws instead of sponsoring legislation to curb transparency in government. And since there is no such thing as a free lunch I’ll add everyone in Louisiana pays with (by far) the highest auto insurance rates in the country.