Supreme Court: Breath test may not tell whole story

By Paige Brier

The group “MADD,” Mothers against Drunk Driving, released a statement saying Kansas is one of 13 states in the country with a five-star rating in preventing drunk driving fatalities.

But in a recent case, a Wichita man’s DUI charges were dropped, leaving many wondering about holes in our DUI laws.

William Molitor was leaving a bar and failed to use his turn signal. When an officer attempted to pull him over, he swerved and hit a curb. The officer reported, “He had bloodshot eyes and strong odor of alcohol.”

After taking a field sobriety test, he was given a horizontal gaze analysis (HGN).

He failed the HGN, but he passed the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand. He agreed to a breath test, and blew a .09, which is over the .08 limit.

After a court convicted him of DUI and failing to use a turn signal, his defense lawyer appealed, saying the HGN test is inadmissible in court because it has not been scientifically proven to be accurate.

The Kansas Supreme Court heard the case and in a 4-3 vote, dropped the DUI charge. One of the judges in the court said, “It is not unlawful to simply drink and drive.”

In the majority opinion, Justice Lee A. Johnson said the officer’s testimony indicated Molitor showed no slurring of speech, had no trouble producing his license, and showed no imbalance when exiting his vehicle.

So given he was slightly over the limit, but passed motor skills tests, the Court ruled that he was not “under the influence.”

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Kansas is tough on DUI offenders, and the issue is serious enough to have legal representation to protect your rights.

But in this case, it doesn’t seem that Kansas is very tough at all, if they’re going to let someone off with that much evidence against him.

Kansas uses the Blood Alcohol Concentration Test, which is a system used to determine the level of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream.

The legal limit is .08% or lower. Anything above this limit is considered driving under the influence.

A DUI is a criminal offense.

The penalties of a DUI can include fines up to $2,500, jail time up to a year, license revocation and a mandatory alcohol and drug treatment program at your own expense.

Court costs and other legal expenses can amount to thousands of dollars.

Courts should be consistent as they handle these serious cases.

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