In March I, with the other members of the public, began hearing of a possible virus coming around. Covid 19 or Corona virus, both meaning the virus that presumably “escaped” from Wuhan, China was invading our country. Flights started getting banned, people started getting quarantined, and then suddenly, every-day items like bathroom tissue, paper towels and bottled water flew off the store shelves and became scarce. Bars and restaurants were ordered by the government to shut down. Well, the obvious happened, there was far less drinking and driving. People not going out to socially drink reduced the number of DUI arrests. Combined with stand-down orders of police leaders to reduce the threat of invading jails with Covid-19, DUI’s plummeted.
The number of DUI arrests have decreased around 70% according to some statistics. It is ironic the amount of alcohol sales from state stores increased by over 20% as the number of DUI cases decreased. Covid-19 has adversely affected the legal system as it limps along doing the best it can at providing people, both victims and defendants their chance in court. With masks and social distancing required, many stresses have been placed upon the legal system to remain fair to both sides of the litigation playing field. Many issues are yet to be decided; the right to a “public” trial is a constitutional right guaranteed by the state and national constitutions. Does limiting the number of people in a courtroom affect the accused’s right to a public trial? What effect does it have to the system of justice to allow the jurors to wear masks so their expressions on their faces are covered? What effect does wearing a mask have on one’s ability to do roadside field sobriety tests? It seems reasonable that everyone talking through a mask has “slurred speech”.
If you were handed a breath tube and asked to put it in your mouth and blow for a breath alcohol result, would you feel safe doing so considering the Covid-19 pandemic?
In states other than Alabama wearing facial masks is likely to increase one's breath temperature. Higher breath temperature will increase the breath alcohol reading as to their true blood alcohol reading by about 7% per degree F. Alabama is excluded from this phenomenon because Alabama's breath alcohol machines measure the temperature of the breath and will adjust the reading accordingly if the breath temperature is high. The average breath temperature is stated to be 34 degrees centigrade for the "average" person.
So, in my DUI lawyer world, many lessons have been learned and many more will be learned in the future as we pass through the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.