In an effort to help drivers celebrate the nation’s birthday safely, AAA-Alabama will again be offering “Tow-for-Life” services this year across the state. “Tow-for-Life” utilizes AAA-Alabama contracted wrecker services and will be able to tow impaired drivers up to 10 miles for free between 6:00 p.m. Thursday night and 11:59 p.m. on Friday. The program is in it’s 24th year of operation and this will be the third time it is offered for the Fourth of July holiday.
“This is a very dangerous time of year to be on the roads,” AAA-Alabama spokesman Clay Ingram said. “We want to do everything possible to prevent people from drinking and driving, and this service should certainly help keep impaired drivers off the roads.”
The service is available to people regardless of whether they are current AAA members but vehicles must be operational to quality for free towing. Charges may be assessed for distances longer than 10 miles.
How it works:
- Call AAA-Alabama at 1-800-222-4357 (1-800-AAA-HELP) and ask for Tow-for-Life.
- Provide the operator with the driver’s name, home address, telephone number and the exact location of the vehicle in order to have a tow truck dispatched
- Upon arrival, the driver of the tow truck will ask for identification and the keys to the vehicle.
This program will also exist in other states, including: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Hawaii, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, New Mexico and southern California.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that more than 630 people were killed in automobile crashes on July 4th from 2008 through 2012.
In an opinion released by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22, 2014, the Court furthered the erosion of the 4th Amendment. In Prado Navarette v. California, the Court essentially said that it’s “OK” to pull over a vehicle based upon an anonymous tip and little else. The Petitioner was pulled over after an anonymous 911 caller stated that Petitioner ran her off the road five minutes earlier and gave an accurate description of the truck, which was found driving roughly in the area reported. California Highway Patrol responded and followed the Petitioner’s vehicle for five minutes without any evidence of dangerous driving.
The Court stretched and stretched until it found the call was reliable, largely because it was a 911 call, based on a supposed eyewitness event. The Court surmised that the 911 call was recorded and would prevent false reports, although absolutely nothing was gleaned about the caller other that she was female. The Court then suggests that a vehicle running another off the road is an indication of drunk driving justifying a stop.
Only the minority lead by Justice Scalia got this one right. The dissent asserts correctly that this ruling will allow law enforcement to pull over a vehicle simply based upon an anonymous caller asserting an uncorroborated instance of alleged bad driving if they can give a description and location of the suspect vehicle. The majority ignores the fact that the call may be false or vindictive. It’s simply an allegation coupled with information anyone on that highway could have given.
This is simply a scary holding as anyone in traffic that has an axe to grind with another driver can call in an anonymous tip and have them pulled over. Even if the police know who the caller is, they may simply make a false allegation and the innocent driver will likely be the one having the consequence, police vs. driver or driver vs. driver.
Charles Keith Middlebrooks, the Dothan Regional airport fire chief, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Saturday November 9th. A copy of the citation shows that Middlebrooks was arrested shortly after he was involved in a one car accident that evening.
The Alabama State Trooper who issued the citation alleges that Middlebrooks “did drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol”. The violation took place on Henry County Road 55 near the intersection of County Road 8. It is not believed that Middlebrooks sustained serious injuries when his pickup truck crashed.
Airport Director Art Morris says that Middlebrooks has a temporary driver’s license until his court date which allows him to continue to operate airport equipment. According to airport policy, if Middlebrooks had been convicted and his license suspended, he would not be allowed to operate the equipment until his license was no longer suspended. Morris believes that even though Middlebrooks made “an error in judgment,” that he is a long term and loyal employee who is “not a drunk.”
Records show that Middlebrooks has been employed at Dothan Regional Airport since 1979 and has served as the fire chief since 1991.
Keith Middlebrooks, 53, is scheduled to appear in court on January 8, 2013.
Phillip David Messick, 24, of Dothan, faces multiple felony criminal charges after he allegedly drove a stolen tractor while under the influence of alcohol. Houston County Sheriff William Maddox said deputies arrested Messick and charged him with felony first-degree theft of property, three felony counts of first-degree criminal mischief, three misdemeanor counts of third-degree criminal mischief, misdemeanor resisting arrest, and driving under the influence. Messick currently remains in custody at the Henry County Jail on bail totaling $113,000.
Maddox reports that deputies responded to a complaint of someone driving a tractor recklessly in the areas of Henry County roads 99 and 45 near Headland. Police arrived at the scene to find Maddox driving the John Deere tractor down the middle of the road.
Court records show that Messick was charged with felony criminal mischief for allegedly causing more than $200,000 in damages to a sprayer tractor belonging to a Newville man. The second felony criminal mischief charge accuses Messick of causing $3,000 in damages to a church sign for the Wings of Deliverance Church in Henry County. The third felony criminal mischief offense alleges that Messick caused over $3,000 worth of damage to fencing and gates belonging to the Wiregrass Construction Company.
Sheriff Maddox also said that Messick allegedly ran over a city of Headland road sign while driving the tractor.
More than a year after the state of Alabama authorized ignition interlock devices for certain DUI offenders, the program is still waiting to be fully implemented. The interlock devices are meant to prevent a person previously convicted of driving under the influence from starting their car if their blood-alcohol level is 0.2 percent or higher. Scott Hoyem, the spokesman for the Alabama Office of Courts, reports that the implementation of the program is on hold due to funding concerns.
Offenders are required to pay $75 monthly for the devices during the first four months that they are being used. The state’s law is unclear on where revenue from that fee should be allocated. “So until these problems are worked out, we advise judges not to use the program,” Hoyem said. “The judges can decide to act on their own to use the devices, but participation is not something we are tracking at this level.”
According to Brent Buchannan of Engage South, most of the money would be funneled to an indigent services account. The funds would be used for people who can’t afford to maintain and lease the ignition interlock devices.
State lawmakers formed the Alabama DUI Prevention and Ignition Interlock Council strictly for the purposes of reviewing this issue. They’re scheduled to meet in October.
Alabama become the 50th state to pass an ignition interlock law in 2011.
A sophomore defensive back for the University of Alabama football team landed in some legal trouble over the weekend according to an online arrest report. Geno Smith, who played in all 13 games as a freshman last season, was arrested by Tuscaloosa County police for driving under the influence on Sunday morning. He was jailed on $1,000 bond and had not been released as of Sunday afternoon. The incident took place while the Crimson Tide had two days off after Saturday’s scrimmage as a break between training camp and school.
Tuscaloosa County police spokesman Sergeant Bren Blankley was unable to be reached for comment.
Geno Smith, a four star recruit from Atlanta, was expected to compete for the starting position vacated by top-10 NFL draft pick Dee Milliner and see more action at the nickel cornerback position in 2013. With his status now in question, sophomores Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve appear to be the top two cornerbacks available off the bench.
“This is obviously not the kind of behavior we expect from our players,” Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said in a released statement. “I don’t have all of the details at this point and will handle it appropriately once I’ve had a chance to review the information.”
The Tuscaloosa News first reported news of the DUI arrest.
The Gulf Shores Police Department continues to investigate a fatal traffic accident that claimed the life of a Calera resident over the weekend. Authorities report that Linda C. Rutherford, 64, was walking across East Beach Boulevard in the 500 block when she was struck by a Ford car. The driver was identified as Vicky H. Johnston of Satsuma. Johnston faces driving under the influence of alcohol charges in what Gulf Shores police are calling an ongoing investigation.
Police officers and paramedics were called to the scene just after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and arrived to find the victim had suffered severe trauma injuries. According to Chief Ed Delmore, Rutherford was transported to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in grave condition and was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
After conducting an initial assessment of the scene, detectives determined that Johnston, 52, was possibly under the influence of alcohol. She was later arrested and booked at the Gulf Shores Police Department Jail for DUI, according to authorities.
Detectives are asking for any persons who may have witnessed the collision to contact Sgt. Jason Woodruff at (251) 968-1238 or Detective Chad Lambert at (251) 968-4206.
The police in Huntsville were proud to unveil their upgraded DUI Task Force van which is significantly larger and nearly 20 years newer than the previous one. Police spokesman Harry Hobbs said the new van, that was donated by Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc., has been redesigned for its new purpose and will be much more functional during checkpoints. It will now also be able to hold multiple prisoners inside and be easier to move around in.
Before an eligible driver reaches the truck, three field sobriety tests, as well as a portable breath test are administered during checkpoints. If these test results show that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are arrested and taken to the new DUI truck. Once inside, drivers are read the terms of the implied consent and take two breathalyzer tests. Police use the lowest reading to determine whether the person is under the influence of alcohol, which under Alabama law is .08.
The city of Huntsville has reported the most DUI arrests in the state of Alabama for the last 15 years. The police department typically announces these DUI check points to the public. When approaching safety checkpoints, drivers are typically asked to provide a current driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. Additionally, police said seat belt compliance for bother driver and all passengers will be checked.
For drivers in St. Clair and Bibb Counties, coming across a road block while driving under the influence actually resulted in some extra cash rather than jail time. Researchers of the nonprofit organization, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, were actively looking for volunteers to donate blood and saliva samples as part of a drunk driving survey this past weekend. The institute even constructed large signs on the sides of roads in the two counties hoping to attract drivers to participate in the “paid volunteer survey.”
Drivers who provided a saliva sample received $10 in compensation and those donating blood samples received $50. Off-duty police officers collected these samples anonymously so no one could be found guilty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs by volunteering in the paid study.
This study was paid for by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. While only five roadblocks were set up this weekend in each of the two counties, the NHTSA hopes to set up 60 more throughout the country before October.
The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation conducted a similar study in 2007 which surveyed drivers on late weekend hours. The 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug use by Drivers found that there was a large decline in drivers with a blood-alcohol level at or above the legal limit. It also found that that the most common drugs found in nighttime drivers were marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Chris Allen Bishop, 27, will now face DUI charges only a few weeks removed from pleading guilty to manslaughter in a fatal all-terrain vehicle wreck. Bishop, who pleaded guilty in May, had his 15 year prison sentence suspended and had started his five year term of probation.
On June 7th, court records show that the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to revoke his probation after he was charged with driving under the influence. The motion was granted on Wednesday June 12th by Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves who also ordered that Bishop be arrested and held without bond. He was booked into Shelby County jail later that day. Depending on how the judge rules in this case, Bishop could now have to being his original prison sentence of 15 years.
Bishop was charged with reckless murder in a 2010 wreck that killed 19-year-old Alesha Lanier Aldridge. The two were riding on a Kawa Brute Force ATV when they crashed on County Road 10, about 5 miles southwest of Maylene. Bishop suffered serious injuries in the crash.
Chris Bishop’s attorney and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for further comments.