Legal app clears man of drink-driving conviction

by NZ Lawyer30 May 2016
An app developed by a law firm in Iowa, Rehkemper & Lindholm, has helped to clear a man of a drink-driving conviction.

Craig Hermann was arrested when he was caught driving with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and was subsequently convicted.  But the conviction was overturned by the Iowa Court of Appeals due to the ‘Oh Crap!’ app, which allows users to know their rights during traffic stops and other police encounters.

It advises the user to be polite and remain silent, while recording audio of the interaction, with a function to contact an on-call lawyer in the area.

Hermann, who was stopped for driving without his headlights on at 1am in October of 2014, recorded the interaction with on the app, which recorded police violating his rights.

He used the “contact a lawyer” function after getting advice through the app, invoking his right to request an in-person consultation with a lawyer or family member, which, according to a report by AAP, is allowed under Iowa law.

But the officer said there was no time to wait when Hermann told them a lawyer was on the way, saying he needed to decide whether to submit a breath test.

The judge upheld the officer’s actions and found Hermann guilty, an AAP report said.

The decision was reversed by the appeals court, noting that police still had an hour to give him a breath test before a two-hour window for administering such tests ended.  Not giving him more time violated his rights.

This is the first ruling recorded where an app has helped a user avoid conviction, the court said.

Law enforcement officials have criticised the free app, saying they fear it will promote drink driving by giving users the impression they can always get out of legal consequences.
 

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