Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Across the ocean, a new law imposes on French drivers to have breathalyzer kits because of lobbying by an employee of a test manufacturer, San Diego California DUI lawyers share

California DUI lawyers deal with all kinds of breath tests, from the big machines made by Intoximeters Inc. and CMI Inc. to the little PAS hand-held gadgets. Drivers convicted of DUI may have ignition interlock devices to blow into before operating vehicles, attorneys add. Across the ocean, a new law imposes on French drivers to have breathalyzer kits because of lobbying by an employee of a test manufacturer. France is upset. Daniel Orgeval can be thanked for the requirement that every driver in the country must have a personal breathalyzer, or face a fine. Hoping to decrease alcohol-related driving deaths, the government reasoned that the new measure would make some people think twice before driving drunk. They based part of their conclusions on learning that drunk drivers who survived accidents often said they hadn't realized they'd been over France's drinking limit of 0.05% blood-alcohol content (0.025% in the breath), or the equivalent of roughly two glasses of wine. (The legal limit for most U.S. states and Britain is 0.08%.) Although the law took effect July 1, there is a grace period until Nov. 1, to allow people time to buy the gadgets. After which, if you're unable to produce an operational breathalyzer kit when asked by police (they usually cost 1 to 2 euros), you may be fined 11 euros. Foreigners are not exempt. When asked about the new rule, French police officer Gerald Lin took a moment from his street patrol to echo a perspective most often repeated by those interviewed for this story. "It's idiotic," he said. But there was something else about the strange law. It involves a practice so reviled in France that even those who do it for a living are afraid to call it by its name: lobbying. "Obligatory breathalyzer tests, are they at the heart of a scheme?" asked a recent headline in the French daily Sud-Ouest. "Suspicions of a conflict of interest in the breathalyzer test market," ran the daily Le Figaro, picking up on the phrasing that spread throughout the Web, and much of the public psyche. According to the LA Times, the man who heads the nonprofit road safety association that persuaded Parliament to pass the breathalyzer test law is also a part-time employee — at an eyebrow-raising $3,600 a month — at Contralco, the only company in France making certified breath testers: Daniel Orgeval. "It's a scandal," Christiane Bayard, head of the Drivers Defense League, said in reports uncovering Orgeval's so-called double casquette, or dual roles. "We might have imagined that this association grouped families of victims, or independent volunteers, and we discover that in fact its president is none other than the representative of breathalyzer test manufacturers!" France is not the only place where the idea of lobbying is distasteful. But here, where the practice is under-regulated and little understood, it is often equated with a sacrilegious mixing of genres: doing business on the one side, and legislation for the common good on the other. Even if the two may mix in reality, many lawmakers would rather not see it that way. "This debate represents the fact that in France, we don't recognize that we have lobbies in all sectors of society," said Emmanuelle Garault, president of BASE, an association that defends the field of lobbying and its recognition in France (a kind of lobby for lobbyists). She also lobbies for EBay in France, Spain and Portugal. "Since lobbying isn't recognized and regulated in France, it is always seen with suspicion and associated with corruption. It's a four-letter word, just like 'globalization,' even though we also have our part in democratic debate. "People still don't want official lobbies in France. They are still in denial about this field," she said. Instead of calling themselves lobbyists, groups can use words like "association," "federation" and even "union" to represent themselves to government officials. Garault's favorite alternative for the word "lobbying" is "business diplomacy." Meanwhile, investigations of accusations of a conflict of interest in the breathalyzer test legislation continue, reports the LA Times.