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Smartphone app helps get guy out of drunk driving trouble

Who was that actor who played that part in that movie? Thanks to smartphones and any number of applications for them, it's possible for nearly everyone in Arkansas to come up with an answer for such questions and to impress the heck out of friends.

But what about if you get pulled over by the authorities on suspicion of drunk driving? Everyone who hasn't been living under a rock surely knows they have legal rights, no matter what the charge. Few probably think they'll ever need to know what those rights are until they're in trouble. That puts them at a distinct disadvantage. And, so it is that it can be said that yes, there is an app for that.

The "Oh Crap!" app was the brainchild of some Iowa attorneys. It's included on a list of 20 such programs that the American Bar Association featured not too long ago. The peg of the ABA was that these apps help give average people better access to reliable legal advice when they need it. Things like, a reminder that you have a right to remain silent.

There's also a function allowing users to contact an on-call attorney if one is registered in the area. However, it's not legal in all states, so caution is required.

Still, this application did lead to an Iowa man seeing his driving conviction overturned. An appeals court in the state ruled that police violated the man's right, granted by state law, to have an in-person consultation with a lawyer or family member before submitting to alcohol testing.

According to a news report, the man invoked the right but the arresting officer said he had to get back on patrol, so there was no time to wait. The test was administered and the trial judge upheld the officer's actions, finding the defendant guilty.

The appeals court, however, said the police had ample time do to the test within the construct of the law and that the officer had jumped the gun on requiring the test. The breath test results were thrown out and so was the conviction.

There is no guarantee that another case will turn out this way, but it does show the importance of defendants working with skilled counsel to be sure they know and protect their rights.

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