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For those who followed the trial of Michael Dunn in Florida, I'd like to discuss the role alcohol played in the incident and more specifically, why wasn't it a major issue in the trial?

In this diary, I want to explore the issue of "Carrying Under the Influence", because it may have likely been a factor in what happened on that terrible day when Michael Dunn fired 10 shots into a vehicle with 3 teenagers, killing Jordan Davis, and should have been a major factor in Michael Dunn's trial.

In the trial, there was testimony regarding whether or not Michael Dunn had been drinking that day. After the incident, Michael Dunn told police he had only one drink. His fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, testifying for the prosecution, contradicted Michael Dunn by saying he had 3 to 4 rum and cokes while at the wedding of his son. After the wedding, Michael Dunn and Rhonda Rouer got into their car and stopped at a gas station to buy chips and wine. The shooting and killing of Jordan Davis occurred at the gas station.

Beyond establishing the fact that Michael Dunn had been drinking prior to the incident, I wondered why the prosecution didn't make much more of that in the trial, or in its closing arguments in front of the jury. Here is why:

Michael Dunn was a CCW permit holder. He was entitled to have a gun on his person and in his vehicle. That said, many states have "Carrying Under the Influence Laws". For example, states like Kansas and Michigan have very clear law in this regard. Let's look at the Michigan law:

Carrying Under the Influence

An individual licensed to carry a concealed pistol shall not possess a concealed pistol on their person or motor vehicle while they have any bodily alcohol content (.02 bodily alcohol content [BAC] or above) or a controlled substance.*

Acceptance of a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) constitutes implied consent to submit to a chemical test for violations of this law.

A police officer who has probable cause to believe an individual is carrying a concealed pistol and has consumed alcohol may require a chemical test of breath, blood, or urine.

An individual carrying a concealed pistol with any BAC is subject to immediate seizure of their pistol and the following penalties:
BAC of .02 - .07 = State civil infraction, $100 fine, and up to 1-year CPL license revocation.
BAC of .08 - .09 = 93-day misdemeanor, $100 fine, and up to 3-year CPL license revocation.
BAC of .10 or more = 93-day misdemeanor, $100 fine, and permanent CPL license revocation.

So, how about Florida? Shockingly, Florida law states that it is illegal to use a weapon while under the influence, except in self defense. What is the definition of "use"? "Use" means discharging a weapon or having a weapon in your hand ready for discharge. While drunk driving may be illegal in Florida, drunk Carrying is certainly legal in Florida. And drunk shooting and killing is certainly legal as long as its done in self defense.

In my opinion, that is why the issue of whether or not Dunn was under the influence that day wasn't terribly relevant in the case. It was legal for him to be under the influence and kill. Was he drunk? We don't know if he was or not, because he fled the scene and wasn't immediately subject to any BAC test. Perhaps that explains the bizarre circumstances surrounding his fleeing of the scene? I certainly believe there is a there, there.

Despite all that, we now understand at least 3 members of the jury gave Dunn the benefit of the doubt because of the SYG law which says if Dunn was reasonably in fear for his life, he had a right to SYG. In my opinion, the prosecution should have made more of an issue of whether or not he was under the influence because if you're under the influence, how could any rash judgement be "reasonable"? I believe if there is another trial, this issue needs more focus.

With respect to "Carrying Under the Influence", we need laws requiring gun responsibility from gun owners and aggressive enforcement of those laws. Even where states do have laws regarding Carrying Under the Influence, the penalties for doing so seem very lax. In Michigan, you can be .09 BAC and you will only get a $100 fine and revocation of your CCW for 3 years. For the same BAC while DRIVING under the influence, you can get up to a $500 fine, up to 93 days in jail, up to 360 hours of community service, up to 180 days license suspension, 6 points on a driver's license.

If Florida had a law like Michigan, just maybe Michael Dunn wouldn't have had his gun in his glove compartment that day knowing he was going to a wedding celebration and would be having a few drinks and Jordan Davis would still be alive today.

Originally posted to fcvaguy on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 07:31 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, Support the Dream Defenders, and Firearms Law and Policy.

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