Drunken Assertion


For motorists too timid to tell cops to buzz off, Don Ramsell has a product for you. Roger Clinton, take note.

Ramsell, an Illinois defense attorney specializing in drunken-driving cases, has masterminded a device known as "Ramsell's Roadside Rights Kit." It's shaped like a passport and opens up to a pocket that holds your driver's license, insurance, and car registration. On the back is a card emblazoned with an assertion of your rights when stopped by the cops. The kit also contains a button to activate a sound chip; press it, and it tells the officer that you will only exit the vehicle for the officer's safety or if under arrest.

The printed list of rights explains that the user does not consent to any of the "field sobriety tests" police use to generate probable cause for drunken-driving arrests. Ramsell cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data indicating that the three NHTSA-approved field sobriety tests—given prior to breath or blood alcohol-content analysis—have only a 65 percent to 77 percent accuracy rate. This guarantees that a hefty number of such arrests will turn out to be illegitimate. (Incidentally, neither reciting the alphabet backward nor touching a finger to one's nose qualifies as NHTSA-approved tests.)

The kit sells for $99.95, plus shipping and handling. Ramsell won't say how many have been sold so far, though it has already played a role in at least one drunken-driving acquittal. Colin Darling was arrested for driving under the influence by police in Lake in the Hills, Illinois, after handing them the Ramsell device upon being pulled over. A jury found Darling not guilty in May.

Ramsell knows cops hate his device. He's discussed it on dozens of talk radio shows, and regularly gets abusive phone-ins from police. "The most common response from officers is, 'If I saw anybody use this product I'd arrest them,'" Ramsell says.

"I respond, 'Now you know what we are dealing with: people willing to arrest you just because you assert your rights.' That's the sort of intimidation this device is designed to respond to."