Common Myths, Misconceptions, and Excuses Clarified about Drinking and Driving
I have been counseling court-ordered drunk drivers since 1997. In this time, I have heard every last imaginable excuse, explanation and conspiracy theory. I am only touching on a handful of them as these are the most common ones.
But I didn't feel drunk/I didn't realize I was drunk:
You don't necessarily have to feel drunk to be legally drunk. If your blood alcohol level is proven to be .08, then you are legally drunk and therefore considered a danger to public safety while driving.
Drinkers with a higher tolerance will not feel the effects of drunkenness at .08 and therefore will feel justified in attempting to drive. However, despite feeling no effects, your reflexes are impaired and there will be a difference in reaction time compared to someone who has not been drinking. This can be a determining factor while driving if you suddenly have to stop or steer out of the way of an unexpected obstacle.
But I was already home when they arrested me:
If a police officer pulls you over after you have arrived home, it is easy to rationalize that you are in for the night and, therefore, no longer a danger to public safety. This could not be farther from the truth. A police officer in this situation will presume that this is not the first time you have drank and drove.
As a result, he will assume it will not be the last time unless he imposes consequences. That is why a police officer is within his legal responsibility to arrest you for drinking and driving even if you have already made it home safely when you are pulled over.
But I didn't do anything to get pulled over:
The police do not have to have what you perceive to be a valid reason to pull you over. If you are deemed to be a danger to public safety as a result of drinking and driving, you will be arrested. The best way to avoid extreme consequences if you are pulled over is to simply drive sober. This guarantees you will not be arrested for drunk driving.
I was pulled over in Allen Park in 2002 on "suspicion" of drinking and driving. I had gone to a later movie on a Saturday at the old Star Theater in Lincoln Park and it was 12:30 at night. I forgot to signal for my turn and the police car behind me pulled me over and I was immediately asked if I had been drinking. Once I convinced the officer that I had not been drinking I was no longer worth the time of night to him and he warned me to remember to signal the next time I turn before quickly getting back into his car and speeding away. On an interesting note I never got to show him my license, registration and proof of insurance because he only seemed interested in knowing if I had been drinking.
But I wasn't that drunk:
Regardless of how much you minimize your drunkenness when driving, the bottom line is that if you are driving and blow .08 or higher on the breathalyzer, you are in violation of the law against drunk driving.
But I passed all the field tests they made me do:
Regardless of how well you coordinate your motor skills and reflex skills in the field test, it comes back to the bottom line. If you have been driving and you register .08 or higher then you are considered in violation of the law against drunk driving.
Also keep in mind that there is no longer a set law for Impaired Driving or Driving While Impaired (DWI).
This gray area is left to the discretion of the police officer who pulls you over. This means that you can be arrested for registering less than .08 on the breathalyzer if the police officer feels that you pose a danger to public safety.
Theoretically, you are capable of being arrested for DWI for drinking as little as 2 light beers.
It is to the discretion of the police officer to determine if he has an obligation to uphold public safety. In a society that is leaning toward Zero-Tolerance, it is safest to simply abstain from drinking and driving. That is the only surefire way to avoid being arrested for a drinking and driving offense. Keep in mind as well that for minors there is an actual Zero-Tolerance in effect with magnified consequences for minors who use even minimally. A Blood Alcohol level of .02 is considered legally drunk for anybody under 21 who is driving.
Having illicit drugs in your system is also treated the same as driving while drunk.
The prosecutor does not have to prove that you are under the influence of a drug, only that it is in your system.
When you consider that marijuana can show up in a urinalysis drug screen up to 30 days after last use, this means that getting into a car accident or hitting a jaywalker several weeks after last using marijuana can have severe legal repercussions. An important factor to keep in mind is that having a medical marijuana card will not exempt or excuse being prosecuted if a driver is shown to test positive for marijuana while driving.