How to Avoid a DUI Citation
Getting a DUI citation will ruin your life. You’ll lose your license, which means you may lose your job, you’ll pay huge fines and you may go to jail. All of this could have been avoided if you had just known your own limit.
The reason that law enforcement and the courts are so harsh on drunk drivers is that in 2010 alone they killed 10,288 people, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Every year, 1.4 million arrests are made for drunk driving. The start of knowing your limit is viewing it as drunk driving, not “getting pulled over for a DUI.” It’s your decision to get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking.
I spoke recently with Bill Maine and Joel William of 102.9 WDUN/1240 ESPN morning radio show in Georgia, which has the nation’s harshest laws to punish drunk driving and you can listen to the radio interview in the above sound file.
For a first offense in Georgia if convicted of DUI you will
- Be charged with a misdemeanor – a crime.
- Lose your driver’s license for a year.
- Pay a fine of $300 to $1,000.
- Spend a minimum of 24 hours in jail and face imprisonment from 10 days to a year.
- Serve at least 40 hours of community service.
- Complete the Risk Reduction Program.
- Be on probation for a year.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI you can look up a local lawyer online. Use the Lawyers.com Attorney Fee Calculator, which will show that a lawyer will cost you $2,400 to $5,600 or more to defend a DUI charge. Check out our infographic to see which states have the highest DUI fatalities and which have the harshest DUI laws.
Not Getting Caught
The key to not getting caught driving drunk is to stay under the nationwide limit of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). This turns on your weight, gender, how much and what you drank and over what time period. If you’re not sure, you can check one of the many online calculators, such as the one at bloodalcoholcalulator.org. You can also buy an Alcohawk BAC tester at many retail outlets.
Let’s suppose you are a male who weighs 180 pounds who has been drinking over a two-hour period. If you drank five beers you’re near the limit at .079 BAC. At six beers you’re over the limit at .10. If you are a woman, you went over the limit at five beers. If you had four Bloody Marys, you are OK but at five of them, you’re at the limit. If you had five 5-ounce glasses of wine you’re at the .08 limit.
You’ll hit the limit sooner if you weigh less, are female or drank in a shorter time period. People are generally considered severely impaired at anything over .25. You can pass out or reach a coma at .2 and are at high risk of death if your BAC rises to .4.
These are estimates and your own ability to drive will vary. If you focus on your drinking enough to use an online BAC calculator, that should tell you something. Always plan to take a taxi or go out with a designated driver before you drink.
When You’re Pulled Over
Drunk driving stops typically occur at night. If you are pulled over it’s because the officer was able to articulate a suspicion that you were driving drunk – driving at night with no lights, weaving within a lane, crossing a painted line, driving too slow or fast, making wide turns, following or passing too closely, driving with your turn signal on, abrupt braking or running a light.
Lawyers advise that you remain calm, avoid hostility and be polite. At this point the officer is looking for probable cause to arrest you. The officer will shine a light in your face looking for red eyes, checking for open alcohol containers, listening for slurred speech and smelling for alcohol. The officer will ask if you’ve been drinking and where you came from. Avoid saying anything that will convict you on the spot.
You’ll be asked to do the field sobriety test, which is designed to make you fail. You’ll have to stand in an awkward position, and then walk heel-toe steps while counting. If you make two mistakes you’ll be arrested. To confirm the results the officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. To get a driver’s license you have to give implied consent to take the test when asked, so if you refuse, you have automatically convicted yourself.
DUI Defense Arguments
The police in some states will drive you to a hospital to take a blood draw. In Missouri, a trucker had been drinking at a bar and was stopped for speeding. On video he was unstable and had bloodshot eyes, and the officer said he smelled like booze. When he refused the breathalyzer test, he was arrested. The police took him to a hospital where his blood was drawn — against his will and without a search warrant. He tested at .154 BAC — almost double the limit — but the trial court threw out the evidence because the blood draw was ruled to be an illegal search. The case is before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide whether the state’s interest in stopping drunk driving outweighs a person’s freedom from warrantless searches.
Breathalyzer evidence was recently thrown out by a judge in Pennsylvania who ruled that, “the array of breath testing devices presently utilized in this commonwealth are not capable of providing a legally acceptable blood alcohol content reading.” Testimony from an employee of CMI, Inc, the manufacturer of the widely-used breathalyzer device Intoxilyzer 5000, brought to light internal testing conditions that violate Pennsylvania law and make the use of the devices as evidence questionable nationwide.
A lawyer will know many other defenses to a DUI charge:
- Objective signs of intoxication can have innocent explanations, such as allergies, fatigue, eye irritation, embarrassment and nerves.
- Field sobriety don’t always measure impairment correctly if the subject was performing it in high heels, was standing close to traffic in the wind and cold, or was sick.
- Some states require the officer to conduct a 15-minute observation period during which a subject is not supposed to eat, drink, vomit, belch, burp or smoke – because doing so may affect the breathalyzer test.
- An officer’s failure to follow precise standards and regulations for a breath or blood test will call the results into question. Further, the equipment must be properly maintained and working, and the collection, handling and storage of the tests must be done correctly.
- Medicines containing alcohol, mouth spray, mouthwash and dental work can skew a breathalyzer test.
- Officers may fail to read you the Miranda rights when they arrest you, informing you of your right to remain silent.
If you have a lawyer and a strong defense, you may be able to get the DUI charge reduced or dismissed. But the best way to avoid a DUI citation is to know your limit before you drive a car. If you’re not driving drunk you won’t be charged in the first place.