Drunk Driving Laws: Educate Yourself!
by Matthew B. Wallin | October 23, 2009
You Do Not Have To Be "Drunk" To Be Stopped, Arrested And Convicted of "Drunk" Driving
In a sense, the phrase "drunk driving" is misleading. A driver need not be "drunk" to be deemed "under the influence" for purposes of a Driving Under The Influence (DUI) investigation, prosecution and/or conviction. The relevant inquiry is whether a driver was impaired such that he or she were not as cautious or alert as a non-drinking person would have been in similar circumstances. Proving and disproving this requires a thorough analysis of the facts and circumstances surrounding the vehicle stop and subsequent DUI investigation. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires some minimal level of objective justification for making the stop. The officer initiating the vehicle stop must be able to articulate something more than an unparticularized suspicion or hunch.
What Happens When an Officer Pulls a Suspected Drunk Driver Over
First, the arresting officer will allege that something about a driver's driving pattern or the condition of their vehicle led the officer to lawfully stop the vehicle. An actual vehicle code violation is most commonly cited, but not required to justify a stop. Next, the arresting officer will note in the police report any further observations of the common "objective symptoms" of intoxication (odor of alcohol, slurred speech, red eyes, flushed face, etc). The officer will detail in his police report the driver's ability or inability to pass the roadside coordination tests (field sobriety tests). Finally, crime scene and forensic evidence, concentration of alcohol in the driver's blood or breath will be considered.
To Convict or Not to Convict
Generally, this will allow the judge and jury to infer, after hearing the testimony of the state's expert witness, that the driver was "under the influence at the time of driving"; however, this scientific evidence is not absolutely necessary for a DUI conviction. Individuals who have refused to submit to any chemical blood or breath test for alcohol concentration have been convicted of DUI solely on the basis of the testimony of police officers as to the defendant's erratic or unlawful driving behavior.
Interested in Learning More About the Law?
If discussing the types of issues and technicalities mentioned above is something you are passionate about, consider taking online courses that focus on the law. You can get a taste of the types of analysis you would be doing should you pursue a juris doctorate as a full-time profession.
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About the Author
Matthew B. Wallin, Esq. earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of CA, Santa Barbara. He earned his juris doctorate at Chapman University Law School. He works as a criminal defense attorney for Wallin & Klarich in Tustin, CA, specializing in Criminal Defense, Juvenile Criminal Defense and DMV Matters.