Why You Can Never Be Too Careful If You Drive Drunk
As a Seattle DUI attorney, I am always quick to point out to people that, contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to drink and drive. It is, however, illegal to drive when you are too impaired by alcohol or drug consumption to drive. That is when a DUI occurs. But when is that line crossed? And how can you know when you are too drunk to drive? It is nearly an impossible determination to make (and I’d argue that even the breathalyzer doesn’t really show that you are too drunk to drive, only that your alcohol concentration may be high enough to impair your driving), but something you should think about every time you drink and then decide to drive home.
For example, let’s say you are out having a couple of drinks after work with some friends in Bellevue after work. You have a couple of beers over a couple of hours – nothing crazy, not even a little irresponsible. Eventually you decide to go home, and you think to yourself “I’m totally fine to drive home.” On your way you pass through a typical Bellevue intersection – a four way stop. You have the green so you continue on your way. Then, BAM, a car broadsides you, running a red light.
As you collect yourself and make sure nothing is broken and there is no blood anywhere, you begin to realize what just happened. And then you hear the sirens of police officers and ambulances. You get out of your car and wait for the police to arrive. Once they arrive, you begin to talk to them, and one of the officer’s makes the statement that sends chills down your spine, “have you had anything to drink tonight?” Yes, you tell the officer, but only a couple of beers over the course of a couple of hours. You feel totally sober right now.
But it’s too late. The cop has already jumped into cop mode, which often involves making split second decisions and then filling in the facts to fit what he wants to see. Do you have watery bloodshot eyes? Is your face flushed (don’t worry about the fact that you’ve just been involved in a serious car accident – that is irrelevant)? Would you mind taking some field sobriety tests? And at that point you are fighting for your own liberty, despite the fact that someone else negligently ran the red light and hit you, as you followed, to a T, all traffic rules.
The lesson to be learned here? In addition to knowing your rights as a citizen (which means in some states, like Washington, when that Bellevue or Seattle police officer asks you to take field sobriety tests you politely decline and immediately ask to speak with a lawyer), understand that at any time events out of your control could have a great impact on your future moving forward. If you do decide to drink and drive, make sure you are not too impaired to operate a vehicle, understand your rights, and if you are ever in doubt, call a DUI or criminal lawyer as soon as you possibly can.