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Palm Desert DUI Law Blog

The difference, or lack thereof, between drowsy and drunk driving

Imagine for a moment that you go out to your favorite bar and have a couple of alcoholic beverages. When the evening is over, you head to your car and drive off. During your trip home, you are pulled over by a police officer who inquires about your sobriety. Ultimately the officer gives you a breath test on the side of the road, and it comes back that your blood alcohol content is 0.10. You are arrested and you are subjected to numerous serious penalties in the following months.

Now imagine a similar scenario where you go to your favorite bar, but instead of alcoholic beverages, you just drink water. However, you had to work a very long shift today, and as a result you are very tired. You get in your car and drive off. During your trip home, a police officer pulls you over. The officer notes you are not intoxicated, but that your fatigued state made you swerve a little bit — thus why he pulled you over. The officer let’s you go with a warning.

The dramatic difference in how these situations are handled — and how they play out many times on Americans roads — is one of the problems with the way we treat drunk drivers. Drowsy drivers have similar abilities and problems to that of a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08, according to a study published in the Accident Analysis and Prevention Journal.

And yet a drowsy driver isn’t severely punished. The drunk driver may have his or her life ruined by a DUI charge.

We aren’t asking for drowsy drivers to be punished further. But what we are doing is calling attention to an issue relating to criminal defense, and also pleading for a little more common sense when it comes to the way we dole out punishment when it comes to drunk driving.

The many flaws related to DUI tests

There are three types of tests that you probably think of when you hear “field sobriety test.” The first is your standard “do random acts” test. The second is a breath test. And the third is a blood test. Each of these tests are in the police’s arsenal for trying to determine whether a person is drunk or not. The police treat these tests as ironclad tests, when each one has its flaws and problems.

Take your “random tasks” field sobriety test. If you asked a sober person to walk in a straight line foot-over-foot, they would probably lose their balance at some point. In the context of a field sobriety test, a police officer could take this as a sign that you are drunk. But in reality, it is simply a hard task to perform unless you practice it. It is a ridiculous test that doesn’t necessarily prove if you are drunk or sober, and yet it is championed as such.

Then there is the breath test, or a Breathalyzer test. These tests have been criticized as lacking in precise accuracy, and there have also been challenges to breath test results when the police officer failed to follow the instructions for implementing a breath test as told by the device’s manufacturer.

The blood test can also be botched, but this usually only happens when a testing facility is negligent or a lab technician botches the test, either by tainting the evidence or improperly performing the test.

There’s no guarantee that the evidence against you is inadmissible due to any of these mistakes — but the police aren’t perfect.

DUI for Phelps, swimmer out of action for six months

There is a certain list of penalties that many people expect when someone is accused of, or convicted of, driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or some other substance. They probably suspect that the individual will lose his or her driver’s license. Their car is likely impounded, or at least out of their possession, for some time. They will have to pay fines, court costs and other financial penalties as a result of their intoxicated driving.

However, there are other consequences related to the intoxicated driving charge that can be just as damaging — or even more damaging — to the accused or convicted individual. The person could lose his or her job as a result of their criminal history, and they could also find it very difficult to find a suitable place to live. Their friends and family members may not think of them in the same way, or they may treat him or her differently than before.

We bring all of this up in light of the Michael Phelps DUI story that many people all across the country know about. Phelps was recently suspended six months by USA swimming for his second DUI, meaning that the man with the most gold medals (and indeed the most medals total) in Olympic history will have a tough time getting back into shape for his potential comeback in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Even all-time great athletes who are Olympians can’t escape the extended punishment of a drunk driving charge. It’s important to realize just how menacing a DUI cahrge can be, and those who are accused of such a crime need to get legal representation to defend their case — and protect their future.

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Dale Gribow Attorney at Law
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Phone: 760-837-7500
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73-061 El Paseo, Suite 220