I have been representing people charged with driving under the influence (DUI) for over 20 years. Many of these individuals had legitimate defenses and many others had mitigating circumstances to their charges. Of the thousands of people my partners and I have represented on these charges, I am quite confident that they all were better off being represented by an attorney.
I am often asked by friends and acquaintances “What is the best way to beat a DUI?” I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way to beat a DUI and that is to never let it happen in the beginning. Most of the other advice that I have heard people give is at best misleading and often gets people in more trouble than they were in already.
Let’s start off understanding what the problem is. People who drive under the influence of alcohol are a danger to themselves and others. They are more likely to have accidents and are responsible for a great deal of carnage on the roads. There is a much greater public awareness and scrutiny of the dangers of drunk driving and a greater willingness to punish people who violate the laws in this regard. The legislators are constantly enacting laws designed to deter drunk drivers and protect the public. The consequences for driving under the influence are becoming much more severe, and offenders who cause serious injury are death are most certainly receiving long penitentiary sentences.
Unfortunately, we still live in a society that in some respects encourages, or at least provides an opportunity for, the use of alcohol in bars, in other public places, venues and events. We also live in a society where it is difficult if not impossible, other than at great expense, to get home without driving i.e., our public transportation or lack thereof runs smack into our social habits and creates a perfect recipe for disaster.
I am often asked questions like “Should I take the breath test?”, “What should I say to the police officer?”, “Should I take the field sobriety test?” There is no good answer for these questions without knowing the specific events and circumstances, in fact, often any advise in this regard is just as likely to be more harmful than helpful. If someone is told never to take a breath test, then they have been advised to do something that will usually result in an additional charge of refusal and may even cause that person to refuse a test that may have gotten them out of trouble and avoided their arrest.
If a person is told to always take the test, then they are being advised to do something that under the circumstances may not be required and contrary to their best interest. Unless we are present at the encounter between the client and the officer, we are without necessary information to advise the client.
There is no “one size fits all” answer to these questions as to what to do when a person is arrested or being charged or investigated for driving under the influence. The only and best advice is to not drink and drive. This is the only guaranteed way of avoiding the consequences of a DUI and that is to avoid the problem to begin with. And in fact, it is much easier to do than people realize. It requires you to simply follow two rules: Plan ahead and don’t take a chance.
Planning ahead is simply realizing that if your evening involves consumption of alcohol then it should not involve the operation of a motor vehicle. Despite the dilemmas already noted above regarding public transportation, many options are available. As many of our judges often advise the public in our court rooms, a cab ride is still a lot cheaper than the average cost and consequences of a DUI. We are now seeing entrepreneurial ideas like the scooter cab companies, which have found a niche by providing a way for people to get their cars and themselves home safely at a reasonable cost. The designated driver is still the cheapest and effective way for people to enjoy themselves and avoid problems. But this idea is not full proof and too often we are finding people who are designated drivers breaking their commitment and/or abandoning those who are relying on them. Many colleagues and I advocate restaurants and establishments to encourage and perhaps give incentives to people who are truly the designated driver of their group. Don’t take a chance. Never make an exception. Always have a designated driver, a cab ride, a plan and a back-up plan. You will find your evening much more enjoyable when you have no possibility of getting a DUI or, God forbid, being involved in a DUI tragedy. The only way to avoid this is to never make an exception, i.e. never drink and drive.
If you have any comments or suggestions in this regard, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to call my law office at 622-3317.