In many jurisdictions, DUIs account for about half the probationers in the county. Because of the huge volume of arrests, a number of myths have come up over the years about these offenses. These myths are all partially true, and that’s what makes them dangerous.
In the face of a scary event like a DUI arrest, it’s easy to fall back on myths and secondhand information. Even a first-time DUI can mean long term drivers’ license suspension, high fines, jail time, sky-high auto insurance rates, and other negative consequences. So, it’s important to separate the myths from the facts and understand how a Marietta criminal defense lawyer can help you through this time.
Sucking on a Penny Skews the Breathalyzer Test
“If you’ve been drinking’ then suck on Lincoln.” Most of us have probably heard that catchphrase many times before. It’s partially true. Copper mixed with saliva triggers a chemical reaction that artificially lowers the Breathalyzer result.
But that’s only part of the story. And, as Alexander Pope once said, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
In 1982, the mint changed the composition of a penny from mostly copper to mostly zinc. This metal is cheap and plentiful. Most pennies are only 2.5 percent zinc. So, to fool the Breathalyzer, a person would need a mouthful of pennies. Even inattentive police officers will probably get wise to that trick.
Actually, an attorney might use a variation of this theory to undermine the Breathalyzer result. Smokers, diabetics, and other individuals have high acetone levels in their bloodstreams. The Breathalyzer registers acetone as ethanol. So, in some cases, the Breathalyzer result might be artificially high. Normally, an attorney partners with a chemist or other expert witness to explain this flaw to the Cobb County jury.
You Must Be Driving to Get a DUI
At first blush, this one makes sense as well. After all, the name of the offense is “driving under the influence.” Unfortunately, in this particular context, “driving” is roughly synonymous with “operating.” Consider a few examples.
Ben had a few too many, left the bar, and drove to pick up his friend down the street. As he was parked at the curb, an officer approached him. After an investigation, the officer arrested Ben for DUI. In court, the charges would almost certainly stick, even though the car was not in motion at the time. Ben had the means to start the vehicle at any time.
Now assume that Ben’s friend took so long to come out that Ben fell asleep. If an officer approached Ben and arrested him for DUI, the charges would probably stick. Ben still had the capacity to wake up and drive away at any time. However, this situation is not as clear-cut as the first one. An attorney might at least be able to get the charges reduced to something like reckless driving.
Finally, assume that the car was not in working order when Ben was arrested. Maybe it was out of gas or had a dead battery. In that case, the DUI charges would probably not stick. Ben could not drive away.
ON a somewhat related note, DUIs must occur in a public place. If Ben’s car was in the driveway, the charges would probably not stick, unless the officer saw Ben driving. The same thing applies to locations like shopping mall parking lots. Private parking areas are not public places, even if they have designated traffic lanes and traffic control devices.
Random Checkpoints Are Indeed “Random”
Not exactly. Marietta officers may set up DUI roadblocks in pretty much any location they please. However, these checkpoints follow regimented guidelines. These guidelines include the way officers pull over vehicles. There must be a set formula. For example, officers may pull over every second or third vehicle. They cannot wave some cars through and stop other ones because they do not “look right.”
Technically, officers could pull over every vehicle, if the checkpoint guidelines allowed it. But this method would back up traffic. Checkpoints can only involve brief detention times. Generally, anything longer than about three minutes is unreasonably long. That includes the time spent waiting in line and the time at the actual checkpoint.
On a similar note, DUI checkpoints circumvent the Fourth Amendment but not the Fifth Amendment. Officers can detain motorists without any independent cause, but they cannot make drivers answer questions. That leads us to the next DUI myth, which is. . .
You Must Do What the Officer Asks
Yes and no. At roadblocks, drivers must show their driver’s’ licenses and proof of insurance. But they do not need to answer questions. In fact, they do not even need to roll down their windows. At standard stops, people must provide a picture ID, if available, and also answer basic name, rank, and serial number questions.
The obligation to talk to officers ends there. People do not need to answer any further questions. That’s important because the officer can use any statements against you later. The right to remain silent includes the right to refuse to perform field sobriety tests. Unless you really want to, you do not need to walk a straight line, hold one leg up, or anything else.
It’s always important to be respectful in these encounters. If you antagonize the officer, the situation could end very, very badly.
The Beer Chug Defense is a Great Idea
Once again, there is a kernel of truth in this DUI myth. Georgia law includes a mandatory twenty-minute observation period before the defendant blows into the Breathalyzer. If the defendant burps, vomits, or belches during this period, the mouth alcohol artificially raises the Breathalyzer reading.
But there are some practical problems. Typically, officers instruct defendants to remain in a certain place and sit still during the DUI investigation. Ignoring the officer’s instructions could result in additional charges. Additionally, the police department can administer an additional Breathalyzer test at the stationhouse. With multiple results, it’s possible to extrapolate a driving BAC level. Finally, many Cobb County jurors take a very dim view of people who blatantly try to short-circuit the Breathalyzer test.
Connect with an Aggressive Attorney
A good defense relies on the facts and the law instead of DUI myths. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, L.L.C. Home and jail visits are available.