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5 Common DUI Myths

Myth 1:  You Can’t be Charged with DUI if Your BAC is <.08

In Washington State and all other states, the legal limit for DUI is .08. If your breath or blood alcohol level is .08 or above, you will be arrested for DUI. However, if you blow under a .08, you can still be arrested for DUI. The prosecutor will proceed with the DUI charge under the “affected by” prong of the statute. According to RCW 46.61.5055, even if you BAC is under the legal limit, you can still be convicted of a DUI if it can be proven that your driving is affected to an appreciable degree. The prosecutor will attempt to prove the DUI using issues with driving as well as physical indicators of impairment such as slurred speech, flushed face, bloodshot- watery eyes and problems with coordination.

Myth 2:  You won’t be Arrested if you perform well on FST/ Performing FST’s will help show you aren’t impaired

If you are stopped by law enforcement and admit to consuming alcohol, you will be asked to perform voluntary field sobriety tests (FSTs). If you don’t make admissions to consuming, but the officer smells the odor of intoxicants or you are exhibiting signs of impairment, you will be asked to perform these tests. No one performs as well as they think on these tests. These tests are voluntary; you can and should refuse to perform them. Although you may still be arrested if you do not submit to testing, performing these tests only helps provide the officer with probable cause for impairment. Coincidentally, the officer usually has you perform the tests out of the view of the dash camera.

Myth 3:  You can’t get a DUI when taking medication if you have a valid prescription

You can be charged with DUI when taking certain medicines even when you have a valid prescription. Any medication that can cause driving to be affected to an appreciable degree can result in a DUI charge. If drugs are suspected, an officer who has been trained as a drug recognition expert (DRE) will be called in to handle the case. They will want to take you to a hospital for a blood draw. If refused, the officer can and usually does get a warrant for the draw.

Medications such as Ambien and Lunesta can cause a phenomenon known as sleep driving. This is defined as driving while not fully awake after the ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product with no memory of the event. Sleep driving is illegal and can result in a DUI charge.  It is very important not to drive until you know how the medication will affect you.  Always ensure that you are completely alert before driving.

Myth 4:  If you drink one drink an hour, you will keep your BAC under .08

Alcohol is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and into the bloodstream. The alcohol is distributed throughout the body until equilibrium is achieved (even distribution throughout the body). Healthy people metabolize alcohol at a fairly constant rate. In general, a person will eliminate one average drink of alcohol per hour. There are many charts and graphs that try to predict what a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will be after a certain number of drinks per hour. This calculation is based on many variables. While a chart can be used as a general guideline, it can’t predict a person’s blood alcohol content with absolute certainty. Many factors are involved including weight and absorption rate.  For example, the less you weigh, the more you will be affected by a given amount of alcohol. Furthermore, food taken with alcohol causes a delay of alcohol absorption resulting in a decrease of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream. A more accurate predictor of BAC levels is a professional breathalyzer. They range vastly in price and can be purchased online.

Myth 5:  You can’t be arrested if you are in a car with the engine off.

If you are impaired and have physical control of a vehicle, you can be charged with the crime of Physical Control. Being in physical control of the vehicle means that you have the ability to start and operate the vehicle. You don’t have to be in the driver’s seat or even sitting in the car. So if you have been drinking and decide to sleep it off in the backseat of the car and the keys are in the ignition or in your pocket, you can be charged with physical control.  This type of charge has the exact same consequences as a DUI.

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