Driving While Impaired, Even When You’re Not.
Many times clients ask us, “How can I be arrested for DWI? I wasn’t even drunk!” What they’re referring to is the fact that they felt perfectly fine while they were driving. They had no doubt in their mind that they were safely within the legal limit and yet they were still charged with Driving While Impaired. The scary part about what they’re saying is-they could be 100% correct and still be convicted of DWI.
The law reads that the State must prove “After having consumed sufficient alcohol that he has, at any relevant time after the driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.” This means that the State can attempt to prove impairment by demonstrating that you blew a .08 or higher after you were driving a vehicle. It does not specify the length of time after you were driving a vehicle and it does not specify what your alcohol level must have been while you were driving.
What it does specify is a relative term of time. Take special note of the language used here “at any relevant time after the driving.” The court can interpret this language to mean that even if you were driving around at a safe and lawful .06 breath alcohol level and then you blew a .08 down at the station, you can still be found guilty. Think about that. The entire time you were driving you felt safe and lawful because you were safely under the legal limit. Your mental and physical faculties were not impaired, and yet the law says you can still be found guilty.
Here’s how that might play out. You’re out drinking with your friends but you feel perfectly safe to drive. Your friends decide its time to go home but you’ve just ordered your last round. As you pack up to leave the bar you down the rest of your beer. As you get in your car and drive towards home, you’re safely and legally driving at a .06 alcohol level. However, when the cops stop you for your expired tags and then spend an hour with you doing their DWI investigation, your body is slowly but surely continuing to process that last beer. As it does that, you are slowly having more and more alcohol distributed throughout your body. As they arrest you and take you downtown, your body is inching towards and over the legal limit so that by the time you blow at the station, you register a .08. Even though you haven’t driven in an hour and even though you were always driving under the legal limit, under the law you had “consumed sufficient alcohol that [you had at a relevant time] an alcohol concentration of .08 or more.”
The takeaway from this is that just because you feel safe to drive doesn’t mean that you aren’t in violation of the law. You can still be convicted of Driving While Impaired even though you were never over the limit while you were driving. If you’ve been charged with DWI, call an experienced attorney from the Hatch, Little & Bunn Criminal Defense Team today and let us educate you on the law and get you the best possible outcome for your case.