Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Biggest Misconception in DWI

The biggest misconception in a DWI is to correlate a single bad driving behavior with guilt in a DWI. Whether it be a jerk (failure to maintain a single lane), accident (losing control and hitting something like a curb, pole, or another car), or stopping too long at a stop light, this may very well be evidence of driver inattention unrelated to intoxication. I have analyzed thousands of DWI cases and have tried over 300. What I typically find is a prosecutor who argues that the driving behavior which so often happens due to driver inattention be argued as clear evidence that a person is intoxicated. This is simply not fact. The facts are that every day drivers commit these violations due to distraction, inattention, fatigue or a host of other factors. Accidents are so common that the law mandates a driver operate a motor vehicle on our public roads with liability insurance.

The mere fact that a driver commits these with alcohol or a substance (medication, drugs, caffeine, etc.) in their system is not evidence that the alcohol or substance caused this driving infraction. Driving even a short distance requires full and undivided attention. The fact that we all commit such blunders, as a driving population, does not mean a person is intoxicated. Recent studies have proved that lowering the alcohol level to .05 does not decrease the amount of accidents on the road. What is important to consider in a DWI case is that driving behaviors so often associated with DWI may not in fact be the root cause of such.

It is critically important for the fact finders of our legal system, judges and jurors, to differentiate driving mishaps from life altering DWI convictions.  It is even more important for the prosecutor, charged with making a recommendation in the case, to not analyze the driving behavior in isolation. Time of travel, distance traveled, and factual distractions must be taken into account to render a proper assessment of whether or not the driving infraction is evidence of possible intoxication or something else. 

So many DWI cases are assessed under the microscope of a single driving infraction. This is short changing the citizen accused of the real question- intoxication. It is all too easy to label a DWI based on a single driving error. To do so is to avoid a full analysis of the real question at hand. There are many people who commit driving errors all the time. The key is to keep an open mind about the totality of the circumstances, a phrase most every police officer uses when testifying on a DWI case. It is imperative that no one jumps to conclusions when assessing  the guilt of a citizen accused in a DWI.  


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