ZERO TOLERANCE—That is a term we have heard a lot in recent years. Zero Tolerance for violence, guns in schools, sexual harassment, Fox News, etc. There is also zero tolerance for driving with any alcohol content in your blood (BAC–blood alcohol content) if you are under 21.
As an adult, you can drink and drive. You just can’t drive while impaired or intoxicated. By the way, IGNORE those billboards that say “.08 — DON’T BLOW IT”. Worst public service ad campaign ever conceived (its creators must have been drinking). It gives the impression that you drive with a BAC of up to .08. WRONG. Anything over .05 is illegal. .08 is where misdemeanor land starts, but .051 to .079 is DWAI. Both places are unpleasant. I will discuss the differences in a future post. I mention this just to tie in the next point.
If you have had a drink (or even a portion of a drink) and a police officer stops you, chances are you will have an odor of an alcoholic beverage about you that you can’t smell but others can. All it will take is that odor, however slight, to inspire the cop to direct you to perform “Field Sobriety Tests”. The 3 main ones, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk & Turn, and One Leg Stand, are promulgated by the Nat’l Hwy Traffic Safety Admin (NHTSA). There are others, too, such as the finger to nose, alphabet, Rhomberg balance, and finger count.
These tests are not your friends. Most are designed so as to be easy to fail. One study found that nearly HALF of the test subjects (completely sober) — 46%–could not pass the tests.
There is no law requiring you to take the field tests. There is also no law to prevent the prosecutor from trying to use your refusal to take the physical field tests against you. There are laws about taking the also-sensor (the hand-held breath tested used in the field) and the breath test at the station. There are penalties for refusing to take both of those breath tests.
The police usually make note of everything you say to them, so if you are ever want to refuse to take the field tests, saying something like, “I decline to take these tests because I know that they are unreliable and nearly half the population can’t pass them sober” might be a good idea. You can even politely ask the officer to make a note that you said that. Then be quiet and call me.
My main point is this: To avoid the specter of the field tests and possibly false, incriminating results, impose a zero tolerance policy on yourself. Pretend you are under 21—forever. If you have even half a glass of Romulan Ale, don’t drive. There is no taxi ride or hotel room that is going to cost anywhere near the cost of legal fees, win or lose. And if you lose, the fines and surcharges from the court and DMV are very steep.
Zero tolerance would be a great law to extend to everyone over 21, but the liquor and restaurant lobby will never let that happen. So do it yourself. Make it your personal law. If you even sip a drink, don’t drive. You’ll avoid legal misunderstandings and save money (although my business will feel a pinch…but I am ok with that!). If you don’t open the door to the lion’s cage, the beast can’t eat you.

Leave a reply