In the age of the Internet, urban myths are created and spread constantly. DUI is a very real social problem so it is naturally the subject of a number of these myths. Just like playing telephone, once these myths get started they spread like wildfire and misperceptions become part of our social knowledge. It dangerous to bet your freedom and liberty on the substance of myth and misperception, especially when it concerns the serious crime of DUI.
Alcoholism as a Disease Defense
It is a widely accepted fact that alcoholism is a disease. Many people believe that if they are “disabled” by alcoholism, and then drive while intoxicated, they can excuse this behavior as the result of their disease. While the premise of this thought might have some validity, courts disagree. Two Supreme Court cases, one from 1968 (Powell v. Texas) and one from 1988 (Traynor v. Turnage), are the seminal cases that control this argument. In Powell, the Court held that being punished for being drunk in public is not cruel and unusual punishment because the state’s goal of punishing certain behaviors (here, drunk in public) cannot be restricted just because the actions occurred under the “compulsion” of alcohol. In Traynor, the Court ruled that alcoholism is the result of “willful misconduct” and while not a criminal case, the ruling indicates that even if alcoholism is a disease, it is the result of the alcoholic’s own actions and therefore, not valid as a legal argument.
Police Officers Cannot Lie to You
While this sounds good, it is not the case. The courts have long allowed police officers to use subterfuge to obtain evidence against defendants in criminal cases. People often believe a police officer when he or she informs them that if they perform a breathalyzer test they will be allowed to leave the scene. First, it is within the officer’s discretion to let you leave after the breathalyzer test based on the results. Second, the Supreme Court has said in numerous cases that deceit by police officers is allowed as a strategy to obtain evidence or confessions. Therefore, even if an officer is intentionally lying, there is no legal prohibition for doing so.
No Weaving Equals No DUI
Many people believe that you have to be driving totally out of control to create probable cause for a DUI arrest. This seems to be spawned from decisions in a number of states that have held, in and of itself, that minor weaving within one’s lane is not enough to rise to the level of probable cause for DUI. However, it is a rare case that comes before the court in which the only clue that an officer had to pull someone over is weaving in one’s lane. Rough starting and stopping, speeding, improper speed control, and failing to obey traffic control devices are much more often the basis for a DUI stop.
As with most things on the Internet, there is a kernel of truth to most of these myths and misperceptions. However, if you are charged with DUI and try to use these as a defense, the result is almost always bad. There are defenses, however, that are not myths and that can be used by an experienced DUI attorney to help defendants. If you have been charged with DUI in Northern Virginia, Jad Sarsour can help you. He has years of experience and has helped thousands of clients just like you. Give him a call today at (571) 316-2639 to set up your free consultation.