Although most people do not expect to be arrested for driving while impaired (DWI) after a night at a bar, sporting event, or gathering with friends and family, approximately 1.5 million people per year are arrested for drunk driving across the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since motorists do not anticipate being arrested they typically are confused by the legal process and quasi-scientific evidence involved in a DWI prosecution. Unfortunately, the prevalence of misinformation about drinking and driving and the DWI legal process leads people to make critical errors that compromise their rights, raises their probability of suffering a conviction, and increases the severity of their punishment. In this two-part article, our Minnesota DWI defense lawyers at Gerald Miller, P.A. attempt to debunk common DWI myths that often steer people facing a drunk driving arrest in the wrong direction.
Common DWI Myths #1: I cannot be arrested for drunk driving because I was taking prescription medication according to a doctor’s orders
When a driver is driving or in actual physical control of a moving vehicle, he or she can be arrested for “drugged driving” whether the motorist has ingested a street drug, prescription medication, or over-the-counter (OTC) drug depending on the situation. The key is whether the drug impaired the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle. Under Minnesota Statutes Section 169A.20, drugged driving occurs when an individual operates a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance or another substance that effects the motorist’s brain, muscles, or nervous system to such an extent that it significantly impairs his or her ability to drive. This means that a driver who takes OTC sleeping pills or prescription pain medications can be arrested if his mental or physical ability to drive safely is substantially impaired regardless of driver’s legal act of consuming the drugs.
Common DWI Myths #2: Men and women are equally susceptible to being arrested for DWI
Although equality between men and women generally is the legal standard under Minnesota and federal law, DWI law does not have an equal impact on both genders. In Minnesota, adult motorists can be arrested and charged with DWI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above (.04 percent for commercial drivers). However, this threshold impacts men and women differently because of the disparity between the sexes in terms of alcohol absorption. Females reach the .08 BAC threshold more quickly because their bodies have more adipose tissue (fat) and less muscle. Because they have a lesser amount of lean body tissue, females absorb alcohol faster than men. Women have less water in their body to diffuse alcohol, so the volume of alcohol in their body becomes more concentrated than in a male’s body. Females also metabolize alcohol at a slower rate because they do not produce as much of the ADH enzyme. The result is that a higher amount of alcohol reaches the blood stream prior to conversion to acetate. Variations in a woman’s production of hormones during her menstrual cycle also makes them move likely to experience high BAC levels depending on the stage of their menstrual cycle. The bottom line is that women may have unique defenses when they are arrested for DWI.
Common DWI Myths #3: I can’t be convicted of DWI because my driving was flawless
Although a driver can be prosecuted for driving while his mental or physical ability to drive safely is impaired by drugs or alcohol, a prosecutor can seek a conviction in Minnesota in the absence of any evidence of impaired driving ability. If a motorist has a BAC of .08 or higher when driving, this is sufficient to obtain a conviction depending on other circumstances. However, the motorist’s flawless driving might be relevant when attacking the legal basis for the initial stop and DWI investigation.
If you have been arrested for DWI, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota DWI Lawyer at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. The sooner you contact us the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.