Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even over-the-counter or prescription drugs, continues to be a major issue in the state of Florida, and it should be. I won’t bore you with statistics about how many serious injuries or fatalities occur in South Florida every year as a result of DUIs; that information is readily available on the internet. I do, however, want to discuss many of the considerations involving blood alcohol content (BAC) being used as the standard in determining whether someone is too impaired to drive. Please don’t inundate me with nasty emails because my intention is inform and to help those who have been erroneously charged with this offense.
Regardless of whether a driver has been drinking or taking drugs, the level of tolerance varies greatly dependent upon the person and the substance they have used. Theoretically, any alcohol or drug can impair your ability to drive. Something as seemingly harmless as Tylenol can effect the normal driving abilities of some people. All alcohol and drugs effect physiological functions to one degree or another or people wouldn’t take then. Before anyone gets up-in-arms about that statement, keep in mind that this includes not just giving someone a “buzz”, but also things like ridding someone of a headache or helping someone sleep.
I have no doubt that we all agree that in trying to regulate what constitutes “being under the influence,” none of us wants to jeopardize our personal freedom. The trick is finding a balance between keeping the public safe from someone who over-indulges and then gets behind the wheel and allowing people to make choices for themselves that don’t pose a risk to the welfare of others. It is often like walking a razor’s edge between someone having a beer with the guys on the way home from work or having a few that may make it unsafe for you to be driving a 2,000 pound projectile. I am not implying that I know what the right balance is, but I don’t think that everyone who has had a glass of wine or smoked a joint is necessarily a threat to others.
There was a time when there was no blood alcohol content standard in the United States. Then in 2000, a federal law was passed mandating that every state use the standard of a BAC of no more than .08. In more recent years, the National Traffic Safety Board has begun to push for the national BAC standard to be reduced even further to .05. Although this is appealing to those who think that no amount of alcohol consumption before driving is acceptable, the individual tolerance of people based upon weight and other factors can result in someone being accused of drunk driving when he is not as impaired as someone who may have consumed less. I will say it again – I DO NOT advocate drinking and driving, but our current standard doesn’t take these individual variables into account. I do support BAC guidelines, but I think .05 is extreme. A 100 lb. woman will be at the limit after one drink whereas it would take a 169 lb. man two drinks to be considered intoxicated. This leads to an inequality in the law which is supposed to be fair and just to everyone. The law regarding DUI would have to become zero tolerance to address the issue equally.
There have been countless studies regarding alcohol-related fatalities that have shown that there has been a reduction in the number since the national BAC has been lowered to .08. These same experts feel that if the BAC was lowered to .05, an additional 650 lives would be saved. My concern is when the interest in public safety collides with personal liberties. Where do we draw the line, and how do we define the shades of gray that other distractions can create? Texting while driving and talking on the phone are both actions that have been getting a tremendous amount of attention in the media over the last several years for the same reason that DUIs are a hot topic. There are always going to be distractions while driving whether it’s changing the radio station or just having an animated conversation with someone else in the car. Should these actions also require the harsh penalties leveled at those accused of DUI?
As a concerned citizen & DUI Lawyer, I feel that there is no question that we need to have laws that govern driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. As a traffic ticket attorney, I feel that it is my responsibility to help those who have been wrongly accused of DUI. If you have received a traffic citation or been arrested for DUI, please give me a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultaion.