Law and Science of Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol is a serious public health problem in the developed world and prohibited by law in virtually all jurisdictions. Historically, while moderate alcohol usage has generally been socially acceptable, impairment due to excessive use of alcohol, while operating a vehicle, is a serious criminal offense, proven through forensic alcohol analysis and field sobriety testing.
While impairing in itself at excess concentrations, alcohol’s metabolites can also have serious detrimental cognitive effects and be responsible for potentially deadly long-term illnesses. Forensic extrapolation of blood alcohol content (BAC) is chiefly obtained from samples of the subject’s breath, that methodology potentially being impacted by other substances and extraneous environmental factors. While an inference of impairment may be drawn solely from BAC, analysis of certain standard field sobriety tests (SFSTs) generally has been shown to be sensitive in ascertaining whether a driver is intoxicated. Both forensic BAC analysis and SFST, however, even when suggestive of alcohol-related impairment, are not specific for it. A DUI charge has significant occupational, legal, financial, and administrative ramifications, such that proper analysis is essential, not only to identify and deter the impaired but to protect the innocently accused.
BAC measurements implying impairment vary in different jurisdictions but generally have trended downward. Prosecutors, hard at work to deter and punish drunk drivers, are countered by a defense bar properly analyzing the probable cause necessary to detain a driver and subsequently administer the SFSTs in addition to the science behind the forensic alcohol analysis and any factors that might wrongfully convict the innocent. Various constitutional and statutory defenses are available on the criminal side, while more limited challenges can be made on the administrative side. Virtually all convicted offenders lose their license to operate a motor vehicle, at a minimum temporarily.
DUI arrests actually occur in a fairly small and predictable number of scenarios, each lending itself to different defenses and prosecutorial theories, the most serious being those involving death or serious injury. The pitfalls and subjectivity of SFST underscore the importance of reliable and reproducible forensic analysis, a typical DUI trial pitting the police and prosecutors attempting to validate each and every procedural step in the arrest, while the defense seeks to find a scintilla of reasonable doubt at those same steps. Whether procedural, statutory, constitutional, or forensic, every facet of the DUI arrest will be dissected.
DUI is a potentially life-changing experience, affecting the individual defendant and having broad impact on society as a whole. Education and avoidance, the lynchpins of curbing impaired driving, come only at a cost, with society’s jury still out on how best to implement deterrence and who will be responsible for paying for it.
KeywordsBlood Alcohol Concentration Breath Alcohol Guilty Plea Blood Alcohol Content Reasonable Suspicion
- 1.Patrick CH. Alcohol, culture, and society. Durham: Duke University Press; 1952. Reprint edition by AMS Press, New York; 1970. p. 12–3.Google Scholar
- 2.Blum RH, Associates. Society and Drugs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass; 1969. p. 25.Google Scholar
- 3.Lucia SP. A history of wine as therapy. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott; 1963. p. 216.Google Scholar
- 4.Smith CB. Program management B.C. In: Civil engineering magazine. June 1999. Available at http://www.ekt.bme.hu/CM-BSC-MSC/ProgramManagementBC.pdf.
- 5.Hucker CO. China’s imperial past. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1975. p. 25.Google Scholar
- 6.Fei-Peng Z. Drinking in China. The drinking and drug practice surveyor. 1982. No. 18. p. 12–5.Google Scholar
- 7.Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario; 1961. p. 5.Google Scholar
- 8.Roueche B. The neutral spirit: a portrait of alcohol. Boston: Little Brown Publishing; 1963. p. 179.Google Scholar
- 9.Popham RE. The social history of the tavern. In: Israel Y, Glaser F, Kalant B, Harold P, Robert E, Schmidt W, Smart RG, editors. Research advances in alcohol and drug problems, vol. 4. New York: Plenum; 1978. p. 232–3.Google Scholar
- 10.Lutz HF. Viticulture and brewing in the ancient orient. New York: J. C. Heinrichs; 1922. p. 15–6.Google Scholar
- 11.Lucia SP. The antiquity of alcohol in diet and medicine. In: Lucia SP, editor. Alcohol and civilization. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1963. p. 36–44.Google Scholar
- 12.Austin GA. Alcohol in western society from antiquity to 1800: A chronological history. Santa Barbara: ABC – Clio; 1985. 23, 25, and 27.Google Scholar
- 13.Babor T. Alcohol: customs and rituals. New York: Chelsea House; 1986. p. 7.Google Scholar
- 14.Austin GA. Alcohol in western society from antiquity to 1800: A chronological history. Santa Barbara: ABC – Clio; 1985. 28, 32–33.Google Scholar
- 15.Austin GA. Alcohol in western society from antiquity to 1800: a chronological history. Santa Barbara: ABC – Clio; 1985. 44 and 47–48.Google Scholar
- 16.Babor T. Alcohol: customs and rituals. New York: Chelsea House; 1986. p. 11.Google Scholar
- 18.Sournia J-C. A history of alcoholism. Boston: Blackwell; 1990. p. 21.Google Scholar
- 19.Darby WJ, Ghaliounqui P, Grivetti L. Food: the gift of Osiris. Vols. 1 and 2. London: Academic Press; 1977. p. 590.Google Scholar
- 20.Chafetz ME. Iquor: the servant of man. Boston: Little, Brown and Co; 1965. p. 223.Google Scholar
- 21.Man N. Attila. New York: Thomas Dunne Books; 2006. p. 264.Google Scholar
- 22.Ross HL, Joseph RG. Confronting drunk driving. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1994.Google Scholar
- 23.Girard J. Criminalistics: forensic science and crime. Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning Series; 2008. p. 311.Google Scholar
- 24.Devine J. A brief history of DWI law at http://EzineArticles.com/1335561.
- 27.Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic safety facts 2009: alcohol-impaired driving. Washington, DC: NHTSA; 2010.Google Scholar
- 28.Department of Justice (US), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Crime in the united states 2008: uniform crime reports. Washington, DC: FBI; 2010.Google Scholar
- 29.Shults RA, Beck L, Dellinger AM. Self-reported alcohol-impaired driving among adults in the United States, 2006 and 2008. Presented at: safety 2010 world conference; London. Sept 2010. p. 21–24.Google Scholar
- 30.Jones RK, Shinar D, Walsh JM. State of knowledge of drug-impaired driving. Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2003. Report DOT HS 809 642Google Scholar
- 31.Singer M, Brenner D. Alcohol and the gastrointestinal tract. Basel: Karger AG; 2006. p. 91–156.Google Scholar
- 32.Watson RR, Watzl B. Nutrition and alcohol. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 1992. p. 101–2.Google Scholar
- 33.Dubowski KM. Absorption, distribution and elimination of alcohol: highway safety aspects. J Stud Alcoh. 1985;10:98–108.Google Scholar
- 34.Quertemont E, Didone. Role of Acetaldehyde in Mediating the Pharmacological and Behavioral Effects of Alcohol. Publication of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh294/258-265.htm
- 35.Johansson B, Angelo HR, Christensen JK, Moller IW, Ronsted P. Dose-effect relationship of disulfiram in human volunteers. II: a study of the relation between the disulfiram-alcohol reaction and plasma concentrations of acetaldehyde, diethyldithiocarbamic acid methyl ester, and erythrocyte aldehyde dehydrogenase activity. Pharmacol Toxicol. 1991;68(3):166–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 37.Holroyd J. Breathalyser’s 20 per cent tolerance defended. Sydney Morning Herald. 16 May 2006.Google Scholar
- 38.U.S. Department of Transportation, N.H.T.S.A., US DOT HS 178 r10/95, DWI. Detection and standardized field sobriety testing, student manual, section VIII. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 1995. p. 11.Google Scholar
- 39.Cole S, Nowaczyk R. Field sobriety tests: are they designed for failure?, Vol. 79. Perceptual and Motor Skills Journal. Missoula, MT; 1994. p. 99.Google Scholar
- 40.NHTSA. Student manual: DWI detection and standardized field sobriety testing. 2006. Available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/25384088/NHTSA-DWI-DUI-Field-Sobriety-Test-Student-Manual-2006-OCR.
- 41.Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Deferred prosecution of DUI cases in Washington state: evaluating the impact on recidivism. Aug 2007. Available at http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/07-08-1901.pdf
- 42.Cordell L. Baby, you can’t drive your car: a judge’s favorite punishment for drunken drivers-ignition-interlock. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2009/09/baby_you_cant_drive_your_car.html.
- 43.Burton M. SR-22 Insurance: what is it? When do you need it? How do you find it? Auto insurance tips. 24 June 2009 at http://www.autoinsurancetips.com//sr-22-insurance-what-do-you-need-how-do-you-find