It’s no secret that DUI charges are a common thing in our country. In 2019 in the state of Maryland alone, there were 18,160 arrests made for DUI, making it the third most common reason for arrest, coming in behind drug charges and the catch-all category of “other offenses”.
Just like any phenomenon that is widespread, but not to the point that everyone has regular contact with it, urban myths and misconceptions abound. With years of experience in legal defense relating to DUs, we’ve heard them all, from the plausible to the absurd.
This article will look at some of the more common myths, examine whether or not they have any truth to them, and provide you with the relevant facts that you’ll need to know should you ever be pulled over for a DUI or DWI.
Myth #1: You Can’t Get a DUI if You’re Parked in Your Garage or Driveway
We’ll start with a myth that sounds a bit more plausible than some of the others. It seems reasonable that, even if you’re inebriated, as long as your vehicle is securely parked on your own property, you’re not posing a threat to people or property around you. Logically, you shouldn’t be able to be charged with driving under the influence, right?
This is a myth, however, as it’s completely possible to be charged with a DUI in this exact scenario. After all, (according to legal theory) how does one end up drunk in their driveway without having driven there via public roads?
Context does matter in this situation – it will be difficult to argue your case if police find you passed out in the front seat with the keys in the ignition and the motor running. However, if you are found asleep in the back seat, keys in pocket and engine totally cold, prosecutors may have a harder time convicting you of driving under the influence, but it is not unlikely that you will be charged.
Myth #2: A DUI Is Just a Kind of Traffic Charge
Most states (including Maryland) differentiate between the severity of minor traffic violations and more serious crimes. The least serious situations such as light speeding, improper turning, or failing to acknowledge a stop sign are only traffic infractions, and are never punished with more than a ticket.
However, driving under the influence in Maryland is considered a traffic misdemeanor which comes with the potential for jail time and an entry on your permanent criminal record. Repeat offenders will usually face even more severe consequences and hitting a person while driving intoxicated can be charged as a full felony. It’s vital to remember that a DUI is never just “a bad speeding ticket”.
Myth #3: If I Don’t Submit to a Breath Test, I Can’t Be Arrested
Some will claim that portable breath tests (PBTs) are a kind of trap, and that you should never submit to one under any circumstances. The reality is that a breath test is only meant to provide police with additional evidence for a DUI, and if the officer suspects you’re intoxicated, they will take you to the station for an arrest with or without a PBT.
While you absolutely should be cautious about agreeing to a PBT, there are times where submitting to one can be the right thing to do. Refusing a PBT or field sobriety test can potentially be used against you in court, and Maryland courts will often offer lighter punishment for first time offenders who are only slightly impared.
Myth #4: You Can’t Be Arrested if You Are Under the Legal Limit
Here it’s critical to remember that a blood alcohol content of .08% is merely the legal threshold for presumed impairment. In other words, blowing a .08 or higher simply means that you can officially be considered legally impared. Everyone is different, and it’s possible for someone with a high alcohol tolerance to blow a .08, and still beat DUI charges by clearly demonstrating that they’re unimpaired. Likewise, a “lightweight” who blows less than a .08 but shows multiple physical signs of being very intoxicated can absolutely be convicted.
As we mentioned earlier, PBTs are just another form of evidence police and prosecutors can bring against you, not the only form of evidence. Many people have been fully convicted of a DUI based solely on police testimony or video evidence, even without agreeing to a PBT at all.
Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks – Make Sure You’re Protected Legally
If there’s one message to take from this article, it’s that you should never underestimate the seriousness of a DUI, and that it’s easier than you think to be convicted with one if you aren’t well informed. That’s where Widder Law comes in.
With nearly a decade of experience in defending clients against DUI charges, we have heard and seen it all, from the urban myths common to the actual realities of the courtroom. In addition to substance related offenses such as DUIs we specialize in a wide spectrum of legal defense, from proprietary claims, to minor offenses, to felonies both violent and non-violent.
Don’t risk jail time or a permanent mark on your criminal record – contact us today for a consultation.