There are many myths and misconceptions out there regarding various details of DUIs. Most of them are wrong, or only apply under certain circumstances. Some, however, have important implications for drivers facing a DUI arrest. Let’s break down some of the myths and facts about DUIs.
Myth 1: Field sobriety tests accurately identify drunk drivers.
FALSE. Field sobriety tests don’t have much verified support in terms of their ability to identify a drunk person from a sober person. They are a mechanism a police officer can use to determine whether the behavior of an individual might provide sufficient indication of intoxication, which is used to justify the officer’s request for a breathalyzer test. A variety of other, non-intoxicated states may result in behaviors similar to an intoxicated person during a field sobriety test. Moreover, a study investigating officer’s ability to identify intoxicated individuals using field sobriety tests showed that officers are only able to identify an intoxicated person using this method about 50 percent of the time – which is the same chance as guessing randomly.
Myth 2: If you have two drinks, you can’t get a DUI.
It depends. DUIs are based mostly on your blood alcohol content (BAC). Many factors contribute to whether a person has reached the legal BAC (.08) limit for driving, and only one of these is the amount you drink. The type of drink you have, the amount of food in your system, you weight, height, body composition, and a variety of other factors play into whether you are at the legal limit or not. In any case, it’s always better to avoid driving if you have been drinking.
Myth 3: You must do everything the officer tells you to do when you are pulled over.
FALSE. While it is always a good choice to be cooperative and polite to a police officer when you are pulled over, you do have rights in these situations. When you are pulled over, you are legally required to provide an officer with your licence and insurance documents. You are not legally required to submit to a field sobriety test. Nor are you required to answer any additional questions the officer directs toward you. Avoid admitting guilt or providing the officer with any evidence that may give them reason to suspect you of drunk driving and order a breathalyzer test, but also do your best not to lie, as this may be used against you if you are found to be over the limit.
Myth 4: Breathalyzers are always accurate
FALSE. Scientifically, breathalyzers have a margin of error of + or – .01%. This means that if you blow a .08, you could actually have a BAC of .07, or .09. Moreover, the concentration of alcohol in your breath changes as your breathe. The first part of a breath, from the top of your lungs, has a much lower alcohol level than your actual BAC. Likewise the last part of your breath, from the bottom of your lungs, has a much higher level of alcohol than your actual BAC. If an officer is requiring you to blow into a breathalyzer until you feel like you are running out of air in your lungs, it is likely they are attempting to get a higher reading.
Myth 5: Police can detect alcohol on your breath.
FALSE. But it doesn’t stop them from trying. As with officer’s attempts to identify drunks with field sobriety tests, the accuracy of police officers in identifying individuals who have consumed alcohol by smelling their breath is also roughly at chance levels, 46%, to be precise. It’s important to remember that alcohol itself is odorless, so officers instead attempt to identify other smells associated with various drinks. Any strong odor on your breath may be taken as indication that you have been drinking.