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Survive A DUI

How to get through getting a DUI - both mentally, and legally.

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No More DUIs in 2027? (and why it may not be a good thing)

This article came across my desk this morning…

Every Car Made After 2027 May Have Drunk Driving Monitoring System

Long story short - the infrastructure bill that we've heard so much about recently has a tiny little clause stuck way, way deep inside of it that would require every car manufactured in 2027 and beyond to have a system that would prevent the car from operating if any alcohol is detected. Now, before you start to think that everybody is going to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on their car, the bill mentions that it would be a passive system. So how would it work?

Well… Like always, that part they haven't figured out.

One method would be a button on a push-to-start system monitoring blood alcohol levels through touch… Currently I don't know of any reliable test that uses that sort of technology. Still this is six years down the road, so maybe it's possible. I've said many times on this blog that I am not a lawyer, but in this instance I will add that I am also not a scientist. The other would be a breath monitoring system that would act like a constant breathalyzer scanning the air for alcohol particles, even being able to, supposedly, be able to determine if the alcohol in the air is from the driver and not a passenger. We'll see what happens when a drink passenger gets in and puts their favorite song on, the one they just have to listen to right now, and starts belting out the lyrics as hard as can be.

I'm sure they're considering all these factors, but… I'll believe it when I see it. Our current IID machines aren't great - resulting in false positives from such things as eating bananas or onions. There's no oversight established yet, so who knows how this will go. The car manufacturers love it because it's another thing they can charge for and it further absolves them of any responsibility.

An excellent point made in the article "Given such a technology would likely be used hundreds of millions of times every single day if mandated, an error rate of even .01 percent would result in millions of mistakes a day." I can't imagine the chaos that would ensue from the early adopters just months in. If you can't get to work because of a false positive and lose your job, you may be able to sue Ford, or Subaru, or whoever for damages. I'm sure they will not be happy with that.

Fortunately, the transportation secretary can delay this requirement if the technology isn't ready - so if they never get there or autonomous cars take over completely by then, this will all be moot.

So, this provision may be the greatest change to automobiles in recent memory or a bunch of wishful thinking.

There's some additional concerns however-

Vice's article mentions that police often get warrants to search the car's onboard computers, and these computers collect a lot of data that the driver doesn't realize - everything from whether the car was in motion without your seatbelt fastened to your complete driving history in cars with onboard GPS. Theoretically one could get into an accident and have this data pulled and used against them to show that there was a detectable amount of alcohol below shutdown level and have that information used in a lawsuit against the driver, or used by insurance to disqualify a claim. This aspect I'm not as confident that they will work out before implementation. There's supposedly measures in place to protect your privacy, but time and time again these have been hacked or simply obtained through legal measures. The reassurances they put out are not reassuring.

With an onboard breathalyzer in place people who haven't been through the system, like us, will also be given a level of confidence they may not have had earlier. The device will be able to detect alcohol, but there's no word on whether it will be able to detect other intoxicants - and given that it's been this difficult and taken this long to detect just alcohol, and the provision only requiring alcohol testing - it's unlikely that feature will be involved. So, a person may start their car and easily assume they are ok to drive when they could be under the influence of anything from marijuana to PCP to ecstasy to being sleepy to being mad about a football game or their partner leaving them. A person using their car can get drunk, not be able to start their car and realize they're not ok to drive. The next week they get loaded on Xanax, get in their car, have it start up, and think, "I'm good to go" when that isn't the case. I'm not sure what messaging will surround the system (and to be frank, this far out nobody is), but I'm sure it will not get into the nuances of what constitutes "being ok to drive". There may be a lot of bad unintended consequences from giving somebody this false sense of ability.

One last issue I had - a lot of the descriptions put these systems as rendering the car unable to start, but able to turn on so that somebody can charge their phone, get out of the cold, etc. While good in theory, it overlooks one big aspect of DUI law that many of us know all too well: you don't have to be driving the car, you don't have to be in the front seat, you don't have to even be in your car to get a DUI. Many, many, many people are arrested for DUIs for doing the responsible thing and sleeping off the alcohol in their back seats, or have been drunk outside their car without the intention to drive, but in possession of their keys. This is another false sense of security that will be given to a lot of people. "Oh, my car has the alcohol system installed, I'll just chill in the backseat for an hour or two until I'm ready to drive". A lot of people don't realize how far-reaching DUI laws are. I'm guessing that within a few years of this program being implemented non-driving DUIs will outpace actual driving DUIs. But as well know all-too-well, DUIs are a cash cow for the states, so they wouldn't want to kill the golden goose now, would they?

This would only apply to new cars, so 2026 cars would not be required to have this technology installed if it gets to become install-worthy. However, if the technology is available, reliable, and auto manufacturers like it, it may be difficult to purchase a new car without this feature much earlier than it's legally required (like backup cams and large distracting screens were ubiquitous). Some may hold on to older vehicles and keep them on the road in the name of "freedom".

We all want to live in a world where people don't drive drunk. Especially those of us who have had to face the consequences from those actions. However, is merely forcing this technology on everyone going to be enough? This technology can easily leave somebody, possibly sober, stranded in a precarious and unsafe position. Is this technology going to be reasonable if we do not improve things like public transportation or ridesharing availability to reach people in areas that aren't heavily trafficked? Will people resort to circumventing or disabling the system through shady means out of sheer need? Why do a lot of DUIs happen? Because people don't have options, they're scared of getting their car towed, or a hefty ticket when they leave their car overnight. They're worried they won't be able to get home and they're stuck somewhere they don't want to be. They're worried about fulfilling obligations and don't see another way. Where are the solutions on this end?

It's a lot to think about. Hopefully some of these gets resolved before (if) it all gets implemented. Hopefully more attention to this will lead to some more intense examination of this provision and its consequences.

Of course, with the infrastructure bill in constant limbo, it might not even make it to the final bill. If not, I would expect a similar legislation, either on its own or attached to something else, to be pushed through relatively quickly.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and I've created a discussion thread on substack (where you can subscribe to the SAD newsletter) where you can chime in and give your perspective:

No More DUIs in 2027? discussion

Guest Post: Having Hope - 4 DUIs and Moving Forward

I saw Branden post his story on Reddit's DUI board (there's also a SAD Reddit) and encouraged him to share his story in the hopes that it can help others out there. If you'd like to share your story, please contact me. There's a lot of people who are going through what you have, and a lot of people who have already gone through it and come out the other side. Together we can make this better for all of us - Tom

Having Hope



I received DUIs in November of 2014, January of 2016, September of 2017, and March of 2020 and this is my experience.

For the first, I went out with friends from my job, Uber-ed to my truck which was left at work, napped for a while in the truck, ate some food from a drive though at taco bell, and rolled through a stop sign while proceeding home. An officer was there in the dark, lights off. I spent the night in jail and lost that job opening a craft burger restaurant in a high traffic area in Orange County, California. Anyone with a first DUI knows it can be just a slap on the wrist. By one estimate, 1 in 5 California residents have a DUI and me being a young twenty-something year old kid didn’t think too much about it.

For the second, I went on a snowboarding trip to Big Bear with some friends, drank heavily the last night, and in the morning, I drove a friend’s car home. I was caught speeding down the mountain and because I had a prior, was breathalyzed. I did 30 days of SCRAM/house arrest.

The third happened at a DUI checkpoint. I had been at a friend’s birthday party with my girlfriend at the time. She had too much to drink and I wanted to leave early to get some rest for the following workday. I had been doing investment allocations for an aerospace company and I worked another restaurant job on weekends. I had a drink at this party, but when I took the turn and discovered the checkpoint, I knew it was over. I spend 30 days in Orange County jail.

For the fourth, COVID had struck. At this point, I was on the verge of becoming a heavy drinker. I relied on alcohol in social settings, going out and partying with friends, but this started spilling over to drinking sometimes in isolation. I was studying while drinking some wine before I decided to grab something to eat. I was lucky enough to get away with only the night in jail before checking myself into a treatment facility for 60 days and pleading into DUI court.

Before the fourth, I never thought I had an issue with alcohol. I simply thought I made some very idiotic decisions. My drinking typically involved only social situations, but I would party hard and often, slowly losing any control. The fourth was a wakeup call. My weekends of partying have now come to an end, and I haven't had a drink in nearly 500 days since.

Overall, people tell me I'm lucky. I can continue on to finish my business degree at a local university, I have a lot of freedoms, I'm not locked up, and most importantly I never hurt myself or anyone else. People would be right by saying all of this; however, it's so difficult to be optimistic or confident about anything sometimes.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the label society has given me. I think about obtaining this degree and being un-hirable. I think about this rigorous DUI court program and formal probation and what all that entails: 10pm curfew, no traveling outside state lines, no traveling outside the county without the POs ok to do so, weekly therapy with a court appointed counselor, weekly group therapy, several 12-step meetings per week (I'm really not a fan of AA but that's what everyone pushes), bi-weekly 3-6 hour court appearances, several random urinalysis tests per week, random home searches, etc. and I don't know how I'll be able to begin a career with it all, have any meaningful relationships or have what I consider to be a normal life. It's depressing.

People have said I deserve it. People have said I deserve much worse. And sometimes I agree. I realize what I’ve done is absolute insanity, it’s unethical, it’s dangerous and careless, and I agree. And I’m learning… I’m changing, I’m growing, I’m remorseful not because I was caught, but because I understand that my actions could have killed someone. Someone who has a life just like mine.
Some days are easier than others, but more often than not, I struggle to find hope. I tend to get really down on myself and as a result, my confidence and self-worth are all but gone. I feel like a shell of the happy, energetic, fun-to-be-around person I once was.

I've lurked a lot of comments and posts on internet forums, and I've seen some similar sentiment. For those going through similar bouts of depression, maybe you'll find some comfort in knowing you're not alone. This is the most difficult and challenging thing I've ever experienced and it's so hard to carry on at times.

I think I felt the need to have my story heard as a therapeutic rant/journal to make that point known to others as well as myself: you are not alone. This is hard. I think it gets better, I hope it gets better, it has to.

I've been spending my days now studying mostly. I received a 4.0 at my university last semester, I try to hit the gym 5 days a week, I read, I surf, I have a separate therapist I confide more in (and man, after writing this I think I need a session), I'm started dating someone who's been a good friend the past couple years and is extremely supportive of my path of continued self-betterment. I'm trying and I'm trying really hard and sometimes it's still overwhelming. Sometimes I still break down. Sometimes I still feel completely hopeless. And sometimes it's not so bad, and it's those times that keep me going because if it's not so bad sometimes, then maybe there is a possibility life can get even better. I just have to hang on to some hope, live one day at a time, and note the good things I have in the present moment.


New Year, New Laws - 2021

(Hey there, everyone - I first sent this post out via my newsletter - feel free to sign up for more updates like this. - Tom)

Hello, Happy New Year! Hope this one is treating you well.

2020 was a rough one for sure. What's nice about it is, when things hit the bottom, the only place they can go is up. That was my experience getting a DUI, and that's the attitude I'm taking with me into 2021. We'll see how long it lasts.

Changing Laws

The first day of January usually involves a lot of changing laws, more often than not bringing the hammer down on DUI offenders harder, but that wasn't the case this year. As legislatures were unable to meet or otherwise occupied by the pandemic, DUI offenders weren't in the crosshairs for once. A nice feeling.

Instead the theme of this year's new laws: Justice Reform.

After the George Floyd incident and protests the tide shifted in this country, whether you agree with those sentiments towards police or not, and legislators acted in response (it was an election year, after all).

(Again standard legal disclaimer here: I'm not a lawyer, and I'm definitely not your lawyer, any analysis of this is me just trying to piece things together from the news/bills and I don't know the full ins-and-outs of how all this goes down. I'm giving you my best idea, however)

Arizona

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

California

AB 3234 - Allows misdemeanor DUIs to become eligible for diversion. Once diversion is completed, the crime doesn't stick to your record.

I haven't gotten into the nuts-and-bolts of this one (these types of programs aren't laid out beforehand), but I'm guessing it's a lot like other programs - fines, probation, meetings - a lot of what you already do when convicted - and they seal your record automatically once it's done. No longer does a non-expunged DUI hang over your head for ten years. I'm guessing it'll still be prior-able since they love to be able to still stick it to you when they have a chance, and it'll stay on your DMV record so you're not getting a break on insurance.

That said - it's a great step forward. A DUI doesn't need to ruin somebody's life, it needs to teach them a lesson. Most of us have learned ours from the feeling of seeing police lights in the rearview.

The big caveat of this: It won't apply to a DUI you already have. If you've been convicted you'll still have to apply for an expungement the old fashioned way.

AB 1076 - Under this law, the state will automatically clear records for arrests that did not result in conviction after the statute of limitations has passed, and those around probation and jail once the sentence is completed.

This goes hand-in-hand nicely with the other law - if you don't receive diversion (it's up to the judge) and get convicted as you would have prior, your records will be sealed as if you got an expungement. This saves you the time and money of the process (which was difficult for me, and I plan to write about soon).

It's also nice to see a clearing of the arrest that doesn't lead to convictions - a lot of people think that if they get off then everything is fine, but an arrest still shows up on your record. That will no longer be the case.

However, like before, this only applies to arrests/and convictions after Jan 1, 2021.

Prop 17 - If your previous DUI was a felony, you may be eligible to regain your right to vote (it's insane that we take away voting rights like this in the first place).

Montana

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

New Hampshire

Commercial truck drivers - or anyone driving a vehicle weighting 10,001 lbs or more, will automatically have their DWI upgraded to an Aggravated DWI, which carries a larger fine (up to $750 from $500, but don't think that's what you'll be paying) and a mandatory minimum of 17 days in jail (12 days will be suspended if the driver submits to a substance use disorder evaluation). Additionally, those commercial drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer will have their commercial license suspended immediately instead of having that little bit of wiggle time before it was suspended.

Harsh. Commercial drivers used to be subject to the same laws as ordinary drivers, but no longer.

New Jersey

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

Pennsylvania

A "Move Over" law was enacted - if an emergency vehicle is at the side of the road, you need to move over a lane away from them or slow down to 20 MPH under the speed limit. Give them some space or police will have a reasonable cause to pull you over.

South Dakota

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

Virginia

As of 1/1/21 - You can't drive while holding a cell phone. Only related to DUIs because it gives a reasonable cause to pull somebody over.

Traveling

Tangentially related to DUI issues is the Real ID card - it was supposed to be required to fly this previous years, but in interest of keeping DMVs less crowded and/or closed, they delayed it until October. You'll need a Real ID compliant license to step on an airplane. So, if your license was suspended you'll either need to use a Passport, or get a Real ID state ID card to get on board. If you are getting a new license after suspension, be sure to get a Real ID compliant license. If you've just gotten one, then you either need a passport or have to go through the renewal process/fee again.


These are all the ones related/semi-related to drinking and driving that I could find. Has your state issued one I missed? Let me know!

Tom.

Portable, Cheap, Disposable breathalyzers?

Hey there… It's me. Not a guest post this time. I know updates have been few and far between, but once you get your driving rights back, do your classes, pay your fines… Life is pretty much normal. (Kind of what you wanted to hear, huh?)

So you want to know if you're ok to drive, or if your ignition interlock device (IID) will let you start your car. But you don't want to buy a BacTrack breathalyzer or anything like that. What do you do?

Well… You have a few options.

The first is the easiest - wait it out. 12 hours after your last drink and you should be able to go… in most cases. If you really tied one on, make it 14 hours. You should definitely be clear after 18, probably. 24 to be safe.

A few bars have breathalyzers in them. Hope that they have a mouthpiece available or let you use a clean straw (the one in your drink is going to be tainted from alcohol) and pay a buck or two and see what the results are.

You can always borrow a friend's… although most people don't have them, or carry them with them.

So what else can you do? How about picking up some cheap, portable, disposable breath tests? They cost about two bucks each, especially if you buy them in bulk. Put them in your jacket pocket and nobody will know. They look like little vials that are sealed up in plastic (if you're doing other things that come in vials, don't bother, these don't test for that).

Have fun, do whatever, preferably don't drive.

When it's time to take the test, take a break from everyone, go to the bathroom, go outside, whatever… get out your test, it'll look like this…
IMG_3916

Pull it out of the sealed plastic - wait until you're ready to take the test to avoid contamination.
IMG_3917

Then you're going to squeeze really hard in the middle, with the yellow crystals - there's a glass capsule in there, and you've got to break it. It's pretty sturdy! Squeeze hard, the thick plastic will keep you safe from anything of the glass getting into your fingers.

Then follow the arrows and blow into that side of the tube for 12 seconds. Blow hard.

IMG_3918

Your breath will fog up the chamber in the middle, but that's fine. The test will say its tolerance. If it your breath stays under (In this case .02) then the crystals will be yellow. Above, and the crystals will turn a different color.

Here's two that I took - the top is a passed test - my BAC was under .02 (It was 0) and at the bottom, was one after I had a drink and was above .02
IMG_3919

Easy to use. Easy to read.

But how much use are they?

Well, if you're planning to go out drinking and drive your car home (Which if you're reading this you should never do because the consequences suck and you're probably here because you had a DUI and you're on probation) you can blow and take the test and see that you're above the threshold of the test. But you don't know how much above. You don't know if you're .3 or .03. If you wanted to track your BAC you'd have to take your bulk supply of test and test yourself every 15-30 minutes till eventually you "pass".

These are mostly used for "zero tolerance" environments. Drug offenders who get tested and punished if they drink at all. Halfway houses. Angry spouses. It paints a very black and white scenario - whether you've had alcohol or not - but that's about it.

It's not without it's uses, but for somebody surviving a DUI and learning about how their body works with alcohol and trying to better every day… I'd rather go with a real breathalyzer that gives me the most information possible.

That said, if you find use for them, by all means.



Guest Post: How To Emotionally Recover After Receiving A DUI

Brandon emailed me again wanting to give some perspective on how to emotionally recover from a DUI. Decided it was a good idea to give an additional viewpoint other than mine about how to get through this. - Tom

How To Emotionally Recover After Receiving A DUI

By: Brandon Leuangpaseuth

“Pull over, I need to throw up!”

I quickly jerked the steering wheel to the right lane and my car drifted towards the exit. I exited from the freeway, pulled into the nearby gas station as one of my female friends hunched over and vomited in the trashcan by the gas pump. She spilled her guts outside of the car as I let out a deep sigh of relief.

I searched for a water bottle around the car but as I looked up into the rearview mirror, blue and red lights filled my eyes. My body froze stiff like a board as I stared into the mirror with disbelief...

This did not look good…

The officers stepped outside of their car with their flashlights on and shined them at my female friend whose face was buried in the trash can. Both lights immediately pointed in my direction as my head started spinning and my stomach began churning…

The next thing I know, I was calling my brother to come to bail me out of the drunk tank the next day. I had blown over a .08 in the sobriety tests at the station. I dragged my feet with shame and disappointment in myself as I walked out of the station...

The Emotional Torture After A DUI

First of all, I know I should have never driven in the first place. I hated myself more than anyone knows. I take full responsibility for my actions and I would recommend that nobody else drives with alcohol in their system. I spent approximately 16 hours at the station and I was so distraught.

Those 16 hours felt like years. So many thoughts flooded my head…

“Well, there goes my life, my career, and my self-worth…”

After my brother picked me up from the police station, I couldn’t eat or sleep for a week. I couldn’t believe the DUI charge even happened to me.

I have to say, if I didn’t have classes to go to, I probably would have laid in bed for the next 3 or so months…

Every day was torture. I wasn’t suicidal but every day I returned home from school I wanted to have a breakdown and punch some pillows out of frustration…

I was so mad at myself. How could I be so reckless?

It felt like my life was over.

All of my insurance bills went up... and I had to pay for all of those DUI classes. I was a college student barely affording to eat already so this really made money tight.

Not to mention I had to deal with the embarrassment of telling all of my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends about why I could not drive myself around. This was the worst part. Not telling my family and friends... but not being able to drive. It really does make you so dependent on other people and public transportation. Your schedule revolves around people and bus schedules. Ride-sharing applications add up and I just didn’t have the money to spend.

I can’t tell you enough.

Everything about getting a DUI is stressful.

Take It One Day At A Time

I had to live every day with the regret of drinking and driving but after a lot of time, I got used to it. I eventually fully accepted my mistake as well as the consequences and my life felt a little less stressful.

I’d recommend to anyone who was recently convicted of a DUI to take it one day at a time. Don’t stress about getting jobs, or thinking too much about your future but instead, to make the most of the day and take the best steps moving forward. Looking back, this was a really stressful time in my life but honestly, I simply made a mistake.

And we all make mistakes. This is not to lessen my actions or try to rationalize that what I did was okay, however, it just puts me back in perspective to not be so hard on myself.

I am human, you know.

My good buddy who is a freelance copywriter recommended that I keep a journal for emotional therapy. Keeping a log about how I was feeling on some of those days where I was feeling especially down really helped a lot. Just writing about the stress and struggles I experienced would help me feel less distraught.

I’m honestly really grateful for the experience because it taught me not to drive with any alcohol in my system and to really think of driving as a privilege. After all that time, I relied on people to take me places, I am so grateful to be able to drive now.

Just know that the charge does eventually go away on your record and you will be okay. I couldn’t work some jobs while I was in college because I had a DUI on my record, but for the most part, it wasn’t too much of a factor in my job searches.

Please think twice if you are about to drive home with alcohol in your system. Trust me, it blows to not be able to drive. You will get through it. Again, it’s going to be tough, but you’ll make it through. What really helped me was to hang out with friends or family members who knew I wasn’t a bad person. They know I just made a mistake and treated me like normal which really lent a hand to rebuild my self-esteem.

The best piece of advice for anybody out there who just recently received a DUI is to learn your lesson and move on. Not to sound like your parent but that’s really all that we can do in that situation. The past is the past and all we can do is focus on being better in the future.

Bio:
Brandon Leuangpaseuth is a freelance writer from San Diego, CA. You can connect with him on LinkedIn @ bleuangpaseuth

On Probation

On Probation

Hi everyone. Been a while, I know. Truth of the matter is that once you’re sentenced, you’ve done your classes, gotten rid of your interlock, got your license back, life continues where you left off. Sure, your insurance is still high, but there’s an end in sight.

You might not believe this, but there comes a time when you hardly even think about your DUI.

It’s a good feeling. It’s a weird feeling.

Probation in CA lasts for three years. Throughout my journey with the DUI I kept getting different answers as to when it started. In my final assessment, my DUI class instructor told me that it started from the date of arrest. That made me feel better. It did not turn out to be the case. You’re on probation as soon as you get arrested, but it doesn’t count towards your probation. Would’ve been nice if it did, but, alas, it’s just how things go.

My lawyer told me it would start from the day I was sentenced. This seemed to make sense, but this, too, wasn’t quite the case. One day a few weeks ago, I decided to call up the DMV and double check (always a good idea) to make sure that my probation had passed like it should have. It did. Just my last day of probation was a month and a half later than I had calculated.

No idea why, and there’s really nothing I could’ve done about it. Can you imagine calling the DMV, “Hi, while I didn’t violate my probation, can you retroactively make my probation have ended earlier?”

If I had to do it again, which I’m trying my damnedest not to, I would’ve gotten my lawyer or called myself to find a definitive date that my probation was over. Would’ve had a small little celebration to myself when midnight ticked over on the clock when it happened (not drinking and driving, of course).

The probation you go on for your first DUI (and possibly others) is called “Summary Probation”, which basically means “don’t fuck up or we’ll throw the book at you”. There’s no expensive probation officer, which is probably the first time they let you not have another fee they could charge you. No PO, no checking in, nothing like that. Just don’t mess up.

Additionally you can't refuse a field sobriety test, and your odds of getting picked at a DUI checkpoint raise if they're checking plates (although I cruised through two, sober, without being tested).

So what is messing up?

Some people believe it’s committing any crime, but that’s not quite it. My lawyer told me that he had somebody arrested for shoplifting while on DUI probation and the court didn’t care, didn’t consider it a violation. (Update: I have been told in other states that this will trigger a violation, so best to keep clean as a whistle) While this blog does not condone shoplifting or any other crimes in any way whatsoever, you should know what scrutiny you’re under.

This probation deals with alcohol and driving - basically you can’t get caught with even a drop of alcohol in your blood when you’re driving or else you’ll face some consequences (and remember, you can't refuse a test). The common thing to say is that it’s another DUI even if you’re at .0001, but that’s not true either. They can only give you a DUI if you’re over .08 (.05 now in some places), otherwise it’s “just” a probation violation, which means more school, more money paid, more probation. If you’re above .08 you get a DUI on top of that. Not good.

Other traffic infractions are fine. This I can verify personally - I did receive a parking ticket, and an out-of-state speeding ticket (14 over on the highway, bullshit speed trap), and neither affected my probation or caused any additional consequences (and yes, I was sweating bullets when pulled over on that highway and very worried about if this counts as a violation. Next rest stop I did a lot of googling until I calmed down enough to continue on my trip.)

Any sort of aggravated driving, road rage, that sort of thing takes you into the “maybe” territory. It’s all up to a judge and the system, and by this point you know how it goes. If they can, they usually will. You might catch a break, probably not, depends on a lot of things out of your control, and how you handle yourself around them. Bottom line: I wouldn’t depend on anything.

Your Summary Probation basically comes down to two tenets:
  1. Don’t drink and drive
  2. Don’t be an asshole.

Seems easy enough. But three years is a long, long time. It gets harder and harder the longer you are from your DUI. Drinks after work, wine with a meal, beer at a ballgame. The temptations are everywhere. And if you’re like me, and haven’t quit drinking, you’ll eventually indulge yourself.

“A beer or two won’t hurt, not like I’m getting drunk, not like that night”

And then you wait a little bit, don’t get ‘one more for the road’, call it early.

And then you get in your car, and you head home. With just a little bit in your system. Nothing too bad, just a little bit.

And then a cop gets behind you.

And then you start sweating, worrying. Praying that your tail light is working, making sure your seat belt is fastened tight.

And the cop keeps following you, and you start worrying if he is playing games with you, you’re worrying that he somehow knows that you’re in violation.

You turn off the radio, you pay the best attention you can, and then eventually the cop turns down another road, and you let out a big sigh of relief.

Then two weeks later your friend asks you to happy hour.

And you start to sweat again, and think about what could happen.

This is what it’s like. It’s easy in that you don’t really have to do anything except not mess up. It’s hard in that our society practically pushes people to drink and drive. Odds are you’re reading this because you went to a social function, or did something that we’re told is how you relax. You felt fine because we don’t teach people how alcohol affects the body and it’s impossible to “feel” what your BAC level is. We make fun of people who use breathalyzers, and everyone condemns drinking and driving but nearly everyone does it.

You’re going to find yourself in a lot of situations where you will be tempted to violate your probation. I suggest knowing your BAC by using a portable breathalyzer, or taking an Uber or Lyft.

Looking over your shoulder for cops all the time sucks.

Some lawyers will offer you a service to where they can reduce your probation, usually take off the third year. I didn’t go for this, they wanted a thousand dollars for it, and I’d spent enough. Instead, I went through the whole thing. The theory is they cite your fulfilling all your commitments and use your two years (one and a half in some cases) of not violating probation as evidence that you won’t violate it for the next. Works some times, doesn’t work others. I decided to stick it out, a thousand dollars buys a lot of Lyfts, and I can refuse one last round and wait it out.

And so I did.

And now I’m free.

Reader, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be free of the system to come this far. Now I just have to get past the 3-year anniversary of finalizing my suspension to get my insurance rates to fall to normal and then… it’s all behind me.

The journey is long, and it’s hard, but just take it one step at a time, and you can get through it. It costs a lot, and it takes up a lot of time, but you can get through it.

You can Survive a DUI.

Guest Post: Ways to Challenge Breathalyzer Test

I received an email via my contact page from John Adam, who wanted to wanted to give some perspective on how to challenge the Breathalyzer test. Interesting stuff - Tom

The use of breath to determine the blood alcohol level of a person is the most popular scientific method in DUI cases. There are many cases, when the wrong Breathalyzer tests cause the person, under suspicion of driving while drinking, face DUI charges. Breathalyzer results are inaccurate because of certain problems with calibrations or if there is an untrained police officer using the device.

The prosecuting party has to prove in the court that the defendant's BAC was at or above the legal limit. In a few states, it is .10% while in others it is .08%. When the person is wrongfully charged on the basis of defective Breathalyzer tests, the defendant needs a DUI attorney to challenge the Breathalyzer test in court.

The Burden of Proof in Challenging the Results:
Under the wrongful DUI charges, the defendant must prove that these charges are invalid for the conviction. This is possible when the attorney convinces the court that there is a lack of strength in evidence or it is insufficient to convict the accused. The defense team may focus on the witness statement and evidence without having the burden of proof. When the defense refutes the proof and demonstrates that the prosecution has not strengthened in the case, this may help in dismissing the
charges.

Use of Breathalyzer:
There are many cases when the Breathalyzer is not used properly. The police officer uses the device inaccurately given improper maintenance, training or calibration, which gives the inaccurate results. When the prosecuting party has Breathalyzer results as the only evidence, by only refuting this proof it becomes easy as well as effective to defend the person from the conviction. However, in this case, the defense team needs the help of an expert in these devices or understands well the proper calibration to give accurate results.

Training of the Police Officer:
In many cases, the police officer who pulls over the driver on suspicion of being under the influence of drug or alcohol, may not be properly trained to conduct a Breathalyzer test or use the device. The device cannot provide the results if the officer does not use it accurately. There are certain rules for this such as observing the driver for twenty minutes to determine whether the results are accurate or not. Moreover, the office is supposed to check the intestinal health of the accused or alcohol in the mouth.

Calibration:
Breathalyzers have settings as well as calibrations that need regular maintenance and understanding. In case the officer in charge is unaware of how to set the device and keeps it maintained, the device can produce the wrong results.

Few devices need to be repaired and parts replaced. In case of lack of knowledge about taking care of the device, there will be inaccurate results leading to wrong DUI charges. Not only one, but all or most of the arrest will be affected.

Challenging the Results Varies According to the Case:
In addition to the above-mentioned ways, there are other ways to challenge the Breathalyzer tests. For instance, the accused may have a special condition that could lead to the retention of the alcohol in his or her system that brings wrong results. This is another effective to challenge the results and refute the charges completely.

Other factors involved, the environmental temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, and the chemical composition of the person taking the test. This refers to the emotional stress and physical activity, hyperventilating, heavy breathing due to anxiousness.

Given these several factors, the results are inaccurately measured. This is the reason few of the DUI cases involve expert witness who gives the testimony about the inaccuracy of the device with incorrect results. The DUI attorney must present the valid argument based upon these facts and evidence.

Final Word:
The defendant needs the support of the lawyer to challenge the Breathalyzer tests, as the attorney is skilled in dealing with such cases and will guide according to the given circumstances.

Guest Post: Getting Home Safely

Dale Vernor reached out to me via my contact page, and asked to share his thoughts on alternatives to driving drunk. He emphasized that due to the time of year, this information needs to be out there as much as possible, and I agreed. Dale is a writer and researcher in the fields of mental health and substance abuse. He enjoys discussions on politics. - Tom

It’s 2 a.m. The bartender has announced last call and you know you have to get home, but you’ve been drinking pretty steadily all night. Or, your friend’s party could be ending and you’re feeling a little buzzed.

In either case, driving home isn’t worth it. If you try driving home, you could get into an accident that hurts you or others or does serious property damage. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid an accident, you could be charged with a DUI or face other legal trouble.

December holidays and New Year’s celebrations can be particularly dangerous. Many people drink during these celebrations and might get behind the wheel when its dark, the weather can be bad, and roads can be icy. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted, “Nationally, over the past five years, an average of 300 people died in drunk driving crashes the week between Christmas and New Year.”

So what can you do during the holiday season or any other time when you are out drinking to avoid getting a DUI?

  • Call a friend or family member. You would be surprised how many friends and family members would hop out of bed during a dead sleep to come and pick you up. Sure, it might feel a little embarrassing at first. Sure, you might feel guilty for waking them up late at night. But, a little initial embarrassment and guilt is far better than the pain and trouble you could experience if you cause a deadly accident or receive a DUI.

  • Assign a Designated Driver. If you have a group of friends that go out a lot for drinks, rotating the DD is the most fair way to go about this. Taking the time to call a friend, call a cab service or ride sharing company, or getting a designated driver could save you court costs, jail time or even court ordered alcohol rehab.

  • Call a taxi or ride sharing service. Yes, this cost money but compared to court costs a taxi or an Uber is way less expensive. Yes, it is inconvenient to have to go back and get your car the next day, but driving drunk and risking a DUI and staying the night in jail, if not longer is far more inconvenient than getting your car the next day.

You’re not the first person who has had too much to drink and needs a ride home. You won’t be the last. Drunk driving is not worth the risk, the consequences of accidents and DUIs are long-term. Don’t let feelings of bothering someone for a ride, or the cost of a taxi deter you from getting home safe.

Guest Post: 4 Tips to Survive A DUI Checkpoint

I received an email via my contact page from Brandon Leuangpaseuth, who wanted to share some tips to get through a DUI checkpoint. - Tom.

There has been a lot of controversy with the legality of checkpoints because you are protected by the 4th amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the Supreme Court evaluated the entire circumstance of DUI checkpoints. They determined that the state's interest in safe roads and the success rate of finding impaired drivers weighed against the average
delay of less than 30 seconds per driver meant that the search and seizure were not unreasonable. The U.S. Supreme court upheld the legality of DUI checkpoints.

The best way to survive a checkpoint is to be completely sober. However, if you had a few drinks and you encounter a police DUI checkpoint, here are 4 tips to surviving the checkpoint.

1. Use Your Right To Remain Silent

The majority of checkpoint encounters would start with the police officer asking you a series of questions to determine if you have been drinking. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you are not obligated to answer any of these questions. You are protected by the 5th amendment and have the right to remain silent and not have to contribute to your own potential demise. If an
officer asks you if you had any drinks tonight, you can just say “I respectfully decline to answer these questions, and I would like to talk to my defense attorney”.

Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a case if you are arrested. If you answered that you had a few drinks, the officer has some suspicion that you are potentially breaking the law. No matter how nice the officer may seem, they are doing their job - trying to get evidence to support a case against you.

2. Refuse the Field Sobriety Test and the Breathalyzer Test

Most people think that if they refuse the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer test, they will get their license suspended. This is a common misconception. The only time you will get your license suspended is if after you are arrested and you refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test. If you decline the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer test before the officer has any probable cause to arrest you, you will be okay.

The officer is collecting evidence to determine if they have probable cause that you have committed a crime. Failed completion of field sobriety tests is used, in the officers eyes, as evidence that a crime has been committed. The field sobriety test is a difficult test to take even if you are completely sober. In a field sobriety test, an officer will administer three tests to determine if you are intoxicated: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. It is in your best interest to not provide any excess evidence to allegations of you committing a crime.

3. Do Not Get Out of Your Car (Unless There Are Signs of Alcohol And You Have To)

Officers have no right to force you out of your car unless they have reason to believe that you are drunk. However, slurred words, an open container or the aroma of alcohol can be enough probable cause to make a case for a DUI. Going this route, the officer has to establish exactly what they are being arrested for a DUI.

Oftentimes, the police officer will ask you to step outside and you should always respectfully decline. Do not give the officer probable cause to arrest you.

4. Don’t drive through!

You do not have to drive through a DUI checkpoint. You can turn around and simply not drive through the DUI checkpoint. There are no laws forcing you to drive through a DUI checkpoint.

As long as you do not commit a crime i.e. an illegal turn or any other traffic violation, the officer does not have enough probable cause to pull you over and detain you. Oftentimes, DUI checkpoints can be a long line and you are not obligated to wait in the line.

If you have been out and drinking, and you do not want to deal with the hassle of a DUI checkpoint, just turn around legally and you will be fine.

Should I Buy a Portable Breath Testing Device for Personal Use

Got an email from Len, who wanted to chime in on the breathalyzer issue. - Tom.

If a person has consumed alcohol away from home, and he or she is concerned about being over the legal blood alcohol limit, a personal breath testing device (PBT) might control their decision about driving home. Such a device can help avoid an accident, injuries, a night in jail or all three of them. PBTs are used by many police departments across the country for purposes of establishing probable cause to take a driver down to the station for certified breath testing. They're also available to the general public to help keep that from happening. For a charge, some bars even have their own stationary breath testing machines for use by their customers.

You Get What You Pay For
Any person who frequently consumes alcoholic beverages and drives might want to have a portable breath testing device. PBTs are hand-held devices that a person can use to measure their blood alcohol concentration anywhere that they might be. Some models even plug into smartphones with an app that performs all of the computations. They might be told right away if it's safe to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle to drive home, or whether they should call Uber, Lyft or a taxi service. What comes to issue is the consistency and reliability of these devices. There can be a differential of plus or minus 20 percent from one blow to another from the same person, especially on the least expensive models. That's a big variable when a determination must be made as to whether a person should even be thinking about driving.

PBT Reliability Issues
There's a reason why PBT testing isn't admissible for purposes of proving guilt or innocence in a DUI trial. Their results simply aren't reliable. Some units need to be periodically returned to the manufacturer for recalibration. Others simply deteriorate over time. Even the most expensive PBTs carry a disclaimer on the back of their packaging. Others are marked as being for personal or home use only. Remember the reason for that: PBT results are generally unreliable. If you are considering a PBT see our review of this smartphone Breathalyzer. If you're going to get a PBT this is the one to buy. We have done a thorough review of it here.

Trust Your Gut
It's more likely than not that if you have any amount of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, and you're the subject of a traffic stop, you're going to end up at the police station with a blow or no blow dilemma. Your PBT results are irrelevant. The decision on whether to blow is up to you, but remember, if you refuse that breath testing, and you're found guilty of DUI, the penalties are going to be even more severe.

Contact a lawyer
It is almost always worth hiring a DUI lawyer after a DUI charge. You'll have questions, they'll advise you of your legal options, and you can decide on what direction you wish to take.

Review: The BACtrack Mobile Pro Smartphone Breathalyzer

Hey everyone. Just wanted to check in.

Like I said before… Life moves on. These days I don’t really think about my DUI that much. Life is somewhat back to normal. I just paid my second-to-last insurance payment with an SR-22 and… ouch… but other than that, reading the emails that you guys send me… It’s pretty much like life was before I got my DUI.

But not quite.

The DUI process is rough, much harsher than it needs to be, and just plain exhausting.

I don’t want to go through it again. Ever.

While I have certainly cut back on my drinking, I didn’t quit. It’s a personal decision, some may need to, some don’t, I believe I’m in the latter half.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about it.

If I go out to get drunk, have a night out, I take a lyft or uber, but what about when you’re out with a friend who wants to get a beer and a burger, and that beer turns into two, or three over catching up and talking about old times.

How do you know when you’re ok to drive?

I spoke earlier about owning a breathalyzer, but I’ve gotten a number of messages asking me more about the specifics, so I thought I’d get into it a little bit more.

Deciding which Breathalyzer to get

After getting a DUI the last thing I wanted to do was spend more money. But I knew that if I was going to continue drinking at all… that I needed to have more information. It’s easy to think that you’re fine after a few drinks, but study after study shows that intoxicated people have no idea how intoxicated they are. I needed to know.

The #1 thing I was looking for in a breathalyzer was accuracy - being off by one or two points can make a big difference, I had to know precisely how drunk I was. Second, I was looking for something discreet - I didn’t want to have to carry some big bulky thing around with me.

What helped inform my decision was this review - where many breathalyzers were compared to police equipment - the ultimate test you’ll have to face. The main takeaways were that the cheaper, oxide sensors were not worth it because the results were generally all over the map. No thanks. They recommended a BacTrack breathalyzer that was professional, accurate and straightforward.

That wasn’t the one I went for.

When discussing the other ones, they mentioned how the BACtrack Mobile Pro was almost just as accurate, but smaller. They frowned on it pairing to a smartphone, and the “gamification” of drinking - but I took a different approach to it.

Information, not games

Yes, the BACtrack Mobile Pro does have options to connect to social media - but I haven’t, and will never, connect them - not even to the @surviveadui twitter. There’s no need for that, and it’s not something I want to encourage. However, it does keep a running log of your readings, with timestamps, so that you can track how your body processes alcohol and get an idea of how many drinks does it get to make you legally drunk, not just feeling drunk.

bactrack

With this information, you can start to truly understand how much you can drink, and how quickly you can get sober. This is information that you have needed since you first started drinking. Any child I have is going to get a breathalyzer for their 21st birthday so they can start understanding how alcohol affects them, and how to drink responsibly. It’s utterly ridiculous that we put such weight and shame on people for violating this sort of thing, when almost nobody has this sort of information. The person who has made you feel bad about your DUI has almost certainly driven over the limit and not even known it. Most people who are driving at .09 and .10 have no clue they’re over the limit. Before I started using the BacTrack, I thought I was fine when I wasn’t, and I had no idea how long it could take to sober up from a few drinks, or that sometimes I was waking up and starting the next day still drunk.

Without the information, you’re just guessing, and guessing doesn’t work.

Operations

The BACtrack Mobile Pro breathalyzer is easy to work, easy to carry, and easy to hide. It does have a bright blue LED, but that’s easily covered with your fingers. I found myself easily using it while in a bathroom, walking down the street, or elsewhere. Nobody picked up on it.

To use you simply turn it on, pair it with your phone over bluetooth, and launch the app. The app requires you to guess your BAC, which many have dismissed as making it like a game, but again, I see that as an important part - you need to see how accurate you are as to how you feel to start getting a base. You’ll find that you’re often not fine when you believe you are, which is one of the best things that you can learn from a breathalyzer.

There’s the option for to use a detachable, washable mouthpiece with the unit. I opted not to, I blew directly into the machine. I don’t really plan on sharing it, and I don’t need to put anything in my mouth to blow.

The most difficult part about using the breathalyzer is getting used to the routine. You can’t just suck down a whiskey sour and then blow on it expecting instant results. You have to wait 15 - 20 minutes after your last drink, wash your mouth out with water, and not burp, hiccup, or vomit during this time. Residual alcohol in your mouth will give you a higher rating (better higher than lower). You have to also understand that all the alcohol has not been absorbed into your system after that 15 - 20 minutes. The boilermaker in your stomach is still creeping into your bloodstream for a good hour to hour-and-a-half after you drink it. Important to remember that so that you don’t take off too quickly after a drink, and good to know so that you can monitor how quickly the alcohol gets into your system.

Upkeep

The BACtrack comes with a carrying pouch, but I never used it. I just kept it in my jacket or glovebox and never had any sort of problem with it. Nothing got into it, or set it off weird. The charges last a good time, and charge via USB, so you can charge it in your car if you really need to.

The only thing that’s difficult is eventually the fuel cell needs to be recalibrated and sadly that’s not something you can do yourself. You have to send it back to the company and give them $25. You’re supposed to do this annually, but you can push it a little bit I found. However, it’s not a bad idea to line up recalibration with your #SoberSeptember.

Overall

Given the price, size, and accuracy, I have found the BACtrack Mobile Pro to be an incredibly useful device. It’s armed me with the knowledge I need to understand how alcohol affects me, and when I am or am not ok to operate a vehicle. Had I gotten this years before maybe I would not be in the situation that I am right now. That said, I’m hoping that it will help me not be in this sort of situation in the future. It’s easy to take with me, it’s easy to use. There’s no excuse not to be informed anymore.

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