Everybody’s talking about the arrest of Alexandria Virginia’s Chief of Police for a big, fat .19 DWI. Don’t know if you’ve ever tried out the “breathalyzer,” but I can say with certainty that a .12 is hammered. When I was in the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office fifteen years ago, I did a controlled drinking session with the Oregon State Police, with Sr. Trooper Snook playing bartender. I drank 10 shots of tequila in two hours. Hit a .05 within the first hour, blew a .12 after 2 hours, and had killerheadache a few hours later. Strangely, I felt like I’d have been most dangerous behind the wheel at .05, when I was euphoric, exhilirated, and didn’t feel overtly impaired.
My fellow lawyer Jon Katz wrote a lengthy kind of bleeding-heartish, wrapped-in-the-Constitution blog post relying heavily on the presumption of innocence, the unreliability of the breathalyzer, and the “junk science” of “field sobriety tests.” I agree with him on all three counts, but at .19 you’ve got so much room for error that it’s pretty hard to beat. Somebody blowing a .19 would stink like a beerhall from ten feet away. Although I did beat .14 DUI in Oregon years ago — it happened for only one reason — my client was pulled out of a bar where he’d been drinking after Deputy Jo Gardiner said she saw him speeding a half hour earlier, and I proved that she was lying about the speeding. Cop lies, jury acquits. (In People v. Simpson, it wasn’t just that “the gloves didn’t fit” — it was the fact that Furman was a lying piece of it that caused the jury to acquit.)
But, however morally reprehensible driving about likkered up might be, it seems that DWT, Driving While Texting, increases the risk of accidents by more than twenty times. Of course, how long can it be before a Hollywood starlet is busted, drunk, coked up, and Twittering — “OMFG, I’m getting busted!”