The number of people who drink and drive – and then are consequently stopped by law enforcement for these alleged actions – has mushroomed over the past twenty years or so thanks to the support of the general public as well as stiffer legislation. While my goal is never to condone the act of driving while intoxicated - as a criminal defense attorney I recognize the myriad reasons a police officer could mistakenly believe a driver is under the influence of alcohol when he or she is behind the wheel of their vehicle. Let us consider just two of these.
First of all, police and highway patrol are accustomed to watching for vehicles that appear to be weaving across lanes, speeding and/or darting in and out of traffic. In general, the automobile or truck is being driven in a way that gives the appearance of a careless driver who may not be in full control of his or her faculties. Unfortunately, there are other factors that would cause a driver to behave erratically and at first glance might be indicative of drunkenness. The most common of these is fatigue. Statistics show that most Americans fail to get the proper amount of rest on a nightly basis and over time this impacts all aspects of a person’s life – including their driving.
A second reason a person may be driving in an unsafe manner is that they have been informed of a family emergency and they are heedless to their own safety (and that of the other drivers around them) in an effort to arrive at a specified destination in response.
While neither excuse satisfies the act of putting other lives in danger – nor are they cause for a DUI or DWI charge.