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Ocean City DUI Myths

Although DUI charges are some of the most common criminal charges throughout Maryland, there are a variety of common myths and misconceptions that could end up hurting you. The following is the truth about some common DUI myths and how it can impact your case. To learn more or begin discussing your case, call an Ocean City DUI lawyer today.

Myth 1: A Breathalyzer and Preliminary Breath Test Are The Same Thing

False, a breathalyzer is a different device than a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). A PBT is a hand-held device that an officer can use right there at the scene when stopping a vehicle. It’s portable and it’s something that can be used right there on the side of the road to get a very rough estimate of what the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is. A breathalyzer under ideal circumstances should be a reliable and consistent indicator of BAC, but again, that is making several assumptions. Those assumptions are that the breathalyzer machine is working accurately, that the machine has been properly calibrated and is in perfect working order.

The other assumption is that the person operating the machine knows what they are doing. Also, there are issues with breathalyzers and whether or not the results are accurate. For example, the law requires that before an individual can take a breath test, they need to be observed for 20 minutes prior to the test. The purpose of that 20-minute observation period is to make sure that the person does not place anything in their mouth that could somehow make the test result inaccurate and the 20-minute observation period is to be used to make sure that the driver does not burp or regurgitate anything from his stomach.

This is important because the breathalyzer is supposed to be testing a sample of deep lung air. That air is the true measurement of somebody’s blood alcohol content. If the person has belched or has regurgitated any sort of food from the stomach, that may have a much higher level of alcohol in it, but is not truly indicative of the person’s blood alcohol content. So the 20-minute observation period is very important to get an accurate testing sample of that deep lung air. When we say that breathalyzers are reliable and consistent indicator of blood alcohol content, that may be true if the breathalyzer machine is in correct working order and the individual that is using that machine is qualified and has followed all of the necessary procedures before getting the breath test.

Myth 2: BAC is a Reliable Measure of Intoxication

For the most part, that is true. When scientists talk about blood alcohol content being reliable, they are talking about a test of breath that is testing the deep lung air, that is the air that is within a person’s lungs, not shallow breath and not breath that has somehow been contaminated by the contents of someone’s stomach. If all of the factors are ideal, then yes, the blood alcohol content is a reliable and consistent indicator of driver impairment.

Myth 3: You Cannot Be Arrested For a DUI Unless You are Clearly Drunk

No, that is not true. An officer only has to establish probable cause to make an arrest. Probable cause is an evidentiary standard that means it’s more likely than not, that the person is driving under the influence. If the officer is making observations, if the officer has requested the driver to do standardized field sobriety tests, the officer can actually pretty easily justify a DUI arrest.

Because the only proof that the officer needs at the arrest level is probable cause proof that the driver was driving a motor vehicle and that the driver’s coordination is effected, and that could be as simple as the officer observing a driver and perhaps and seeing that the driver fumbled for paperwork or had a little difficulty maintaining balance and the driver smelled like alcohol. Those factors in and of themselves can be just about enough to get somebody arrested. It is a myth that you cannot get arrested for a DUI unless you are really drunk.

Myth 4: It’s Hard For An Officer To Tell If I’m Slightly Buzzed

This is a myth.  Police officers go through training in order to be able to detect if somebody is under the influence of alcohol.  When they stop a car, they are trained to go through an entire process to figure out if the driver is under the influence.  They are observing the driver’s speech, the way the driver appears, the driver’s physical appearance as well as the way that the driver is answering questions.

The truth of the matter is, in Maryland, you do not have to have consumed a great deal of alcohol to be convicted of driving under the influence or driving while impaired.  Slightly buzzed, could very well be a driving while impaired and a police officer is going to be looking for all the clues to try and determine if you are.

Myth 5: You Can’t Be Arrested For DUI in Your Own Garage or Driveway

No, that is not true, but a lot of people do believe this.  They believe that if they get into their own driveway or they park their car on their own property, that somehow they are safe. That is inaccurate, the officer can certainly testify to the fact that he observed the driver on the roadway prior to turning into the driver’s driveway or garage.  So if the officer has observed the driver to be driving on the  highway or some other side streets in Ocean City, the fact that the driver manages to get to the parking garage or their own garage or the driveway of their own home, that is not going to stop them from being potentially arrested.

Myth 6: If You Are Positive Your BAC is Below 0.08 You Should Take the Breath Test

This may be true if you were absolutely certain that your breath test result was going to be below a 0.08.  However, it is very difficult to know if your test result is going to be below a 0.08.  Most individuals do not have a full enough understanding of how many drinks it takes to get to a 0.08 to make that kind of determination.

Another issue is that the results of the preliminary breath test machine are not necessarily going to be accurate.  The results of a  PBT  are not admissible in court due to the fact that it’s not scientifically reliable enough as being an accurate measure of BAC. So while the driver maybe certain that his BAC will be below a 0.08, it’s possible that by taking the PBT, the device may not give an accurate measurement.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that even if the person’s BAC would be below a 0.08, the test result may be higher on the PBT because the PBT is going to record any residual mouth alcohol and that is going to make the test results inaccurately higher.