Drunks Don’t Drive

unhealthy arial,sans-serif;”>By Leo G. Alvarez
“I didn’t know it was illegal to drive buzzed”, he said after he had heard my Toastmasters’ speech.

California Penal Code section 647(f) reads in part that a drunk is “…unable to care for himself or the safety of others…”. Visualized it means staggering, stumbling down drunk or having to lean on objects for support. It is very unlikely that a person in that condition, legally drunk, would be able to steer a car, although it could happen if you are a maintaining, functional alcoholic. Such a person is more likely to fall asleep than to drive.

Drivers are arrested under California Vehicle Code Section 23152. Under the vehicle code, anyone 18 or over is considered to be under the influence of alcohol (DUI) when his blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher. The percentage drops down to 0.04 if driving a commercial vehicle. At that percentage of alcohol in your blood, dependent on your alcohol usage, you will be buzzed.

I have an issue with law enforcement officers, DA’s, Defense Attorneys, Judges, and MADD and SADD for their loose use of the terms “Drunk Driving” or “Driving Drunk”.

I supervised and managed a law enforcement Detention Facility for 25 years and spent a lot of my 33 years of service in one. To say I saw and processed thousands of people under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and that is not an over statement. Early on I learned that a term that would bring about denial and an angry attitude was to accuse a DUI suspect of being drunk.

It was especially annoying to process a prisoner who had been interviewed and tested by an officer that had told the subject that he had been arrested for drunk driving. Thanks to the publicity given to drunk driving everyone knows it is illegal to drive drunk. I found that they were more likely to accept the correct term of driving under the influence than to be accused of driving drunk. Using the term DUI seemed to have a calming effect. THAT was more acceptable to them and it made it easier to process them. It gave them pause to think and loose some of their anger or anguish. And in some cases, once calmed, it became a teaching moment. It gave me the opportunity to say, “the next time you feel like this, don’t get behind the wheel, don’t drive.”

Saddest yet is that most DUI drivers will not be arrested. There are only so many sets of eyes out there to observe (not see) the erratic driving pattern that is probable cause to stop these drivers and give them field sobriety tests. There are no statistics to prove this but based on your own experience I’m sure you’ll agree that many DUI drivers will, somehow, make it home safely, again. Others will not; others may cause or be involved with accidents and possibly injure or kill someone.



Leo Alvarez is retired from Oxnard PD and is President of the Children’s Wall of Tears™ www.thecwot.org

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