Friday, October 14, 2005

Does Church Wine Count?

Those of you who sometimes "drive by Braille" or use your car's Autopilot feature after having drunk some--but feel well-assured you are below the legal limit--may want to think twice about even getting a whiff of alcohol before turning the ignition. From Wednesday's Washington Post:

Debra Bolton had a glass of red wine with dinner. That's what she told the police officer who pulled her over. That's what the Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test indicated--.03, comfortably below the legal limit.

She had been pulled over in Georgetown about 12:30 a.m. for driving without headlights. She apologized and explained that the parking attendant must have turned off her vehicle's automatic-light feature.

Bolton thought she might get a ticket. Instead, she was handcuffed, searched, arrested, put in a jail cell until 4:30 a.m. and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Following the article, many more complaints began flooding the city council's offices. Can the police really do this? According to one officer in today's Post: "If you get behind the wheel of a car with any measurable amount of alcohol, you will be dealt with in D.C. We have zero tolerance."

And by "zero," they mean it:

One Thursday night two years ago, computer software worker Lamon Lyles, then 27, remembers following a friend out of a parking garage next to Club U and into a gas station, going the wrong way on a one-way street. They were pulled over and asked if they'd had anything to drink. Lyles said he'd had one Heineken because the next day was a workday. The officer gave him and his friend field sobriety tests and then had them blow into breath machines. Both, he said, registered 0.0 blood alcohol.

But Lyles was not released. He said that the police officer told him about D.C.'s zero tolerance policy. You drank one, Lyles recalls the officer telling him, so you're over the limit.

Lyles and his friend were kept overnight in a D.C. jail and taken to court to be arraigned at 9 a.m. There, he said, within two minutes, both cases were dropped. Lyles, who said the arrest prevented him from getting a top clearance to work at the National Security Agency, spent a year trying to clear the incident from his record.

Good thing there aren't any rapes or murders that would distract DC police from these necessary crackdowns.


Anonymous said...

VM, you left out a critical detail in the story. You know, the part of the story that says this:

... had just run into a little-known piece of D.C. law: In the District, a driver can be arrested with as little as .01 blood-alcohol content.

I know you posted the link to the WaPo article; however, you give the impression that the cops are just making shit up. From the full story, the cops are choosing to follow a pretty stupid statute(DC ST § 50-2201.05). There is a big difference between making up a zero tolerance policy and having a statute allowing you to have a zero tolerance policy.

Anyhow, your point is well taken: this is a stupid statute and policy.

N.B. You are making Harriet Miers' type mistakes.

That Dude said...

I was stuck in Dulles the other day and came across a discarded WaPo and read this article..shit I read it 3x to make sure I didn't misunderstand it. Bad statute or not, police DO have discretion and the officer in question is just as guilty of stupidity as the legislators who created this law.

James Wigderson said...

This phenomenon isn't just in DC. All over the country, local jurisdictions lower than .08 as the legal limit for driving. I spent a night in a local suburb's hoosegow after demanding a breathalyzer. When I thought I "passed" I said, "I told you. May I go now?" The corporal on duty informed me, .08 may be the state limit, but .04 is the law in Brown Deer. My lawyer, a good friend of mine, told me, "Next time someone pulls you over, please do me the favor and shut up."