Don’t laugh just yet. We’ve had a lot of drivers over the years call in from a pay phone, crying, wondering why they’ve just been issued a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) ticket even though they don’t drink alcohol. What happened? How can you get a ticket for a DUI when you don’t drink?
This article tells you about a very serious problem that can end your career as a commercial driver: being convicted of DUI in your truck or your personal vehicle. Take a close look at the items you have in your truck right now. What’s in your suitcase? Mouthwash, cold medicine, allergy pills, prescription drugs? Did you know that most mouthwashes contain alcohol. And some cough and cold medicines contain huge doses of alcohol? How long does alcohol stay in your system? How much alcohol must you have in your system before you can (legally) get a ticket for DUI?
We hope the following information will help answer these questions. Here’s the truth about DUIs.
Question: About a week ago, I woke up feeling like I was coming down with the flu, so I took some liquid cough and cold medicine to see if I could beat this one. About an hour later, I pulled into a scale house and the officer asked me to take a Breathalyzer test. I told him that I didn’t drink and took the test anyway. The Breathalyzer read .045 and the officer gave me a DUI ticket! What now?
Answer: The good news is you didn’t refuse to take the Breathalyzer test. Refusing a Breathalyzer test is an automatic suspension of your CDL! The bad news is you’re holding a DUI ticket with your name on it and now you’re “in the system.” So here you are. You’ve just got a DUI ticket. Your license to drive (at least in the state where you got the ticket) is now suspended. You have to get an attorney. You have to schedule a hearing at the local DMV. You have to plead “not guilty” at the local court. You have to stay up nights worrying about being convicted and losing your CDL for at least a year.
All of this could have been avoided if you had taken a few minutes to go through your duffel bag, read your labels and throw away anything you have with large amounts of alcohol in it. Get it out of the truck! The legal limit for commercial DUI is .04. It’s not hard to get to that point, especially when you’re using a mouthwash that’s over 20 percent alcohol.
Question: I had been out the night before for dinner and drinks with some friends. I got a good night’s sleep, got up early the next morning and was asked to take a Breathalyzer when I stopped at the port of entry. I blew a .04 and got a DUI ticket. Why was my BAC (blood alcohol content) still so high?
Answer: It’s called “residual alcohol” and is the number one problem we see. Residual or “left over” alcohol in your system will get you out of the truck faster than anything we know! If you’re going to drink, remember that it takes your body a certain amount of time to process and get rid of alcohol. Depending on when you stopped drinking and your particular body, it’s possible to still have a BAC hours later that could end up in a DUI charge.
Question: A friend told me that if an officer asks me to take a Breathalyzer test I should refuse it so there’s no evidence to use against me later. Should I refuse?
Answer: No, No, No! Don’t refuse a Breathalyzer test! If you refuse, your license will automatically be suspended even if you’re found not guilty at trial. Also, when you refuse a Breathalyzer, your attorney is going to have an even harder time convincing the prosecuting attorney to agree to a plea bargain. Don’t tie your attorney’s hands before he/she gets started! Take the Breathalyzer.
Question: I got a DUI in my personal car and my company terminated my lease. Why does my company care what I do on my time off?
Answer: What you have to remember is that you only have one MVR. Any tickets, whether in your personal car or commercial truck, will show up on a single record. Your MVR determines what insurance rates you get. Bad MVR = bad rates. If your company is carrying your liability insurance, they’ll want your MVR as clean as possible so their rates will remain reasonable.
We hope you can use the information in this column to help with every day, real life problems you face on the road. We invite you to send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to “Road Law,” 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK, 73106; fax to (405) 272-0558 or contact us through our web site at www.roadlaw.net. We look forward to hearing from you.