4 police cars lined up


Russell Hebets March 12, 2013

I recently heard a great story from an attorney with a client accused of DUI. The story the client told seemed typical. He had drank a couple of beers while out at a bar with friends but he still felt in control and couldn’t figure out why the officer had assumed that he was DUI. It wasn’t until the lawyer reviewed the police reports that he saw exactly why the officer had proceeded with the full Driving Under the Influence investigation and eventually obtained enough probable cause to arrest and charge the client.

As the client was driving home he saw the officer’s lights behind him. “Uh oh” he thought, “I just had a couple of beers. I’d better cover up that scent.” He then grabbed his bottle of air spray car freshener and doused the car. Here’s the problem: the car freshener that he used was piňa colada scented. Back to the officer’s report, he describes his initial impressions when he approached the car. “I smelled an overpowering scent of piňa colada.” Yup, surprise surprise, the officer had a very strong initial belief that the client was drunk and he eventually charged him with Driving Under the Influence.

The moral of the story? First impressions matter. If an officer smells alcohol, or sees that your eyes are bloodshot and watery, or hears slurred speech, or any other indicia of intoxication, it’s pretty likely that you’re headed down the road to a DUI. It doesn’t matter if you got up at 4 a.m. and that’s why your eyes are red. It doesn’t matter if you have a speech impediment and you always sound slightly slurred. If an officer’s initial impression tells him or her that you’ve been drinking, it is nearly impossible to change that impression. Here’s my advice: First, if you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. However, if you’ve only had a beer or two and are behind the wheel, throw a mint or a piece of gum in your mouth before driving. If you have allergies, or if your eyes often tend to be red, use eyedrops before driving. Be smart and put yourself in a position where you don’t even start down the path to a DUI, because once you start down that path chances are you’re going to end up with a Driving Under the Influence charge, and need a DUI lawyer.