I’ve always wondered about this, and the “DWI vs. DUI” thread made me remember:
Let’s say someone has had a few drinks and is driving home. He’s over the limit and would be considered intoxicated. But for the sake of this example, he’s a very good drunk driver. He drives at exactly the speed limit, doesn’t swerve, and doesn’t break any laws or rules at all.
Then let’s say he is sideswiped by a (completely sober) bad driver. Is there any liability at all for the drunk (good) driver, even though the accident was 100% the sober guy’s fault? In other words, does just being drunk make him guilty in the eyes of the law, though he did nothing to help cause the accident?
(And no one’s allowed to say, “If he was drunk, he must have done something to help cause the accident.” For this hypothetical example, he was not at all at fault.)
So what’s the law say?
A couple of clarifications: He was over the BLOOD ALCOHOL limit, not the speed limit. And when I said he “wasn’t breaking any laws,” I know that he was–driving over the legal limit is breaking a law. But besides that, I meant, he was breaking no laws and being a good driver otherwise.
Any ticket is up to the discretion of the officer. Who would be well within the right to take the guy in.
I imagine you could be not at fault for the accident, but brought in on a DUI charge anyway. DUI is just DRIVING, not causing an accident persay, I believe. I’m not a lawyer or police officer, though, just a fat dork at a keyboard!
This actually happened to a drunk I worked with.
He got rear ended by a sober individual and in his addled state he called the cops (He wanted to make sure his car got repaired). Big mistake. They came out and got one whiff of his breath and got him for DUI.
The police would nail the one driver for being on the wrong side of the line, and the other for DUI. Those are both criminal violations. No cite, just firm belief.
Financial liability? Not quite so sure, state laws may vary. If I was on a jury for that issue, I’d have the side-swiper pay for the damage, and assume the criminal court would take care of the DUI penalization.
Being on the wrong side is a moving violation, not necesarrily a criminal act. It can end up being a criminal act, though. And in some states, DUI first offense is not a criminal violation unless it results in death/injury. In this case the drunk driver would be charged only with DUI. It’s possible to be both a violator and a victim at the same time!
True story: about 10 years ago I arrested a guy for DWI. After he was booked, he called his brother to come pick him up. When his brother arrived at the station, he was even drunker! So I arrested him for DWI. About an hour later, after booking him, both brothers called their step father to pick them up (we can not just let drunks go by themselves after their booked. They have to be released to a sober adult). When step-pop showed up, he was not only drunk, he drove over another officers bicycle. So we arrested the dad for DWI. When he was booked and issued his summons, he asked us to call his wife so she could pick them all up. That woman was so drunk herself, I could barely understand what she was mumbling on the telephone! We ended up having to keep those guys a full 12 hours in the holding cell until they were sober.
I forgot to add that the entire thing originated with the first guy being the victim of a minor fender bender that was not his fault. When I showed up for the accident report I realized he was drunk. So, he was a victim and a violator at the same time.
Interesting. I didn’t know you could arrest all of those other people unless you caught them in the act of driving. That is, if they walked into the station house drunk, I didn’t think you could get them on DWI because you hadn’t got to them while witnessing them behind the wheel (though you knew they had driven down).
The whole “violator and victim” thing was what I had in mind. Sure, you shouldn’t be out driving in that condition, but if you’re unlucky enough to be hit by someone, it doesn’t seem fair that you should take the blame if you didn’t cause the accident.
I personally saw both the brother and the step-dad drive up to the station. But there are a couple of instances when one can be busted for DWI/DUI even though not wittnessed driving.
Anecdote - happened to a former coworker a few years ago.
Coworker drove to the pub for lunch. He consumed a meal and 3 pints of beer within an hour. Driving back to work he saw an old woman fall on the sidewalk, and not get back up. He stopped his car, went to the woman, and realised she’d broken her hip. So he made sure she was as comfortable as possible, ran to a nearby shop and called for an ambulance. He stayed with the woman, comforting her, until the ambulance arrived, which was accompanied by a police escort. The woman was taken to hospital, coworker got back into his car, and drove off. He was immediately pulled over and breathalysed by the cops, arrested, charged, and convicted of DUI, and lost his license for a year.
Were the cops mean-spirited? Perhaps. Were they doing their job? Undoubtedly.
A friend of mine is a trooper, and she once busted a guy for DWI in the following circumstance:
A motorist runs off of the road and gets his car stuck in a snowbank. Really stuck. Without a tow truck, the car is rooted there until springtime. The driver walks to a nearby tavern, and calls home for a ride. While there, he hoists a few, and wanders back to his car, legally over the limit for driving. While waiting for his ride, he starts the car so he can run the heater. At this point, my friend comes along, investigates, and busts him for DWI.
When we were talking about this case, I opined that it was a cheap pinch, as there was no way that this guy could be described as “driving”. She replied that the law says that if you are “in control of the vehicle”, you are driving. She even claimed that, if the keys were in the ignition, even if the car were’nt running, she could nab the guy for DWI.
I assume she is correct as to the law, but I still think it was a cheap pinch. Anyone agree?
(We will assume for purposes of this discussion that the facts are as stated, not that the guy was already drunk when he hit the snowbank and made up the story about going to the tavern).
As the SD is devoted to fighting ignorance, I feel slightly justified in picking out a pet peeve: it’s “per se”, dammit, not “persay”!
We now return you to your scheduled discussion of drunk-driving offences.