Recently a local news station did an investigation of the number of annual arrests for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Austin, Texas. They discovered roughly 6,000 arrests per year for 2012, 2013 and 2014. What was interesting to me about their reporting was the number of flat out dismissals: 279 for 2013 and 192 for 2014 (with over 2000 cases from 2014 still in active status.) That’s basically 471 people who were wrongfully arrested for DWI in a two year period. This does not include people who “may” have been under, at or over the legal limit and their cases were dismissed or disposed of in other ways that avoided convictions. These were 471 drivers who presumably were drinking and driving responsibly and went to jail under what has become a “zero tolerance policy” here in Central Texas.
The law, in theory, allows for a person to drink responsibly and drive their vehicle. That’s why we talk about “legal limits” and “normal use” of your brain and body. However, what I and other DWI defense attorneys continue to see are clients who are drinking responsibly but still get arrested, thrown in jail, must wait to get bonded out, pay attorney’s fees, towing fees, bonding fees, and other court-related fees, and often miss work or sometimes even lose their jobs as a result of their wrongful arrest. Not to mention, even if they eventually get their cases dismissed after months of waiting, they will have to pay additional attorney’s fees and court costs to file a separate proceeding if they want their “criminal record” erased. What happens to the cops who make these arrests? Nothing.
I have been encouraging everyone for a long time now to avoid drinking alcohol and driving, precisely because of this zero tolerance policy. I still find that there are many citizens out there who want to trust that if they follow the law, behave responsibly, and only have that “one drink,” they will avoid arrest if stopped by police. So I ask you, “Do you think it’s fair to be arrested for DWI after having one drink?” Please vote in my poll and feel free to leave your comments about this matter.