Read carefully. This could be your story.
It was the night of my company's Christmas party. The moon was full. Christmas music was playing on the car radio. My wife and I were excited about a night out alone, away from the kids. We quickly navigated the 10 miles from our house to the hotel at which the party was being held.
Upon arriving at the party, we made our way to the bar, making full use of the ‘free drink’ coupons in the bag of goodies that each employee received upon their arrival. My wife ordered a glass of white wine. I had a gin and tonic. After some mingling, we were seated and dinner was served. We each drank a glass of Chardonnay with dinner. We also had a cup of coffee with our dessert.
After dinner and some presentations, a DJ opened up the dance floor. We danced for the next two hours. During this time, we each had about three additional glasses of wine. As the night drew to a close, I drank a glass of water to replenish some of the fluids I lost while dancing.
We said our goodbyes and headed for our car.
As we waited outside in the cold air for the valet to bring up our car, I felt sober. I knew my limits, and this certainly wasn't my limit.
We laughed and sang to music as we drove home. We were having a great time. I drove cautiously and carefully, as I always do after I've been drinking.
As we approached the exit to our house, I noticed a red light and high beams on me in my rear view mirror.
"Darn, I'm getting pulled over". My wife immediately turned around and looked at the cop and started getting nervous. She reached in her purse. “Here, have a mint’. “Don't be moving around and acting suspicious", I snapped. If I wasn't sober before, I felt completely sober now.
The cop approached the car, and I rolled down my window. “Your license and registration please".
"Why did you pull me over officer?" I ask. “Your license and registration please", he repeats sternly. I took out my wallet, while my wife fumbled for the registration. I handed both to the cop. He held up his flashlight and reviewed the documents.
He shined his flashlight into my eyes. “Have you had anything to drink tonight?" I told him we'd just come from my office Christmas party, but that I'd had only one drink. I figured he might have smelled the alcohol on us, so he'd know I was lying if I said ‘nothing’.
He walked back to his car and radioed in some information about us. I thought about how I'd hoped to cap the night off by driving my wife home and taking advantage of her as soon as we walked in the door. Instead, my perfect night was turning into a perfect nightmare.
He walked back to our car, and before he could speak, I asked if he would please just let us drive the ¼ mile down the street to our house. The cop said that he would like to administer a few tests, and that if I passed them, we would be free to go. He asked that I get out of the car. I was hopeful, as I stepped out of the car, that I would pass his tests and we would be on our way.
As I stood in front of the cop, I grew more and more nervous as I considered that I might be arrested in front of my wife, and that I would be spending the night in jail. As the cop shined his flashlight directly into my eyes, I was swiftly drawn back into the present.
The cop held up a pen, and asked that I keep my head still and follow the pen with only my eyes, as he moved it back and forth in front of my face. I had no idea what he was looking for, or how to tell if I'd passed this test.
He then asked me to lean back, hold out my hands, close my eyes and touch my nose with the tip of each finger. I think I passed this test with flying colors.
Next, he ordered me to place one hand flat on the other and flip one hand over onto its back, starting slowly and accelerating the pace. Again, I think I did great.
Finally, he asked me to take a Breathalyzer test. Hesitant, I asked him if I could please be allowed to go home, since I passed all of his tests. “If you refuse to take the test, you will be arrested and you will lose your license for one year".
I silently wondered if he was lying to me, as I looked him in the eye and considered my options. I got a distinct feeling that this cop didn't like me; almost as if I was his enemy or perhaps a felon he wanted to arrest. Since I wasn't sure of my rights and the law, I opted to take the test. I was kicking myself for not taking the time in the past to know my rights. Now that I needed that knowledge, it was too late.
As I blew into the Breathalyzer, I tried to blow out of my nose to try and trick the machine, hoping that my breath would mix with the outside air and provide a lower reading. I also tried to pretend that I was blowing into the machine with great effort, when I was really not blowing very hard at all. The cop warned me to blow hard with my lips tight around the unit. The machine came back with a reading of ‘.08’. The legal limit is .08.
"You are under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Turn around and place your hands on your head", said the cop. It seemed surreal. One minute I was driving home, laughing with my wife. The next minute I was being arrested and hauled off to jail like a common criminal. I'd never been arrested in my life.
To make a long story short, my wife cried herself to sleep that night. I hung out at the county jail all night, getting harassed by various felony suspects. After I was released I spent $8,000 on an attorney, missed several days of work, got convicted of driving under the influence, and paid a $1,500 fine. I performed dozens of hours of community service, most of it feeling like an idiot while in an orange vest picking up trash alongside the road. I lost my license for 30 days. I had to complete a first time offender's program and go to AA meetings. I also couldn't drink alcohol for 90 days. My insurance premiums increased, my relationship with my wife suffered due to the stress this put us both under, and I was forced to ride my bike to work for a month.
I wish there was a happy ending, or at least a silver lining. There wasn't. In fact, I'm still paying for that mistake. I wish I'd known my rights and how to act in that situation. Perhaps it would have turned out different.
Learn from this man's mistakes. One DUI can make your life a miserable existence that may drag on for months, or even years. You can take your chances and continue to play ‘DUI roulette’ with your life, or you can be smart and protect yourself by learning your rights and critical strategies for avoiding a DUI arrest and conviction. The choice is yours. Choose wisely.
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