The Boss, DUI, and You

The Boss, DUI, and You

It’s almost an urban myth, it’s certainly a misreading of Washington DUI law that a driver has to ‘blow’ a .08 or above on a breathalyzer to be arrested for DUI.

You do not.

A law enforcement officer pulls a car over because something about it is off. Weaving, veering into the shoulder, hitting the brakes every two seconds, going exactly the speed limit no matter what, a tail light is out. When a driver is pulled over it becomes a matter of how they act and how the officer interprets their behavior . . . while checking out the car looking for open containers, sniffing for the smell of alcohol.

If, in the officer's opinion (always referred to in police reports as their “Training and experience”), the driver is ‘impaired’ - in any way - they will arrest them for DUI. That charge will stand even if a subsequent breathalyzer and/or blood test comes back below .08.

This is not a ‘Washington thing’ and it can happen to anyone who happens to catch the attention of a law enforcement officer on the road.

Proof of that occurred in New Jersey last November. Bruce Sringsteen was arrested for DUI on, of course, the Jersey Shore despite a blood alcohol level of {barely} .02.

Here’s what happened:

Springsteen pulled off the road on his motorcycle somewhere in the Gateway National Recreation Area. Not surprisingly, he was recognized. He has a reputation for taking time for selfies with fans and he did not disappoint. Selfies were taken, autographs given, a couple of fans poured out two small - very small - shots of high-shelf tequila. Unbeknown to Bruce, a cop was watching from the road.

When Bruce got ack on his bike and headed out the cop - clearly a Bon Jovi fan - was waiting. He pulled him over - even though he was driving perfectly fine. He successfully completed a couple of field sobriety tests - although the cop noted that while he effortlessly walked a straight line he went past the required ‘number of steps.’ in other words, he walked in a straight line with perfect balance but he did it for too long. In any event, the officer saw him drink, and reported that Springsteen “smelt strongly of alcohol coming off his person and had glassy eyes.”

He also noted that Bruce was polite, friendly, and cooperative throughout the stop. Then he arrested him for DWI (Driving While Intoxicated, very close to Washington’s DUI), reckless driving, and consuming alcohol in a closed area.

At the police station, Bruce took a breathalyzer test, the result was a .02 - far below the legal limit. It did not matter - the arresting officer observed his glassy eyes, smelled the tequila, didn’t like the way he finished the walking test, all of which, ‘his training and experience would lead him to conclude that the suspect was driving while intoxicated.’

When word of the arrest got out through TMZ (of course) Springsteen’s ad campaign for Jeep-Wrangler was pulled from the air.

That and the publicity ended up being the only affects the arrest had on Springsteen. In late February, the DWI and reckless driving charges were dropped - the prosecutor stated, correctly, that he did not have enough evidence for a conviction when the intoxicated driver’s blood-alcohol level was virtually nil.

He did, however, have to pay a $500 fine for consuming alcohol in the park. Plus $40 in court costs.

Springsteen, obviously, had a good attorney - he didn’t use his intellectual property or entertainment or estate planning attorney, he used someone who dealt with DUI’s on a regular basis.

Even with such a low blood-alcohol level, prosecutors do go ahead with charges, relying on the cop’s ‘expert testimony.’