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Urban myths about DWI

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8 Urban Myths About New Hampshire DWIs

The subject of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Hampshire is surrounded by common urban myths that are simply untrue. Although many of these myths, like sucking on a copper penny will lower a BAC reading, have been scientifically proven to be incorrect. However, it is amazing to us the number of clients we see who still believe that these legends are accurate.

Today, we’re going to take a look at 8 common urban myths about New Hampshire DWIs and whether or not there is any factual basis for their claims:

1.      Urban Myth #1 – An “odor of alcohol on the breath” is a reliable indicator of alcohol intoxication and consumption.

In reality, alcohol is actually odorless. It simply has no smell. What many people (and police officers!) believe is the odor of alcohol on the breath is actually the odor of ingredients that are commonly found in alcoholic beverages. A person who has consumed a non-alcoholic beer will have the same smell on their breath as a person who drank an alcoholic beer.

Researchers, using experienced police officers as study participants, discovered that odor strength estimates have no direct correlation to a person’s BAC levels, which, in the study, ranged from 0% to .13%. The officers’ estimates had the same amount of accuracy as random guessing. The researchers determined that estimations of alcohol on the breath were simply unreliable.

2.      Urban Myth #2 – Motorists who refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages are “alcohol free” and cannot be arrested for a DWI.

Many people aren’t aware that the human body continually produces its own personal supply of alcohol, called endogenous ethanol production, 24 hours a day. Consequently, we always some trace amounts of alcohol in our bodies. In some rare instances, a person’s body can produce enough alcohol for them to become legally intoxicated and be arrested for a DWI. Such cases require the assistance of an experienced NH DWI attorney who can prove this phenomenon in a court of law.

3.      Urban Myth #3 – A Breathalyzer test will remove suspicion from people who fail field sobriety tests because of diabetes, hypoglycemia, or who are taking certain types of medication.

Certain conditions, like diabetes and hypoglycemia, create the presence of acetone on a person’s breath. A Breathalyzer will often mistake the presence of acetone for the presence of alcohol. Unfortunately, it has been estimated that 1 in 7 New Hampshire motorists suffer from diabetes and are, therefore, placed at risk for a false DWI arrest and conviction.

4.      Urban Myth #4 – Because field sobriety tests are based upon scientific principles, it is always accurate when it comes to identify drunken motorists.

Researchers from Clemson University conducted a study in which police officers were shown videotapes of random persons undergoing six of the most common field sobriety tests. These officers were then asked to determine whether or not each person was too drunk to legally drive. What the officers did not know was that none of the people on the videotapes had a BAC level above .000% - meaning that they had had zero alcohol to drink. However, in the professional opinion of these seasoned officers, 46% of the people they saw on the videotape were too drunk to drive. Consequently, the use of field sobriety tests led to judgments by the police officers that were about as accurate as the flipping of a coin.

5.      Urban Myth #5 – A New Hampshire motorist who is accused of a DWI has the legal right to request a jury trial to contest the results of a BAC reading, particularly if there exist good reasons why the results’ accuracy.

Since the creation of the Magna Carta, the legal right to a jury trial has been one of the cornerstones of English law, and the Founding Fathers who created the Constitution valued this right so much that they ensured it was included in the Bill of Rights. The Sixth Amendment explicitly states:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”

The Sixth Amendment offers no exceptions to this right to a trial by jury in any sort of criminal case.

Although a person might have overwhelming evidence that can prove their BAC readings were inaccurate and they are, in fact, innocent of their DWI charge, most states will deny the defendant a jury trial.

6.      Urban Myth #6 – Breathalyzer tests measure the specific alcohol concentration in a motorist’s bloodstream.

What you might not know is that a Breathalyzer test doesn’t actually measure one’s blood alcohol content, which can actually only be performed by analyzing a blood sample. Alcohol on a person’s breath is measured in an attempt to estimate the alcohol concentration within the bloodstream. This is why not all states allow for the use of Breathalyzer tests.

What Breathalyzer tests actually detect is the presence of specific chemical compounds that have, in its molecular compound, the methyl group. The downside is that there are thousands of molecular compounds like this. They occur naturally in the human body, like on one’s breath, or can be attributed to dozens of other causes, ranging from gasoline fumes to certain cleaning fluids. Such a wide variation often leads to faulty BAC readings.

Even under the most ideal scenarios, most Breathalyzer tests have a margin error of 20-30%. Mistakes can be made, and this can lead to faulty DWI charges and convictions. The prevalence of these urban myths won’t help anyone’s case.

If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in the state of New Hampshire, contact our law firm today to speak with one of our experienced DWI attorneys. Our NH DWI lawyers will work diligently to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved for your unique case, and your initial consultation is 100% free. Time is of the essence, so contact us today.

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