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LETTER: A DUI is not the same as being a public drunk

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DUI is not driving drunk, and we have to get away from saying that. When people are “social drinkers,” they may go out to dinner and have a few drinks. These are honest attempts to be law-abiding citizens. They know they are not drunk.

Everybody swerves in their lane — they might be on the phone, or distracted by other occupants in their car. That swerve gets my attention. I pull the person over. Now I am asking the driver to do silly tests like the ABCs.

You might be surprised by their reaction when I tell them they failed. DUI is driving under the influence. A lot of professional people don’t understand that. There is a huge difference between being DUI and being a public drunk. Some judges get that confused as well.

The problem is not that people drive drunk, it’s that people drive under the influence not realizing how low the alcohol limit is. I know after working an eight- or 12-hour shift, I drive home tired.

The DUI driver just wants to get home. It’s been a long day for him or her, too. But 0.08 is not drunk. It’s easy to get there. I know a few patients that I have seen in ERs where I worked that if an alcoholic’s blood alcohol level gets down that low, it can cause DTs.

There needs to be a better understanding by doctors, lawyers, brick layers, etc. that there is a difference between the DUI and DWI. I didn’t mention cops. That’s because the law was changed during my tenure as a cop.

To arrest a public drunk, you have to prove that he was endangering himself or another person. That was a great change. Many people can do some amazing things and still have a blood alcohol above the legal limit.



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