The hidden world of "day-after DUIs"

November 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
If you're planning a night out on the town and you want to be responsible, you might arrange for a safe ride home. But did you know you could still get yourself in trouble the next morning?

"Day-after DUIs" are more common than you might think.

Under the cover of night, drunk drivers hit the streets and police agencies use saturation patrols and checkpoints to keep them in check.

In the bright light of day, a Valley woman found out that officers are still on patrol.

"He asked me to remove my sunglasses and said he could smell an alcohol odor in the car," one "day-after DUI" defendant told Action News.

It was just after 8 a.m., and this woman, who wanted to tell her story without revealing her identity, was on her way to work.

She went out the night before but she thought she'd done everything right.

She says she had about six drinks, starting at 11 p.m. She left Jimbo's about 2 o'clock in the morning, right at closing time, and did exactly what she thought she needed to do to be responsible: she called a designated driver to get her home.

But here's the science behind her getting in trouble: for someone her size, six drinks over three hours put her blood alcohol content at about .22.

Through the night, that number came down a little every hour.

"The important thing to remember is your body will naturally eliminate .02 alcohol volume from your body," Sean Duncan of the California Highway Patrol said.

Six hours passed between her last drink and 8 a.m., when she took off for work. That should knock her BAC down by .12, leaving it at .10.

When a Clovis police officer pulled her over, that's exactly what she blew into the breathalyzer.

"I was shocked. I never thought that I would blow that considering I had slept, you know, normal hours the night before," the woman told Action News.

CHP officers say "day-after DUIs" make up a small percentage of their arrests, but they're not an oddity and they're just as serious as nighttime DUIs.

In fact, they say a lot of people have the false belief that they can just sleep off a night of heavy drinking, and the grogginess of morning can mask the true level of intoxication.

"It's not like I was, I felt drunk or you know, I didn't feel like I woke up intoxicated or anything like that," the woman said.

Fresno County DUI prosecutors tell me they've only seen a few "day-after DUIs" come across their desks over the last few years.

Defense attorney Marc Kapetan has had a couple of those cases. He says prosecutors and judges don't cut those clients any slack, even though they may have tried to be responsible the night before their arrest.

"Technically, if a person's under the influence, the likelihood is that they are going to be punished accordingly, no matter if it's the night before or the next day," Kapetan said.

Kapetan's current client is the woman arrested this August in Clovis. She's still waiting to find out her punishment, but she wanted to send a message to other people who've never heard of a "day-after DUI."

"Hopefully to wake them up and let them know it could happen to them because I never thought it would happen to me," she said. And if they wake up after a night of heavy drinking, don't assume you're okay to drive.


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