We have all seen the public service ads by various law enforcement agencies and the department of transportation where they talk about the dangers of buzzed driving. The ads equate buzzed driving with being under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The ads then cite numerous unfortunate traffic deaths involving people driving under the influence of alcohol.
As someone who has been involved in the criminal justice system for 26 years and defended hundreds and hundreds of DUI cases, I can emphatically tell you these ads are misleading! A vast majority of traffic deaths involving alcohol had defendants who had extremely high blood alcohol—1.5 times or more over the .08 BAC level.
The truth of the matter is that drivers who are just “buzzed” and have a low BAC level of .08 to .11 are frequently able to obtain a reckless driving conviction with a competent, experienced defense attorney. This is particularly true if this is your first DUI. This is one of the “secrets” of the criminal justice system that everybody associated with the system knows and understands.
“Any person is guilty of reckless driving if the person drives a vehicle:
1. Recklessly disregard the rights or safety of others; or
2. Without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a matter so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or the property of another.” N.D.C.C. § 39-08-03
The reason why an amendment to reckless driving is offered in low BAC cases is that prosecutors realize that all scientific tests, including a breath test, blood test, or urine test have some margin of error. Prosecutors realize that because they have to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt there is a real possibility they could lose a jury trial. Therefore, prosecutors believe it is a fair compromise because they still get a conviction albeit for reckless driving.
The aforementioned helps illustrate the importance of a jury trial and the threat of having a jury trial. Bluffing is not only important in poker, but it is extremely important in the criminal justice system. Hundreds of defendants charged with DUI in North Dakota every year get a better deal because their defense attorney “bluffed” that they were prepared and ready to go to trial.
There are multiple benefits of having a reckless driving conviction as opposed to a DUI conviction. First, you will not have a DUI conviction on your record! This is important for numerous reasons, one of which is that most states, including North Dakota, have mandatory minimum sentences upon having a prior DUI conviction. For example, in North Dakota, your second DUI conviction in seven years has a mandatory 10 days in jail, a $1,500 fine, and participation in the 24/7 program for 360 days. If you do not have a prior DUI, this would not apply to you. Second, your license will not be suspended for a reckless driving conviction. However, you will be assessed eight (8) points on your driving record. But if you successfully won the administrative hearing, your driver’s license will not be suspended. Third, a reckless driving conviction should save you money in insurance costs. Finally, a reckless driving conviction carries with it a lot less stigma than a DUI conviction.
If you have been charged with a DUI with a low BAC, you should call Mr. Edinger immediately to see if reckless driving is a viable option in your case.