The state can charge a person with DUI even without direct evidence of intoxication, as demonstrated by the case of a Texas man who was arrested and charged with DUI despite negative breath and blood tests. Prosecutors eventually dismissed all of the charges against him, but police continue to defend the decision to arrest and charge him, arguing that he could have been impaired by a substance that did not show up on the blood test. Pennsylvania law states that blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher constitutes “impairment,” but it also prohibits driving while under the influence of any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance that makes safe driving impossible. Proving impairment is generally easiest for the state with BAC evidence, but it is not necessarily required.
The arrest occurred on January 13, 2013 in Austin, Texas, when police pulled the man over for allegedly running a stop sign. He was taken into custody and given a breath test, which showed BAC of 0.00 percent. He admitted to having one drink earlier, but the test results suggest that no significant amount of alcohol was present in his bloodstream. He agreed to submit to a blood test, which police say screens for seven different drugs, including alcohol. The results were not available for several months, but also showed no measurable amount of any of the seven drugs.
The man was nevertheless charged with DUI, known in Texas as DWI. Police claimed that he failed a field sobriety test at the time of his arrest, with official reports stating that the arresting officer observed him swaying and needing to use an arm to support himself while standing on one leg. This behavior could have multiple other possible explanations besides intoxication, such as a condition affecting one’s equilibrium or simple fatigue, but prosecutors apparently felt this was enough to support a DUI case. More than a year after the arrest, they finally dismissed all charges. Continue reading