Woman Has Half a Glass of Wine, .02 BAC, Gets Charged With Felony DUI

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Police arrested, cuffed, and hauled her away in front of her kid–all because a man in a restaurant mistook the glasses of water she was drinking for wine, then called the police. The comments to the story are rather interesting, too. Read them and draw your own conclusions about this mysterious man who was watching her in the restaurant.

The reporter finds another case in which a woman was charged with DUI after blowing .03 on a breath test, because the cops were convinced she was on drugs. When lab tests proved them wrong, prosecutors pushed ahead with the charges anyway.

In both cases, the women eventually beat the charges, but incurred thousands of dollars in legal bills. That seems to be the choice in these cases. Even if you’re completely innocent, your options are to plead guilty and accept your punishment, or fight the charges, in which you risk the wrath of the judge if you’re convicted, and spending thousands of dollars you won’t get back even if you’re acquitted.

Here’s the fun part:

But I was struck by something as I talked to Sifford. She begged me not to read too much into the police report — in the officer’s account of her field sobriety tests, she was sniffing constantly, her pulse was above normal, and she swayed. Reading that, without the results of the urine test, you might assume she was coked-up.

But that’s the thing about these reports. You can see it on Shannon Wilcutt’s, too.

Shannon Wilcutt had a 0.02 blood alcohol content, but the police report notes a “moderate” odor of alcohol on her breath. How is that possible? It also says that her speech was “slurred” and she had dried blood on her lips. That couldn’t possibly be related to dental surgery, could it?

The cops were building their cases; it was up to Wilcutt and Sifford to find lawyers willing to ferret out the truth.

The officers are only doing their job, but their job is to bust drunk drivers. That’s what the Legislature wants, what the governor wants, and what the public wants. From the minute the cops pull you over, they assume you’re drunk.

It’s your job to prove yourself innocent.

These aren’t even the worst cases. The California Highway Patrol was recently exposed for using standard, cut-and-paste boilerplate about “the scent of alcohol” and “slurred speech” in all DWI arrests. Some defendants whose blood tests came back negative filed an open records request, revealing the word-for-word descriptions on the arrest reports. Wouldn’t that be pretty good evidence that the officers had perjured themselves?

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58 Responses to “Woman Has Half a Glass of Wine, .02 BAC, Gets Charged With Felony DUI”

  1. #1 |  Jim Collins | 

    You are correct to a point. The 2 hour rule came into being because some people were getting off by claiming that by the time they were taken to a breathalyzer at a police station their alcohol level wasn’t the same as when they were driving. Pennsylvania then adopted the 2 hour rule which assumes that the alcohol level at the breathalyzer is the same as when they were driving. This law has had a couple of side effects.

    As I said before my friend cut a red light a little close after having 2 beers after a meeting. A local cop saw him do it and got his license number. By the time they ran the plate and got to his house it was about 1-1/2 hours later. He answerd the knock at the door with a beer in his hand. They took him to the station and gave him a brethalyzer, where he blew .09 and then charged him with DUI. This was later reduced to just running the red light when 15 people myself included showed up at his hearing. They didn’t want the hassle of all of us testifying so they dropped the DUI and jacked up the fine on the red light charge.

    Another side effect of this law is that some police checkpoints are holding people for up to 2 hours on the suspicion that their alcohol level might go up. I was stopped at a checkpoint and blew a .01. I then got to spend 2 hours sitting in the back of a police car, handcuffed of course, and was retested 6 times. I was released with a written warning after 2 hours and the third 0.0. When I got home at about 7 AM the local TV news had their DUI checkpoint box scores listed and I got to see myself sitting in the police car. Their total score was 1 DUI, 2 outstanding warrants (both non payment of child support) and 1 DUI warning (me).

    Radley, when you get done in Mississippi you really need to take a look at the relationship between the NHSTA and MADD. It will blow your mind.

  2. #2 |  The International House of Bacon » Blog Archive » Links for Thursday | 

    […] * Why should I trust law enforcement again? […]

  3. #3 |  Michael Pack | 

    Jim,I was reading a DA comment site about breath tests.They all talked how it was important to get it for a conviction.One said that with out a BAC most DUIs could not be proven.He went on to say very few people show erratic or dangerous driving like the public believes.With out BAC there is little or no prof of impairment.What does that tell you?

  4. #4 |  Jim Collins | 

    It’s all about the money Michael. It’s all about the money.

  5. #5 |  sfcmac | 


    Sherrif Arpaio has criminals in his facility who are far worse than DUI offenders (whether actual or framed by the cops). His standard response to their complaints:
    Don’t like my jail? Don’t come back.” That’s good advise that most of the scumbags tend to ignore.

  6. #6 |  donovan | 

    I got a dui at home. My car in a different city stuck in mud. Cops come to my house enter illegally through our attached garage and through our back door. Without my permission. See that I’ve been drinking consequently arrest me and charge me with dui. I tried calling 911 and doing so they charged me with resisting arrest simply walked away to the phone in my house is resisting! Anybody know of a good aggresive lawyer? I think my civil rights have been violated. Oh yeah they towed and impounded my car without ever knowing that my girlfriend was the one driving! Consequently my impound fee of 500.00 was returned but the towing cost of 385.00 was only partially covered through my tow coverage. Because my girlfriend called for a tow and our service was prevented from performing their duty because of the police stating “go away we got this one!”

  7. #7 |  Bryan | 

    A few things that were not in the story others might find interesting.

    1. The “witness” was propositioning Shannon. He was miffed when she told him to take a hike. He then followed her around the town after she left the cafe, stalking her. When she went into the mall, he called the police on her. He then LIED to the police and used them like a fine tuned fiddle to exact revenge.

    The police lied:

    1. Two officers claimed they smelled a “moderate oder of alcohol.” Well, .02 isn’t going to give off much of a smell, if any at all. (by the way, .02 is not 1 drink, it’s equiv. to 1/2 a can of LITE beer)

    2. Another officer climed she took more than 1 hydrocodone pill. She didn’t, the blood test proved it.

    3. Another officer tested her for drugs, claiming he was qualified to do so. In fact, his certification ran out in 2001!!!

    4. The Chandler PD Spokesman, David Ramer, continues to say “she was impaired.” Heck, he wasn’t even there and his officiers never witnessed her driving nor were they qualified to make a determination! He’s just trying to cover up the sloppy police department’s behavior. This is the same spokesperson that tried to tell the city that his officers were justified in shooting a 14 year old holding a pearing knife to death.

  8. #8 |  April 17 roundup | 

    […] anesthesia, plus a half a glass to drink: then came the three felony DUI counts [Phoenix New Times, Balko via […]