Defending Women Arrested for DUI
Women are charged with DUI in increasing numbers throughout Florida. For any number of reasons discussed below, women may be particularly vulnerable to a false arrest for drunk or impaired driving.
Women face special issues when asked to perform field sobriety exercises or submit to a breath, blood or urine test. For the breath test, the Intoxilyzer 8000 machines often overly inflate the readings for women because the machines are calibrated for men. In other words, had a blood test been taken at the same time, it might have been significantly lower than the breath test.
The differences for women charged with DUI are well-known. In fact, even judges receive training on the ways alcohol affects women differently than men.
For instance, the National Judicial College (NJC) offers an online webcast course on “Women & Impaired Driving: Research and Implications” scheduled for Thursday, July 11, 2019. The webcast delves “into the research behind why alcohol-related issues affect women differently than men.”
According to the NJC website, “participants will learn about the findings of the aforementioned studies including the unique characteristics of female drunk drivers, offender typologies, and the pathways to offending.” The course also recommends improvements for the way female DUI offenders are supervised and treated.
Attorneys for Women Charged with DUI in Tampa, FL
At Sammis Law Firm, we pay particular attention to special defenses that can be used to defend women charged with DUI in Tampa and Plant City, in Hillsborough County, FL. If you were accused of having a BAC over the legal limit of .08 or refusing to take the breath, blood, or urine test, then we can help.
Contact us to find out more about the differences for women charged with DUI when participating in field sobriety exercises, reacting to the stress of the investigation, or breath testing on Florida’s Intoxilyzer 8000.
Call us at 813-250-0500 to discuss your case today.
Click here to read more about our Recent Case Results in Drunk Driving Cases.
Women and Field Sobriety Exercises
During a DUI investigation, the law enforcement officer will request that the driver participate in a series of roadside agility exercises (often called “field sobriety tests” ). The officer knows that your participation in these field sobriety exercises is completely voluntary, but the officer probably didn’t tell you that fact.
Women often agree to participate in the exercises without understanding that the exercises are setting them up for failure. To complicate matters, women react differently to such a request than their male counterparts because of concerns about their safety and the officer’s authority to make such a request.
Almost all of the specially trained DUI officers in Hillsborough County are male. In many cases, this male officer may be the only officer on the scene. Especially when the DUI investigation is conducted late at night in a remote area, women are often reluctant to participate in the roadside agility exercises because of safety concerns.
The male DUI enforcement officer might mistakenly view that reluctance to perform the exercises as “consciousness of guilt.”
Women May React Differently to Stress Than Men
Adding to the disadvantage that a woman may face during a DUI investigation is the fact that women may react differently to stressful situations than a man. When women are overcome with stress or anxiety, they react differently than men.
Women may be more likely to cry in such a stressful situation. Many women arrested for DUI have no prior arrests or experience with a law enforcement officer. All of those factors come into play during the roadside investigation.
A male officer may be more likely to mistake that emotional reaction as an indication that the woman is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Perform Roadside Agility Exercises in High Heels
For those women in Florida that do agree to take the field sobriety exercises at the roadside, many of them of wearing shoes that are less than ideal for such exercises, particularly if the woman is wearing high heeled shoes.
In the greater Tampa Bay area, law enforcement officers are trained to give the woman the option of removing her shoes. For many women, attempting these exercises in their bare feet on the side of the road is not an acceptable option.
The Rapid Increase in Women Being Arrested for DUI
A study published by the Criminal Justice Information Services Division through the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI shows that over the last ten years, the number of DUI arrests for men has dropped 7.5% while the number of DUI arrests for women has increased a whopping 28%.
2007: Crime in the United States
10 Year DUI Arrests Trends by Sex from 1998-2007
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Male – Total
Percentage Change -7.5%
Percentage Change +28.8%
Women and Alcohol Impairment
One of the most obvious differences between men and women when it comes to DUI is that women typically weigh less. Even a few drinks can cause impairment or a high breath alcohol reading in women, particularly when the women is petite or drinks alcohol on an empty stomach.
Other differences are much more subtle, including the fact that women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men.
Studies also show that it takes women longer to metabolize alcohol than men because of an enzyme called “ADH.” Women have less of the ADH enzyme in their bodies than men of the same size and weight. The lower level of the ADH enzyme results in a higher proportion of alcohol reaching the bloodstream before being converted into acetate.
The breath test is often given an hour after the woman was driving. These timing issues can result in a reading that shows a higher breath alcohol limit in women than men depending on when the test is given.
The DUI Breath Test Machine and Gender Bias
A special defense, known as the “gender bias” defense may exist when a woman is charged with DUI involving a breath test machine used in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, the breath test machines used to estimate the amount of alcohol in the body, tend to artificially inflate a woman’s breath alcohol reading, even when such factors as size, weight, and alcohol consumption are controlled.
Much of the difference is attributed to the fact that pound per pound a woman’s body contains a higher fat content and lower muscle and water content. A combination of other factors can also cause an inflated breath alcohol reading that works to the disadvantage of a woman charged with DUI.
The Intoxilyzer 8000 was designed, tested, calibrated using the average man’s physiology in order to make many assumptions that control the result produced by the machine. These small differences can mean the difference between a reading that is over the legal limit or under the legal limit.
Many studies conducted on the breath test machines show that the bias is particularly acute when the test is given to young, thin, or petite women.
Fluctuations in Body Temperature Can Drastically Effect the Breath Test Reading
The breath test machine makes an assumption about body temperature based on a man’s average body and breath temperature. The breath test machine assumes that the temperature of the breath is 34 degree Celsius. That assumption is one factor that can cause an inflated reading for women whose breath temperature is even slightly higher than average.
Women have much larger fluctuations in hormones that affect body temperature. Especially during the premenstrual portion of a woman’s cycle, her body and breath temperature can be higher than average.
Numerous scientific studies show that even a fluctuation of one degree over the assumed breath test temperature of 34 degrees Celsius can cause a breath test reading that is 6.9% higher than it should be.
Women and Prescription Drug DUI
Common prescription medications can also cause impairment that impacts a larger number of female drivers than male drivers. Even over the counter medication, when mixed with alcohol, can cause a person to become impaired while driving.
A woman should be particularly careful not to consume alcohol while taking drugs and to avoid driving if the impairment is possible.
Lawyers for Women Charged with DUI in Tampa, FL
As you can see from this discussion, the particular facts and circumstances of your case matter. If you believe that the breath test reading in your case was inaccurate, special defenses may apply to your case.
If you refused to take a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine, the particular facts of your case may show the reason for refusal was not because you believed you were impaired but because of some other reason particular to your case.
At Sammis Law Firm, our DUI defense lawyers pay particular attention to issues and defense that can be used to defend women charged with DUI in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL.
Call us to discuss your case today at 813-250-0500.
This article was last updated on Monday, October 28, 2019.