Technology is great. It enhances our lives in numerous ways. It provides us with a source of entertainment. It assists us with our daily tasks. One of the biggest pieces of technology all of us own, is a smart phone. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, iPhone versus Android, everyone will agree that smart phones make our lives easier.
However, technology can be a dangerous distraction while driving. Not only are we distracted while driving and thus, potentially placing ourselves at a higher risk for an accident; distracted driving can be a reason for a police officer to stop your car. Why is that important you ask? Because as a criminal defense attorney I've noticed a growing trend over recent years for people being stopped while being on or distracted by a smart phone.
This is significant in DUI cases here in Maine. Distracted driving leads to poor driving. Police officers are trained not only in Maine but throughout the country to look for signs of impaired operation as the basis for DUI stop. Think about it... when you're distracted with your smart phone, you are not paying attention to the road. If you're not paying attention to the road, you're probably "driving all over it". Distracted driving or impaired driving, either way it's the basis for a stop.
Think about the following scenario: you're here in southern Maine on vacation... you're trying to find your bed-and-breakfast location in Ogunquit. You're unfamiliar with the town of Ogunquit and its layout. So what do you do? You look at your smart phone while searching for directions. You take your eyes off the road, even just for a moment, and you begin to drift over the center line. Unbeknownst to you, a local police officer has been following you for quite some time. It's late Saturday night at a time when drunk drivers are generally on the road. The local Ogunquit police officer is trained to look for drunk drivers. Your poor driving resembles a drunk driver. So he pulls you over, and lo and behold, you've been drinking.
Now you're in a pickle. You try to explain to the officer that you are only distracted by your cell phone because you need directions to the local bed-and-breakfast. Unfortunately for you, you also told the officer you just left the local bar, which is why you have booze on your breath. The officer isn't stupid. He puts two and two together and decides that your poor driving isn't the result of distracted driving due to your Google map app, but is instead due to the alcohol you consumed earlier in the evening. He asks you to step out of the car to do field sobriety tests. He will perform as well as you could have because your nervous, and distracted. He places you under arrest and brings you back to the police station for breath test. Unfortunately for you, you blow over the legal limit.
Does this scenario sound familiar? If it doesn't, good for you. All too often, my clients find themselves in this exact position. This entire scenario could be avoided if people would just stop looking at their cell phones for directions, or to download the newest greatest app, or to text their friends, or any of the other host of things that we enjoy doing on our smart phones. In a drunk driving charge here in Maine will be the least of your concerns if you are actually under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you were to be distracted lose control of your vehicle struck a pedestrian or striking the vehicle causing the severe injury or death of a person, you will be looking at serious felony charges. You see, things get real serious real quick when people drive distracted.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and if you're reading this blog you've likely already been charged with OUI. If that's the case, don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call me directly.