Palm Beach County authorities have announced a plan to give $100 rewards to anybody who reports an impaired driver.
The program is aimed at getting the public to report DUI drivers. If the DUI driver is stopped and an arrest is made, the caller can receive the reward.
While the goal of the program is noble and certainly understandable, it may motivate people to call 911 even when their is not sufficient indicia of impairment. People eager to make a quick buck might be willing to call 911 when they see a driver do something such as swerve to avoid a pothole, or roll through a red light on a red turn.
Those actions alone seldom indicate a drunk driver. But if the caller, relying on this program, notifies police, the police may stop the suspected drunk driver. If the driver has alcohol on their breath, they may face an arrest even if they are not legally impaired.
In other words, this program will encourage more police encounters which usually end in arrests if the odor of alcohol is present. You must remember that it is not a crime to drink alcohol and drive a car if you are 21 or over. It is a crime to be impaired by drugs or alcohol while driving.
The problem is that officers who believe you are impaired - perhaps because they have received a call from a driver saying that you are - then they may presume that you are impaired the moment they stop your and approach your car window. If they smell any alcohol on your breath, even if you’ve had one glass of wine and are not legally impaired, they may still arrest you because they already believe that you are drunk.
This program will undoubtedly increase the number of DUI arrests.
Eric Matheny is a Miami DUI lawyer and Broward DUI lawyer.