Are Women Treated Differently During a DUI Stop?

Are Women Treated Differently During a DUI Stop?

DUIResearch shows that the number of male drivers arrested for DUI has declined since 1995, however the number of female drivers arrested for DUI has increased, accounting for nearly 25% of all DUI arrests in 2011 (as compared with about 10% in the early 80’s). Many believe the higher female arrest numbers can be attributed to societal changes, in that more women are working out of the home. This means that while the actual number of females who consume excess amounts of alcoholic beverages has not changed, the number of those women on the roadways has changed. The majorities of females that are charged with DUI are single, separated, or divorced and have children. Further, most all of the women arrested for DUI have undergone a major life stressor prior to their arrest.

 Another theory for the increase in DUI arrests for women has more to do with the physical differences between men and women. Females reach a higher blood alcohol level quicker than their male counterparts because they have higher ratios of body fat to body fluids and are generally smaller in size. Dr. Jenny Neale and Dr. Gregory Martin, senior researchers on a study by Victoria University, found that the media coverage of female drunk drivers tends to be much more sensationalized by the media. Such phrases as “drunken grandmother,” or “Mother picking her children up from school,” creates a higher level of moral outrage than when men are arrested for DUI.

Women Process Alcohol Differently Than Men

While jokes abound regarding the ability of a woman to flirt her way out of a traffic violation, in truth women may be at a distinct disadvantage when stopped on suspicion of DUI. Women have less of the enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase in their bodies—an enzyme which breaks down alcohol in the stomach. Because of this, men and women of equal weight can actually test the same BAC when the woman has had only half as much alcohol as the man. Women who take birth control pills also tend to process alcohol slower because both the hormones in the pill and the alcohol depend on the liver for processing. This too, results in a higher BAC after drinking fewer drinks.

 DUI Tests are Not Fair to Women

Field sobriety tests may also put women at a distinct disadvantage; when asked to step outside the vehicle, particularly at night-time, by an officer who is likely male, most women are reluctant to do so. They may be nervous about getting out of their car on a deserted highway, therefore may do poorly on the field sobriety tests. This nervousness may also be seen as guilt by the police officer rather than what it actually is. Women are more likely to be wearing heels, and this can factor in to how well they can perform the One Leg Stand or the Walk and Turn tests, particularly on a rocky or sloped highway shoulder. The field sobriety tests are notorious for being unreliable indicators of intoxication even for men wearing flat shoes or boots. While some officers will tell a woman she can remove her high heels, she may be just as reluctant to walk barefoot over rocks and uneven terrain. Women may also be more likely to cry when stopped by a police officer—another sign that could be misinterpreted as guilt.

Women and Breathalyzer Tests

Breathalyzer tests have come under fire for both sexes, as there are a number of variables, which can skewer the results. Women may be at a particular disadvantage when taking a breath test.  Breathalyzer machines are calibrated for the “average” person and have been shown to consistently overestimate the blood alcohol content of women or any person smaller in stature than “normal.” Breathalyzer machines may also give an incorrect reading for those who are breathing in a shallow manner—as a woman would be inclined to do when nervous.

Women who are arrested and charged with DUI should take care to find a highly qualified Boulder DUI attorney as soon as possible who understands that many of the tests used to determine impairment may not be fair to women. A DUI conviction can have many long-term repercussions and should be avoided at all costs. The best way to ensure the most positive outcome possible is to speak to a knowledgeable DUI attorney.

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steven-louth-logo1.pngIf you have been arrested for DUI in Boulder, contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.

Posted in Blog, Boulder, DUI/DWAI


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