A man is sitting in his parked car, drinking Heineken’s 0.0 beer while watching a cop walk up behind him. The cop starts writing the man a ticket, which the man assumes is because he’s drinking a beer in his car. The cop points to the no parking sign and hands the man a ticket. The commercial ends with the slogan, “Now you can. Before driving.”
Sure, it’s a comical commercial, but why aren’t we laughing? The answer may surprise you.
Heineken’s new 0.0 beer boasts an ABV of 0.03%, which makes it non-alcoholic. In other words, you would need to drink dozens and dozens of these beers before alcohol could accumulate in your blood to generate anything close to NY’s legal limit of 0.08. This also means that it’s unlikely to impair your ability to drive. But Heineken said you could have one before driving!
Here’s the problem with that. Heineken claims that their non-alcoholic beer tastes just like a beer. That means it smells like a beer too. Sometimes, the odor of an alcoholic beverage is all that an officer will need to start an investigation and possibly arrest you for DWI.
Law enforcement officers are trained in DWI detection, which starts as early as observing the operation of vehicles on roadways. When a driver commits a traffic infraction like speeding, crossing traffic lines, or parking illegally, particularly at night and on weekends, that cop is likely assuming that alcohol is the cause of the traffic infraction. One of the first questions the officer will likely ask you if you’ve been drinking. If you’ve had a Heineken non-alcoholic beer, how do you respond? No? Yes, but it was non-alcoholic? Where do you think that’s going to get you?
As soon as you say yes or the cop smells what he or she assumed is the odor of an alcoholic beverage, the cop will have you out of the car in no time flat, especially if you do what this guy in the commercial does and show him the beer.
Frankly, cops will get you out of the car for further DWI investigation and field sobriety testing on as little information as the odor of an alcoholic beverage after having stopped you for a traffic infraction.
At that point, you’ll be put through field sobriety testing. Having consumed only non-alcoholic beer, one would think the driver would be fine to perform these tests. However, factors such as nerves, weather, injuries, and confusion could make the driver fail these field sobriety tests. These failed tests may very well lead to your arrest and eventual transport to the police station for further testing.
Now at the station, you have two options, to take the test or refuse. Naturally, this is the subject of much debate.
If you take the breath test and pass, that cop may still charge you with Driving While Ability Impaired, which doesn’t require a blood alcohol content to prove and is less severe than DWI, or with any other traffic infractions, you may have committed. If you refuse the test, especially if you’re frustrated at the thought that you’ve been subjected to this investigation, you’ll likely be charged with misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated and be forced to attend a refusal hearing with DMV where you could lose your license for 12+ months.
While there are plenty of defenses to raise in a situation such as this, the fact of the matter is you don’t want to deal with a DWI charge. Don’t listen to Heineken and think you can have some of their 0.0 beer and then get behind the wheel.
If you find yourself in a situation that requires a defense attorney, give the capable attorneys at the Nave Law Firm a call at 315-285-6283 or 518-649-9281.