DUI Safe Harbor Laws
There are two types of safe harbor laws for DUI purposes. The modern trend is against both, but be sure to check the laws of your jurisdiction for applicability.
The first type protects people who wish to use their vehicle as a “shelter” – those who began to drive but then pull off to the side of the road after realizing they were too impaired, and those who wish to “sleep it off” in their cars before driving at all. In some states, in such a situation you are permitted to use your car as a “safe harbor” – a shelter – to shield yourself from prosecution. The prosecutor is required to prove in every DUI case that the person was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle. In safe harbor situations it is harder to prove since the suspect is not driving when they are approached by the police. The idea is to encourage people to pull over to prevent them from harming themselves or others.
The second type of safe harbor law refers to presumptions of impairment for people with a BAC under a certain limit. Remember that the legal limit for DUI is .08. Another type of “safe harbor” law is where a person with a BAC under a certain amount (for example, in Louisiana it’s .05) will be let go without being charged with DUI. States with these laws presume a person with a BAC under .05 to NOT be driving under the influence of alcohol. A person with a BAC between .05 and .08 (the legal limit) is not entitled to this presumption. This type of safe harbor statute has both advantages and disadvantages – where there is a presumption of innocence there is also a presumption of guilt. Thus if your BAC is above .08, you are presumed to be impaired.