Beer City, USA — or DWI City, USA?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I am a law-abiding citizen. In July 2014, I was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, while being within the legal limit of blood-alcohol content and without any appreciable signs of impairment. I was convicted in District Court. I appealed that conviction to Superior Court. A jury found me not guilty. The dashcam video was proof of my innocence.

I was not impaired. This was a case of harassment and entrapment. I was humiliated and stunned to be handcuffed, arrested and detained for far too long without charge.

In ’80s, Asheville was a boarded-up ghost town. If we want a thriving tourism economy and a “craft brew mecca” kind of culture, then we need law enforcement officers trained to deal with this new direction our fine city is taking. Arrest is not the only way to solve an ambiguous situation; it is the only way to reach quotas used to justify federal funding for a DWI task force.

Take note of the new military-style DWI Task Force Humvees with a DWI Lab patrolling Asheville. Does this make us feel safe or does it cast a negative light on a vibrant downtown? This kind of police presence undermines the city’s stated goals and makes patrons abandon our fine restaurants, music venues and bars for fear of being persecuted incorrectly by law enforcement.

I do not condone drunk or impaired driving! I respect law enforcement. But note that North Carolina law gives officers liberal discretion in deciding whether they believe someone is driving while intoxicated. You can be charged with a DWI in North Carolina purely at the discretion of the arresting officer.

Two days after my arrest, I was inundated with mail from DUI lawyers and substance-abuse counselors. This is a racket, folks!

If this injustice continues, they are shooting themselves in the foot economically, and downtown Asheville will return to the way it was in the ’80s … barren and lifeless.

— Aileen Pearlman


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17 thoughts on “Beer City, USA — or DWI City, USA?

  1. clayton moore

    I have 14 friends and relatives with DUI convictions. I got pulled twice and let go as I was near my house. Solution: do not drink and drive. At thousands of dollars in fines and lawyurr fees and inshawance price increases it was a great idea to avoid a DUI ticket! Watch Alaskan State Troopers on TV to see yourself in action after only a few…..

  2. Big Al

    “…while being within the legal limit of blood-alcohol content…”

    That statement alone proves that while you were not legally drunk, you were drinking and driving. You were wrong and unsafe and I am glad they got you off the road. Too bad you did not learn a lesson from this and will selfishly drink and drive again, putting all of the rest of us at risk.

    • Tim

      I understand your sentiment, but why the arrest when there was no law broken? In the end the defendant was found not guilty. That is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars and police resources. The police are also asking for the hard copy proof of passing vehicle inspection, when there is no statute or ordinance requiring one in the vehicle. There is no law that requires that evidence in your car, so why ask for it other than harassment? Police protection sure, but a police state …. I will pass. Bottom line if you don’t like the current alcohol limit laws, try to have them changed… or go to Hungary where there is zero tolerance for alcohol.

    • ashevillain7

      Wrong. Driving while within the legal limit is perfectly safe. This is total BS and should not have happened to the letter writer.

      • Roslyn Sanchez

        No, driving within the legal limit is not necessarily perfectly safe – it is just legal provided you’re not impaired. However, if you get loopy at .04 and you display an inability to control your vehicle, you will be charged, even if you’re under the limit.

    • Bigger al

      Those who cannot read should not post. And those whose lives consist of making nonsensical posts while holed up in their mom’s basement have no reason to be concerned about their personal safety. Until they get a drivers license and a life, that is.

    • devon

      before you come to any conclusion ,,get the facts,, to say that driving within the legal limit of alchol is unsafe is a dumb statement,proves your lack of any knowledge of prob any subject,, texting is far worse than drinkn within the limit,, trust me i know for a fact ,, i am over 50 years old,and have done it for decades,,with NOT 1 accident!!!, i am a careful driver,and a person who look outs for other people,,not some dumb #@! that doesnt give a doggy doo doo

  3. Roslyn Sanchez

    The letter writer leaves out some info. She was “arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.” Why? How. Was she stopped for a broken taillight and then the officer smelled alcohol? Did she hop a curb or knock over a mailbox? “Without any appreciable signs of impairment” is her judgement, but if there were no signs, how did they know? Usually police talk to someone they’ve stopped and looked for signs of impairment: slurred speech, alcohol smell, etc. She probably did something to warrant the arrest. She says she was “detained without charge” and then says the charge was DUI. How did the dashcam prove her innocence? The letter leaves out a lot.

    • JP

      Mountain Xpress only allows 350 words, and this was edited down from over 1,500 words. Hopefully, will print it in its entirety and you will get the whole story. This was a case of no impairment, and she was not even given the option to call a cab. They withheld dashcam evidence as long as they could because they knew it would prove her innocence. This kind of thing happens everyday in Beer City, and it’s not limited to DWI.

  4. SageAdv

    I understand your frustration, having had several traffic tickets myself.

    Having lost a family member to someone who was driving under the influence, I very much appreciate the preventative efforts the county puts in.
    However cumbersome it might be to your lifestyle, at least you have the choice to get in your car and drive home or call a taxi. I hope you can find some gratitude for your ability to choose.
    My dear Claire will never have that because her life was taken away from her by a drunk driver.

  5. JP

    Many of you are totally missing the point. This is NOT about DWI. It is about a federally-funded, highly aggressive police state equipped with surplus military gear, out to make PROFITS via QUOTAS. I can’t wait until one of you Holier-Than-Thou Tea-Totallers gets stopped on your way to church for NO REASON, and gets a ticket for doing NOTHING wrong, costing you hundreds or thousands, and possibly landing you in court or in jail. This is a matter of infringement on your personal freedom. Wake up!

    • name withheld by request

      I can second JP’s analysis of the situation. After working 14 hours at my employer, en route home, I was detained at a roadside, “safety” check on SwannanoaRiver Road. I was then interrogated regarding my whereabouts and destination. I feel that these checks are a flagrant violation of motorists’ fourth constitutional rights-illegal search and seizure. I respectfully told the officer that I was a free citizen and chose not to engage in his interrogation but that my vehicle had no safety violations, had recently been inspected, I had not been driving erratically(nor drinking), had proper registration and insurance as well as a current driver’s license. I was then told to pull into a vacant lot nearby and subjected to a field sobriety test. If I had refused, though I had had not a single drop of alcohol or was acting impaired in the least, I could have been jailed overnight of who knows what else which would have resulted in me being majorly inconvenienced and having to pay out big bucks(bail, attorney retainment). This gestapo like action is trumpeted to the public as a major deterrent to DWI and the net result; increased safety on the roadways. Yeah, right-sorry to say, research provides little support of this. Could the true purpose of these be to increase public coffers for non-moving violations. At what costs though?? Buncombe county’s finest

    • john q

      Just an fyi the dwi task force has no military equipment lol, it’s comical you try to act like you like the police but you immediately think a common suv Is a military vehicle because you are so blinded by hatred and rage. They drive ford suvs I think the ford edge to be correct. Also why are you so against police having vehicles which would protect them from gun fire?

  6. Dionysis

    Interesting. Of the 13 comments posted up to this point, they either challenged the veracity of the letter-writer regarding the DUI, or they opined about drinking and driving, or the heavy-handed and arbitrary behavior of cops.

    What’s missing is anything even remotely related to the actual question posed by the letter-writer: will Asheville continue to develop and promote a beer culture while concurrently clamping down on drinking while driving? How do other so-called ‘beer cities’ deal with the issue? The actual question seems timely and reasonable.

  7. Tracy Rose

    Xpress does try to keep printed letters to the editor in the 300-350 word range. But since there’s been so much reader interest in this issue, we’ve just posted the longer version of this letter online:

  8. Chad Hansen

    The DWI laws in North Carolina for controlled PRESCRIPTION medications are even WORSE than for alcohol, meaning that for controlled prescriptions (Ativan, Xanax, and many other commonly prescribed medications that in low doses do NOT cause impairment in the ability to operate motor vehicles safely), there is no set line or measurement where you are considered “impaired” versus “not impaired”, as there is for alcohol at over .08 impaired versus under .08 not legally impaired, so if an officer stops you and demands to know if you are taking any medications and you tell the truth, they can arrest you right on the spot, regardless if that medication was prescribed or not or whether you were actually physically impaired or not. It is then up to you, as the original writer has painfully pointed out, to prove to a district court judge, who has heard it all before and couldn’t careless about the truth in these cases and just wants to continue his or her high percentage of DWI convictions as bragging rights in his or her re-election campaign propaganda, that you were not impaired by your prescribed medication, at a cost of many thousand of dollars in attorney fees, etc. Unfortunately this happened to me recently and I have been told by the two top DWI attorneys in town that I will probably be convicted in district court because officers, even known liars and/or “exaggerators” are always believed by the district court judges regardless of the facts/the truth but, on appeal to superior court, where a trial by jury is allowed, a jury, that will have no political motives to convict, will most likely not convict when the facts are presented. Keep in mind that appeals to superior court cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 and can take up to two years. Still think DWI’s aren’t politically/cash motivated?

    I couldn’t careless about the reputation of this town as a beer destination or whatever it wants to bill itself as. What I do care about it overzealous officers trampling on the rights of citizens, local or not, for accolades and promotions, judges who are elected and therefore, constantly having to prove that they are “tough on crime” at the expense of truth/real justice, some well meaning attorneys who are also caught up in a corrupt system that is set up with the primary goal of extracting as much cash as possible from the poor schmucks who happened to have a taillight out or have a real accident that had nothing to do with being impaired in any way. And I care that the average citizen has no idea whatsoever that their legally prescribed medications, the same medications that are taken safely by millions of people every day in this county, can send them directly to jail without passing go on the whims of too young and too eager officers who’s only real concern is continuing to feed their syndicate of professional crooks and thieves a steady supply of fresh monied blood.

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