Is high alcohol tolerance a good DUI defense?

In some ways, claiming that you have a high tolerance for alcohol might seem like a good DUI defense. After all, the idea is that if you can handle your liquor much better than the average person, you drive more safely too. It requires much more alcohol to get you too impaired to drive.

In fact, it is possible for an attorney to pursue high tolerance as a productive line of defense, and some do. However, high alcohol tolerance is not something you want to bring up to the arresting officer.

To police officers

One big thing to keep in mind if police pull you over is that you are under no obligation to answer questions. It is well within your rights to say something like "I choose not to answer" if the police ask you questions. This helps you avoid possibly incriminating yourself and saying something that may be erroneous or even untrue in a moment of panic. Claiming that you have high alcohol tolerance will likely not lead to police officers letting you go. In fact, it can further hurt you by showing you have a drinking history and possibly a drinking and driving history. Furthermore, the BAC cutoff begins at 0.08. If you have, say, a 0.10 BAC or a 0.15, a high alcohol tolerance claim really does not wash.

In court

If the court hears your case, your attorney may indeed decide to pursue a high alcohol tolerance defense, especially if your BAC was around 0.08 as opposed to 0.15. Alternatively, your attorney might decide to follow other avenues. This is because it can be a risky line of defense. Often, people who think they are alcohol tolerant and drive safely might not actually have been driving as safely as they thought. Some people in the court system also do not look down kindly on defendants who drive with a high BAC. There is no complete understanding yet of the effects of alcohol tolerance, so a lawyer might proceed with this defense only if the evidence is strong and similar arguments have done well in this particular court. 

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