Drunk driving, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are legal terms used in the United States, Canada, and Australia that refers to the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, including legal prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and cannabis.
These laws are in place to discourage driving and the consumption of alcohol/drugs, leading to improved roadway safety and public health.
Most states and municipalities prosecute DUI in three mutually exclusive ways. First, a conviction can be made based on a blood alcohol content (BAC) test administered at the arrest scene. The legal limit in all US states is currently .08%. This type of prosecution is called a "per se" DUI and requires that a BAC test is administered and the result exceeds the legal limit. Second, the arresting officer's observation and testing of the entire defendant's physical faculties including behavior, appearance, and speech can be used to establish that the defendant was under drugs or alcohol. This type of prosecution is called an arrest or field sobriety test DUI. Finally, the prosecution can seek to prove guilt based on a defendant's admission to having consumed alcohol or drugs or based on factual evidence from the scene of the arrest and reports of a blood alcohol test. This type of prosecution is called an admission, confession, or tangible evidence DUI.
This is generally a more complicated state for the prosecution to prove the driver is under the influence and has been able to show that the defendant was unsafe behind the wheel. The officers or witnesses will be called, other field sobriety tests may be administered, and a graphic representation of the car accident itself may be shown.
A person can be convicted for DWI even when they're never behind the vehicle's wheel. Since DWI is a violation, not a crime, the state needs only to present evidence of a person being in "actual physical control" of a vehicle while drunk. This can be proven with blood alcohol readings or other evidence and doesn't require a person to have driven the car to where they were found drunk.
DWI and DUI law is complex, but the consequences are severe. A conviction can result in jail time, fines, alcohol classes, a suspension of driving privileges, and many other problems. If you or a loved one faces arrest for DWI or DUI, you will need an experienced attorney to protect your rights. This blog identifies common aspects of DWI and DUI law that will affect you and tips on finding the right attorney.
If you plan to party tonight, you may want to rethink your drink.
Did you know that your blood alcohol content (BAC) can be checked anytime?
You could still end up in jail with a BAC of over 0.05%. And if you're a teenager, the legal driving limit is only 0.02%.
How high is that? Here are some examples:
- A 175-pound man would have to drink five beers in an hour to reach 0.05%.
- A 125-pound woman would have to drink three beers in 1 hour to go 0.05%.
- A 120-pound woman would only need two beers to get 0.05%.
So, what should you do if you don't want to end up in jail with a BAC of over 0.05%?
When a defendant is arrested for DUI or DWI, the prosecutor's office experiences a significant increase in workload. An arrest report is loaded with information. Evidence must be collected, and witnesses must be interviewed. The prosecutor's office must prepare for a preliminary hearing and a trial, which requires a lot of time and effort.
But a solid defense strategy that makes the prosecutor's case a bit weaker makes their job much more difficult. Prosecutors are wise to have a DUI defense attorney prepare their case in advance. A defense attorney can poke holes in the state's case by collecting evidence, cross-examining officers, and challenging search warrants.
The short answer is yes. But you may have a case.
DUI attorneys are also trained to find trends or deviations from protocol made by the arresting officer while conducting the field sobriety tests. These roadside maneuvers were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to detect intoxication, so they aren't able to be "back-engineered" to support opposing arguments, such as arguing sobriety. They are standardized, meaning they must be administered in precisely the same manner every time. The prosecution has built their case on the fact that the officer failed you. Even minor deviations by the arresting officer can be used to discredit their argument.
Blood alcohol testing is another way to prove that the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol. Blood alcohol content (BAC) can be measured by blood, breath, or urine.
Law enforcement can test the alcohol content in a driver's blood with several roadside tests (called "field sobriety tests") or bring it back to the police station. One of the most popular tests is the breath test at a police station. The reading may be inaccurate if the driver has been off-balance, unable to blow hard enough, or if the device wasn't calibrated correctly.
Blood alcohol testing is fertile ground for an attorney to find weak spots in a seemingly solid DUI case against the defendant.
Suppose you've been charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI); contacting an attorney is also a good idea. Prosecutors know that going up against a talented defense attorney will require significant resources, and they may be willing to offer a lenient sentence to avoid trial.
If your case does go to trial, you have a much better chance of winning with an experienced attorney at your side. An attorney in private practice instead of a prosecutor motivated to convict you with over 99 percent certainty is a highly winnable battle. And if a trial is necessary, an attorney will understand how to persuade the jury that each little problem with the state's case, considered together, adds up to "reasonable doubt."