DUI Law - DWI Law - Drunk Driving Law
What is DUI / DWI Law?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) law, also referred to as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) law, refers to state statutes and municipal ordinances that make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle after consuming a specified amount of alcohol. These cases are criminal in nature, although they can involve civil penalties, such as a suspension of driving privileges. DUI laws often include prohibitions against driving under the influence of controlled substances as well.
Most states prosecute drunk driving in three ways. First, a conviction can be based on the amount of alcohol in the defendant’s blood, as measured immediately following the arrest. The legal limit in all states is currently .08%, with lower limits for commercial drivers and minors. This type of prosecution is called a “per se” DUI. It requires only that the state prove that a blood alcohol content test was administered, and that the result exceeded the legal limit.
The second type of DUI prosecution occurs when the defendant’s blood alcohol content is not available, or does not exceed the legal limit. In such cases the state must prove that the driver consumed alcohol to a degree that rendered him or her unsafe behind the wheel. This is a more difficult burden for the state to meet. At trial, the state will try to prove its case using officer testimony, witness statements, field sobriety test results, and audio/video recordings.
A third, less common method of prosecution requires the state to show the defendant was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. This can be proven with blood alcohol readings or other evidence, but unlike other prosecutions, the defendant need not have driven. A conviction can result based only on the fact that the defendant exercised control over the vehicle. Usually, this means sitting in the driver’s seat with possession of the keys.
In addition to jail time, fines, alcohol classes, and other penalties, those arrested for DUI or DWI also face suspension of their driver’s license. In most jurisdictions, a suspension will result either from a conviction, or for failing a blood alcohol test (even if the defendant is acquitted or charges are reduced). The same constitutional protections that exist in criminal court do not apply here, making it especially important to hire an attorney to handle the matter.
Avoiding a Drunk Driving Conviction
Criminal defense attorneys use a number of tactics to defeat DUI or DWI charges. In fact, from the prosecutor’s standpoint, the case becomes much more difficult the moment the defendant retains counsel. A motion for “discovery” will be filed immediately, requiring the state to turn over all evidence in its possession. Then, based on the information obtained, the attorney will prepare a defense by systematically poking holes in the state’s case.
To begin with, there may be issues surrounding the traffic stop. It is unconstitutional for an officer to stop a vehicle to investigate for DUI without reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation is taking place. If the officer cannot articulate the reasons for the stop in a way that meets this legal standard, an attorney may be able to suppress all evidence collected as a result of the stop, effectively making the state’s case impossible to prove.
DUI lawyers are also trained to find 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. They are standardized, meaning they must be administered in precisely the same manner every time. Even slight irregularities by the officer can be used to discredit the prosecution’s case.
Blood alcohol testing is also fertile ground for an attorney to find weak spots in a seemingly solid DUI case against the defendant. Law enforcement can test the alcohol content of a driver’s blood several ways, but the most common evidence used in court is the results of a breath test given at the police station. While more reliable than handheld units, these breath testing machines can be inaccurate, especially if improperly operated, maintained, or calibrated.
Driver’s accused of DUI or DWI will also find the services of an attorney invaluable when it comes to plea bargaining. 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. And if a trial is necessary, a DUI lawyer will understand how to persuade the jury that each little problem with the state’s case, considered together, adds up to “reasonable doubt.”
If you have been arrested for DUI, the time to hire an attorney is now. Action must be taken right away to avoid a suspension of your license, and to protect your constitutional rights. Consultations are usually free and without obligation.
Know Your Rights!
- Can I Get Breathalyzed On My Boat?
Most of us are familiar with the concept of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI), but how do these translate to boating? Is it illegal to boat while drunk? If one is cited for boating under the influence, will that affect their driving license? Can you be given a breathalyzer on your boat?
- Intoxication Can Be Illegal in Circumstances Other than DUI
We all know the dangers of intoxication or drug use before getting behind the wheel of a car, but when else can intoxication be against the law? It might surprise you to know that there are ways to commit DUI without even being in a car.
- What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI?
Both DUI and DWI have made their way into our common speech, but often we forget exactly what they mean. Moreover, there is often confusion over the distinction between a DUI or a DWI that can be enhanced by the variations between differing jurisdictions.
- What to do if You Get Stopped for a DUI or DWI
This is a step-by-step guide as to what you should do if you get pulled over for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or a DWI (Driving While Impaired). This is not a substitute for using common sense and avoiding behavior that might put you in jeopardy of being stopped for a DUI or a DWI.
Articles Related to DUI and DWI Law
- DUI Offenses Explained FurtherIn states where a breathalyzer test or blood test is used as evidence, it is possible to be penalized with harsher punishments when conviction of a DUI occurs. A driver may fail both tests showing an assumption of guilt. In some states, the refusal of taking tests in the field is enough to arrest him or her.
- Explanation of Field Sobriety TestsWhen making an arrest based on a DUI charge, the officer making the arrest must decide through his or her own surveillance whether or not the suspect is illegally inebriated. Field sobriety tests are some of the ways officers may decide if impairment is at issue.
- DUI Considered a Second OffenseIn most states, a specific amount of time is allotted to when a second DUI is committed and only considered a first offense. However, other states have more strict traffic laws that determine a longer amount of time must pass. It is important to know the laws of the state the person is driving through or residing in to avoid charges of DUI offenses.
- DUI Laws - Questions AnsweredDriving under the influence arrests and charges are confusing and lengthy and may end in a license suspension or prison time with potential additional fines. In some states, the laws do not require a suspect to take the field sobriety tests officers often ask in making a DUI arrest.
- Retrograde Extrapolation ExplainedRetrograde extrapolation is the technical term and method for determining whether someone was intoxicated at the time of arrest even when testing is completed at a later time. Often in driving under the influence cases, suspects are not tested for their blood alcohol level at the time of accident or arrest. Retrograde extrapolation helps decide if the suspect was actually illegally drunk behind the wheel, though the test results may show a lower blood alcohol level once in police custody.
- DUI Felony ChargesDriving while under the influence (DUI) is a broad spectrum of charges and until recently was only considered a misdemeanor in many states, including the state of Colorado. However, now certain classes of this charge can be considered a felony, which has its own set of sanctions to follow. A felony DUI can occur in most states when a suspect has a record of at least three driving under the influence charges over a lifetime.
- DUI Felony Bill DetailsBefore new laws, all DUI cases were charged as misdemeanors in some states, unless someone was killed in a DUI accident. However, now individuals in many states who have prior conviction records may be charged with a felony DUI that issues two to six years in prison instead of the usual one year.
- DUI Explained in DetailDUI stands for driving under the influence, of drugs or alcohol, and covers an extensive range of charges and situations. Driving under the influence is strictly prohibited in any method of transportation. The officer who stops the driver usually has the discretion to make this arrest.
- Supreme Court Addresses Breathalyzer TestsThe U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a North Dakota DUI law making it a crime to refuse a “deep-lung” breath test is unconstitutional.
- Athens GA DUI Driver in Felony Homicide by Vehicle Case Highlights High Risk for Recreational Marijuana UsersBecause marijuana use requires several days to be eliminated from the user's body, many marijuana users risk Felony Homicide by Vehicle and Felony Serious Injury charges when an accident occurs and blood tests show the mere presence of marijuana or other controlled substance (drug that requires a doctor's prescription). Hundreds of thousands of drivers whose daily recreational marijuana use creates the risk of lengthy state prisons sentences when a fatality occurs when they are driving.
- All Criminal Law Articles
DUI Law Handbook
- What to Know about DUI
Whether you are involved in a DUI accident or you are wrongfully suspected of driving under the influence, this handbook helps explain your rights.
State Highway Safety Offices - DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI Law - US
- Alcohol Ignition Interlocks
Of the 1.4 million impaired driving arrests each year, one third involve repeat offenders.
- Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS)
Alcohol-related policies in the United States at both State and Federal levels
- Alcohol Problems and Solutions - Driving While Intoxicated (DWI/DUI) Law and Policy
Public and educational policies and legislation designed to prevent alcohol abuse are evaluated here on the basis of scientific research evidence.
- Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits
- Dangers of Drinking and Driving
When putting those keys in the ignition and driving away after drinking you are not only putting your life at risk but you are risking the lives of all those you come across while driving.
- DUI / DWI Laws
- DWI / DUI Penalties
Minimum penalties for repeat offenders.
- Field Sobriety Testing
The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST)
- Impaired Driving
NHTSA works to discourage impaired driving
- Legal Drinking Ages around the World
The legal drinking age for different countries varies dramatically, from zero to 21, as seen in the following table.
- National College for DUI Defense (NCDD)
Non-profit corporation dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to the dissemination of information to the public about DUI Defense Law.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) - Impaired Driving
- Sentencing Guidelines for DWI Offenders
- Sobriety Checkpoints
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services.