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.

Copyright HG.org

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 on HG.org Related to DUI and DWI Law

  • Should I Hire a DUI Lawyer?
    Although some individuals may opt not to hire an attorney to handle their DUI case, there are several situations in which a defendant can benefit from having a private attorney. Here are some issues to consider when making this important decision.
  • Preliminary Screening for DUI
    Traffic stops by law enforcement are serious business. More often than not, motorists are pulled over because of driving infractions and/or traffic violations.
  • New York DWI FAQs
    If you’ve violated DWI in NY, the repercussions can be staggering; a negative impact on your career, increased insurance premium costs, personal and family embarrassment and a ruined driving record which can take years to repair. We’d like to share some of the common DWI questions.
  • Ban the Box Law and Criminal Convictions' Effect on Employment
    For decades, virtually every employment application included the common question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” It did not matter if it was a misdemeanor or perhaps a more serious offense that resulted in spending time in prison.
  • Why You Need a DUI Attorney When Pulled Over for Suspicion of Driving Under the Influence
    Have you recently been pulled over for suspicion of DUI? Have you been charged with DWI or DUI? If so, it's imperative that you retain the services of an experienced DUI attorney right away.
  • Major Changes to DUI Laws in New Jersey
    A proposed bill that will drastically change current DUI penalties has passed New Jersey’s state Senate and needs only to be approved by Governor Christie before becoming law.
  • New Jersey Statute of Limitations for Criminal Charges
    Each state has its own statute of limitations in which to formally charge an individual with a crime.
  • Colorado's Felony DUI Bill
    Under Colorado law a DUI or DWAI offense is a misdemeanor. Circumstance surrounding the offense could lead for felony changes; but the drunken driving offense itself is always a misdemeanor. Legislation currently in the Colorado House of Representatives looks to change that.
  • Your Rights When Stopped by Police
    When an individual is stopped by the police it can be an overwhelming experience, especially when there is the possibility of criminal charges.
  • Warratless Blood Draw in DUI Investigation
    In Missouri v. McNeely, the United States Supreme Court decided that a blood draw is a search which is protected under the Fourth Amendment.
  • All Criminal Law Articles

State Highway Safety Offices - DUI and DWI Laws

DUI and DWI Law - US

Organizations Related to DUI and DWI Law


Find a Local Lawyer