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 on HG.org Related to DUI and DWI Law
- Ignition Interlock Devices: What You Need to KnowAn Ignition Interlock Device (“IID”) is a device that connects to a vehicle’s ignition and requires a breath sample from the driver in order to start the vehicle and to keep the car operating.
- DWI Over State Lines: Out-of-State Residents and DWIOne complication that can make handling a DWI much harder is when the defendant is from another state. This raises numerous issues that may not have simple answers. Every state has slightly different laws, and these laws can change at any time, so it is difficult to know how some of these issues may be resolved. We will separate common types of issues that arise when cases occur across state lines.
- Field Sobriety TestsBefore a driver can be arrested for a DUI offense, the investigating officer must be able to form a reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance. This will be based on the officer’s observations of the driver’s appearance and demeanor and information about drinking or drug use the driver voluntarily provides when asked.
- Reasonable Suspicion in DWI CasesLaw enforcement officers are adamant about cracking down on drunk drivers. But what is considered reasonable suspicion when making those stops? Reasonable suspicion can be complicated in DWI cases, but officers must believe some form of criminal activity has taken place before a stop can be made.
- DUI and the MilitaryOne frequent concern that those arrested for driving under the influence may have is what effect a DUI conviction would have on a potential military career.
- Why is Michael Phelps Going to Trial?For those of you who have not been following this story, let me catch you up. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete in modern history, was charged with his second DUI on September 20th, 2014.
- Missing a DUI Court DateWhen someone is arrested and cited for a DUI offense, the driver typically is released from jail the next morning and given a citation with a future court date. Generally, the arrested driver must sign a notice to appear showing that he or she is aware of the future court date and that he or she promises to appear in court on the scheduled arraignment date. Missing this court date can carry serious consequences.
- Is a DUI Fatality Manslaughter or Murder?A DUI accident that results in a fatality is a tragedy for all parties involved and their families. However, the particular factual circumstances surrounding the fatality will impact what type of criminal charges are ultimately filed.
- Is Texting While Driving Worse Than DUI?In today’s world Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Impaired is the poster child of the campaign against bad actors behind the wheel, and with good reason.
- When Is A DUI Considered a Second DUI in CaliforniaHow much time must pass between DUI convictions before a new charge is no longer considered a "second DUI"? Many people who have old DUI convictions on their record may not realize that the old conviction can be used to enhance the penalties on any subsequent conviction for driving under the influence. However, there is a limit to how long a prior DUI conviction can affect the mandatory sentencing requirements on a new DUI charge.
- All Criminal Law Articles
State Highway Safety Offices - DUI and DWI Laws
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
- 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)
- 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.
- Teenage Impaired Driving
NHTSA works to discourage impaired driving
Organizations Related to DUI and DWI Law
- Alcohol Problems and Solutions - Driving While Intoxicated (DWI/DUI) Law and Policy
- Governers Highway Safety Association
- Highway Safety Desk Book
- MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- National Motorists Association
- Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center
- Visual Detection of DWI Motorists