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

  • Yes, You Can Get A Dallas Driving While Intoxicated Arrest Expunged
    If you are arrested for a DWI it is public record. Anybody can go to the court clerk’s office and request a copy of a person’s court records. It does not matter if the arrest resulted in a final conviction. In order to stop the public from having access to these records,the record of a DWI arrest must be expunged or “erased.”
  • What to Do if You Cannot Afford to Pay Your Driving While Intoxicated Surcharge
    A DWI conviction is one of the most expensive offenses that a person can be charged with. One of the things that makes it so expensive is the fact that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) assesses a three year penalty called a surcharge for every individual convicted an offense that stems from operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
  • Three Advantages to Being Sentenced to Jail Instead of Probation for DWI
    If you and your attorney have analyzed your case and determined that it is not one that is suitable for pleading not guilty and going to trial then you must next start thinking about punishment options. The two main options are jail vs. probation. Let’s face it nobody wants to go to jail. But, sometimes it is more advantageous to go to jail for a DWI than it is to do probation. Each situation has to be analyzed. There are no one size fits all solutions.
  • Do I Have to Have an Interlock Device if Convicted of Driving While Intoxicated
    Maybe. Whether or not you have to have an interlock device if you are convicted of a DWI, Interlock Device depends on whether you are a first time offender, repeat offender, or had a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or above.
  • Driving While Intoxicated Education Programs
    If a person is convicted of a DWI they are “required” to take a DWI education program.
  • How To Overcome Driving While Intoxicated Blood Test Results Obtained Without Your Consent
    Does a police officer have to have a person’s consent to draw their DWI Blood Test Without Consent if they are being arrested for DWI.
  • 10 Ways Your Driving While Intoxicated Blood Test Result Can Be Wrong
    You just got your blood test results from your DWI arrest. You were expecting to see a number below the legal limit of .08. But, the number you see is more than twice the legal limit.
  • Recent DUI Statistics Reveal Ongoing Problem
    DUI accidents are the most preventable type of car accidents; however statistics for DUI accidents remains shocking.
  • Challenging DUI Test Results
    In addition to the testimony of the arresting officer’s observations, the prosecution may introduce evidence during a DUI trial regarding test results that implicate the defendant. However, a number of test results may be challenged during the course of the defense.
  • DUI Defenses
    Consequences for DUI convictions, especially subsequent convictions, can be quite serious, resulting in a loss of freedom, hefty fines, loss of driving privileges and social and professional consequences. A DUI defense lawyer can discuss whether any of the following defenses may apply in your case to help you get your charges reduced or even your case dismissed completely.
  • 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