What Is Aggravated DUI?

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Aggravated DUI is a second type of "Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol" charge (DUI-DWI). Since an important 1964 Study from Grand Rapids, Michigan, the National Highway Traffic Administration has pushed all state legislatures to ADD a new, more punitive category of drunk driving offense, that is typically called aggravated DUI.

Simply stated, for arrested drunken drivers with a high BAC (0.15 grams percent or more blood alcohol content), such egregious offenses are to add DUI penalties such as longer driver's license suspension or revocation, more jail time, the requirement of an ignition interlock device, or similar DUI punishment BEYOND the standard driving drunk penalty for a first offense DUI (or other repeat

Because published traffic safety studies (overseen by the late Dr. Robert Borkenstein of Bloomington, IN) in the 1960s showed that drivers consuming alcoholic beverages who drive with a 0.08 grams percent BAC are (statistically) eight times more likely to be involved in a DUI accident, the federal government (through the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA) saw a need to boost DUI penalties. Plus, those with readings double that were 20 times as likely to be in a motor vehicle accident. Seeing these numbers, NHTSA has pushed for over 50 years for all states to more severely punish any drunk driving arrestee who has a BAC level above 0.15 grams percent. Using a carrot-and-stick approach, federal highway money has been withheld from states, when non-compliance occurred.

Known as “aggravated DUI” in in states like West Virginia and "extreme DUI" in Arizona this type of enhanced DUI statute increases mandatory DUI penalties, which include administratively revoking the driver’s license of such offenders for 45 days (in WV), followed by an option for the West Virginia licensee to get restricted driving privileges for 270 days, after getting an ignition interlock installation. The WV aggravated DUI statute also carries mandatory minimum jail time that is higher than the DUI first offender would fact with a lower BAC level.

These aggravated DUI WV penalties apply to a first DUI offense within 10 years. As in all states, punishment for DUI is GRADUATED upward, for any repeat offenders with another DUI in WV. Any 2nd DUI in WV incurs much stiffer penalties, for a second DUI offense , and pays an even heavier DUI penalty for being a3rd DUI in West Virginia, within 10 years.

License revocation penalties, including the length of a West Virginia license revocation, is controlled by the blood alcohol concentration level of the DUI driver when arrested, as collected on a breathalyzer of blood alcohol test. Under the WV code, W. Va. Code, § 17C-5A-2, the laws of West Virginia delineate persons under 0.08 grams percent, those between 0.08 grams % and no more than 0.15 grams %, and those drivers tested on a breathalyzer or blood test of 0.15 grams percent or over, which creates the aggravated definition.

All 50 states have some sort of enhancement of punishments for drivers with high breath alcohol content (BAC) readings. Most use 0.15 grams percent, but others (e.g,, Arizona’s “extreme DUI” uses 0.18 or higher) use a different BAC level reading to drastically increase punishments, for both criminal case penalties and administrative loss of driver license.

In several states (e.g., Idaho), a felony can be charged for an extreme DUI or aggravated DUI, especially if the person is a repeat offender.

States like Utah, Arizona, Missouri, and Illinois have some of the more onerous laws against driving while intoxicated, if the driver has reached about double the legal limit, for unrestrained ingestion of alcohol before or during driving.

Arizona’s DUI law prohibits “driving while under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor with an alcohol concentration.” The reported appeals discuss the efforts of DUI lawyers for the various accused drivers trying to mitigate mandatory increased punishment and DUI consequences, by seeking to exclude the alcohol breath test results.

By excluding breath test readings, the aggravated DUI charge would only be enforceable as a non-aggravated DUI. In some situations, the cases report what is called a “partially aggravated DUI.”

William C. Head is a criminal defense attorney and personal injury lawyer with 41 years of litigation experience. The Atlanta DUI lawyer has authored or co-authored over a dozen books, and is Board Certified by the ABA in DUI Defense. Best Lawyers in America, Martindale-Hubbell "av" preeminent, and Super Lawyers have recognized his expertise. More than 22 years ago, he started the National College for DUI Defense, and launched national DUI lawyer training for field sobriety tests and breath alcohol testing. The Georgia lawyer has handled over 200 appeals of criminal and civil cases.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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