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

DUI - Know Your Rights!

  • A Guide to DUI and DWI and the Law

    A DUI, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is one of the most common convictions in the United States. A DUI charge may cover a large range of situations, and will vary depending on the state it occurs in and the situation. Learn more about how a DUI charge is usually prosecuted, how to fight it, and how a lawyer can help you.

  • 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.

  • Understanding DUI Arrest

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 10,076 people died in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in 2013. This figure represents approximately 31 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in this country. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can pose a significant danger to the community. Whether you are involved in a DUI accident or you are wrongfully suspected of driving under the influence, this handbook helps explain your rights.

  • 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.


  • California DUI Law

    Driving under the influence in California has harsh penalties that can affect any driver of any age, but those that are under the age of 21 can face the most serious penalties when stopped by police officers. The DUI laws in this state explain what to expect, how officers will handle the perpetrator and which tests are necessary based on blood alcohol suspicions.

  • Guide to DUI Laws in California

    Laws concerning driving under the influence vary greatly state by state. California has it's own laws regarding complications of driving while on drugs, breathalyzer tests, civil damages available, and more.

  • Illinois DUI Laws

    Driving under the influence in Illinois can lead to charges for DUI with the potential of a conviction which can lead to severe penalties in the state and in the country. These punishments can include significant fines, privileges of driving revoked or suspended and the possibility of time in jail which can also lead to further complications for the person.

  • Texas DUI Laws

    The state of Texas takes driving under the influence seriously and will take the maximum possible penalties against the perpetrator when he or she faces a conviction for these offenses on the Texas roads. Texas may use a DUI or a DWI based on the influence of alcoholic drink or drugs with a driver in the state.

DUI and DWI Law Articles

  • If You Are Charged With a Misdemeanor in Texas
    While misdemeanors are less serious charges than felonies, this does not mean that a misdemeanor charge is inconsequential. A misdemeanor conviction can leave you facing serious fines and penalties – in addition to a range of social consequences that you may not have anticipated. If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, it is time to reach out for the professional legal guidance of an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney.
  • Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Georgia DUI Case among NW Georgia Attorneys
    If you need legal representation for a DUI or other criminal defense case in Georgia, it is crucial to limit your search to criminal defense attorneys. An experienced defense lawyer who is familiar with, and well-known, to the local court where your case is filed, may be crucial for you to obtain the best outcome for your criminal case. When choosing an attorney for criminal defense, consider his or her experience, track record, and recognition and "standing" in the legal community. If you look at national lawyers’ ratings directories, it seems that all the best criminal lawyers in Georgia are clustered in the major cities, but that is not necessarily true.
  • Arrested for Drunk Driving in Colorado - When Can I Get My License Back?
    An arrest for drunk driving in Colorado can come with serious penalties. Although state law considers a first, second and third offenses misdemeanors, a conviction can still come with jail time. In fact, a second offense can lead to a minimum of ten days in jail and a third at least 60 days in jail.
  • I Just Got a Colorado DUI - What Happens If I Already Have a Few on My Record?
    Getting pulled over after meeting up with co-workers at a happy hour or attending a family barbeque can result in allegations of drunk driving. The officer may smell some alcohol and move forward with the procedure for gathering evidence to support criminal charges for drunk driving. This is a frightening situation, especially for those who already have prior convictions for drunk driving on their record.
  • How It’s Still Possible to Get a Colorado DUI With a BAC Below 0.08
    Most people know that if they blow an alcohol concentration of 0.08 per 100 milliliters of blood that they will get charged with driving under the influence. However, many people are unaware that even blowing a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below 0.08 can still potentially result in a DUI in Colorado. This information may come as a surprise to many, but it is especially important for drivers to understand. As KOAA News reports, law enforcement agencies across the state are currently participating in the “Heat Is On” campaign, which will result in greater enforcement of DUI laws.
  • DUI and DWAI Penalties in Colorado
    Over the past several decades, the penalties that people around the country have faced for drunk driving offenses have changed as public sentiment about drinking and driving has evolved. In Colorado, the penalties have become increasingly harsh and even include penalizing those drivers with blood alcohol content levels below the 0.08 percent threshold that is used to determine legal intoxication.
  • A 4th DUI Is Not Always a Felony Under Colorado Law
    Colorado statutes concerning driving under the influence get progressively worse based on the number of previous convictions a defendant has. Typically, the court will punish a first offense with probation. Jail time is not off the table, but it is not a common punishment for a standard DUI case.
  • Countries You Cannot Enter If You Have a DUI
    Did you know that an intoxication-related offense can make it very difficult for you to enter certain countries – even if you are not convicted? This article covers what countries you can’t go to with a DUI, a DWI, or other serious intoxication-related offense. Driving under the influence (DUI) is another term used outside of Texas to refer to the same offense we call a DWI or Driving While Intoxicated. For this article, the term DUI and DWI is used interchangeably – although it is a different offense in Texas. DUI is a serious offense that can have severe consequences, including jail time, fines, and the loss of a driver’s license. A DUI conviction can also result in being barred from entering certain countries.
  • Do I Need a Georgia Lawyer to Handle My Traffic Accident Ticket?
    Many people make a huge mistake by not consulting legal counsel after receiving a traffic ticket. Because some states have "infractions" that just amount to a financial penalty, or possibly possibly also adding "points" to their history, many states only have misdemeanor crimes. Georgia is one of those states. Also, in motor vehicle crashes, of any type, going to court alone can be a nightmare. Issues like having no insurance or insufficient insurance coverage to pay for the loss can turn into a financial mess that cannot be fixed. Such cases do not merely need a cheap fix, if civil liability follows the low cost legal help that many opt to use.
  • Should You Challenge a Misdemeanor Traffic Ticket in Georgia?
    Many Georgia traffic offenses may not seem like a big deal. The simple solution seems to be “pay it” in advance, online, and never bother going to Municipal Court. Penny-wise and pound-foolish, as the idiomatic British phase warns. In states like Georgia, every moving violation while behind the wheel of any motor vehicle is a crime. Georgia categorizes all motor vehicle tickets as misdemeanors. The reason alone justifies consulting a traffic lawyer near me in Georgia, or at least discussing the cost-benefit analysis of legal representation.
  • All Criminal Law Articles

Find a Lawyer