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Drunk Driving

Drunk driving refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicant, including drugs. The act of driving drunk, or while under the influence, is extremely dangerous and is often a cause of accidents and even fatalities. When someone drinks alcohol, their reaction-time becomes impaired. Alcohol consumption affects a person’s judgment, their concentration level, their ability to comprehend and make informed decisions, and it also affects their visual activity.

Driving Under the Influence is represented by the acronym DUI, or DWI, which refers to Driving While Intoxicated. The terms DUI and DWI refer to the crime of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because drunk driving affects a person’s ability to drive safely, and it puts other people on the road in danger as well, it is considered a criminal offense in the eyes of the law. Many countries around the world punish offenders by high fines and prison sentences if they drink and drive and are caught by the authorities. If the drunk driving incident involves a fatality, the penalties, fines and prison sentences increase significantly.

Different states use different terms to refer to drunk driving. Some states use the term DWI or Driving While Intoxicated, while others use the term OWI, or Operating While Intoxicated. Still, others use the term OUI, or Operating Under the Influence while others use the term DWAI, or Driving While Ability Impaired. The general term used by most states is DUI, or Driving Under the Influence.

How is a Person’s Intoxication Level Measured?

A driver’s intoxication level is determined by their Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC. This is a standard measure to determine the concentration of alcohol in the blood stream of an individual. The person’s blood alcohol level is measured as mass per volume. For example, if someone records a BAC of 0.02%, it means that they have 0.02 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of blood. The legal blood alcohol limits are different in different countries. In the United States, each state had its own legal blood alcohol level limit for driving. Usually, in most states, the legal limit allowed for driving is 0.08%, which means it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in the United States.

Consuming alcohol or drugs before driving is strictly prohibited as it increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries and vehicular deaths. The more alcohol is consumed, the higher the person’s chance to be involved in an accident. According to statistics, approximately 17,600 people died in traffic crashes due to the involvement of alcohol in 2006, whereas over 1.46 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the United States.

How is a person’s intoxication level determined?

When a driver is pulled over for driving while under the influence, or when they show signs of possible intoxication, law enforcement officials will use a variety of methods to determine their level of intoxication. First of all, they will ask the driver to submit to field sobriety tests. These are standard tests which include the walk and turn test, one leg stand, walking on a straight line, also called heel to toe, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. After the field sobriety tests, the officer will ask the driver to submit to a breathalyzer test.

A breathalyzer is a hand-held device which requires the person to blow into it by providing a breath sample. The breathalyzer test measures the percentage of alcohol present in the person’s system at the time of testing. If the driver is unable to give any of these tests properly, the officer may take them to the station where they will have to submit to other chemical tests such as a blood draw or a urine test. The officer may also take another breath sample to test the driver’s BAC level at the station. Most states have Implied Consent Laws in place that require drivers to submit to a chemical test when law enforcement officers have probable cause to believe that they may be driving under the influence.

Legal Consequences of Driving Under the Influence

When the person registers a BAC over 0.08% on the breathalyzer, or when they are visibly intoxicated, they will face criminal charges which carry legal consequences. The penalties associated with drunk driving include the following:

  • Suspension of the driver’s license
  • Jail sentencing
  • Confiscating license plates of their vehicle
  • Vehicle impounding or immobilization
  • Completion of an alcohol education program
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
  • Probation
  • Court fines and fees
  • Requirement of SR-22 insurance
  • Drug or alcohol rehabilitation program

Even after meeting all the court ordered penalties, the DUI will remain on the person’s criminal record, unless they hire a qualified DUI defense attorney to have the criminal conviction expunged or sealed. Repeat offenders face harsher penalties and higher fines. Similarly, if the accident involved a fatality, or serious personal injury to an individual, a much higher jail sentence may be imposed. Subsequent DUI charges can even result in several years in jail.

Contact a DUI Defense Attorney

A DUI charge should not be taken lightly. If the charge turns into a conviction, it will stay on your criminal record for the rest of your life. A DUI conviction on your record can change your life. There are a number of negative implications associated with a DUI conviction, which can affect you for years to come. You will not only face problems getting a good job, but you will also have to face ongoing humiliation as your name will be published as a criminal offender on websites and may even be published in the news. You will also have to face loan and mortgage limitations, federal funding limitations as well as the possibility of losing child custody.

Whatever the case, if you have been charged with a DUI, you must consult with a DUI defense attorney immediately to have the charges reduced or dropped.


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