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Driving under the influence of alcohol is a problem in every state in the U.S. According to the Center For Disease Control or CDC, the annual cost of alcohol related crashes in the United States exceeds $44 billion. In fact, 28 people die every day in car accidents where at least one driver was intoxicated. Below is an overview of DUI/DWI laws and how it affects those who are charged with it. If you or someone you love is facing driving under the influence charges, it may benefit you to speak with a lawyer for advice.
The Definition Of Driving Under The Influence
Driving under the influence is defined as operating a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol, taking legal or illegal drugs or the combination of the two, no matter what the blood alcohol level of the defendant is measured at. For prosecutors to prove a defendant was operating a vehicle under the influence these elements must be present:
- The Defendant Controlled A Vehicle By Steering And Operating It
- The Defendant’s Ability To Operate The Vehicle Was Diminished By The Ingestion Of Alcohol Or Drugs
Each person reacts to the consumption of alcohol or drugs differently. Some people may appear impaired after just a few drinks, while others have a higher tolerance and are able to function appropriately. However, every state in the United States is presumed to be operating under the influence is their blood alcohol content or BAC is over .08 percent.
Types Of Drunk Driving Charges
- BAC Over .08 Percent Or Higher
It is a crime to operate a vehicle of any type with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher, no matter if the driver seems impaired or not.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or DUI is the same as driving while intoxicated in all 50 states.
- Felony DUI
Felony DUI or felony DWI is the most serious of all driving under the influence charges. This charge is often used in those who have repeated infractions or who have injured someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Blood Alcohol Levels Explained
No matter which state you live in, you are considered impaired and are driving under the influence if your BAC is over .08 percent. Most states require drivers to consent to field sobriety tests such as a breathalyzer test, when the obtain a drivers license. Refusing to take a field sobriety test results in the automatic suspension of driving privilege for at least 1 year. In order to be found guilty of driving under the influence while driving with a BAC over .08 percent, the prosecutor must prove that:
- The Accused Was Driving The Vehicle
- Alcohol Was Measured In The Blood At Over The Legal Limit Of .08 Percent
Many states have a zero BAC content law for drivers who are not of the legal drinking age of 21. These drivers can be charged with DUI/DWI for driving with any measurable alcohol level present.
Penalties And Punishment
The penalties and punishment for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs varies from state-to-state. Penalties are determined by the establishment of guilt during a trial, as well as extenuating factors such as personal injury or behavior at the time of arrest. While penalties do vary, most states use punishment for this offense such as:
Courts can order defendants found guilty of DUI to pay fines that range from $500.00 to $2,000.00.
- Jail Time
In all 50 states, driving under the influence comes with mandatory jail time, even for first offenders. While most offenders spend just a few days in jail for a first offense, those who have very high BAC levels or who injure someone may be looking at jail time ranging from a few months to 1 year.
- Alternative DUI Punishment
Some judges will order alternative forms of punishment for those who are convicted of driving under the influence or those who agree to a plea bargain in exchange for a reduced sentence. Some types of alternative punishment may include:
- Performing A Certain Number Of Community Service Hours
- Undergoing Alcohol Dependency Counseling
- Paying Restitution To The Victim
If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is in your best interest to speak with a criminal defense attorney for advice. During a consultation, your attorney will examine your case and let you know the best way to proceed. Having an experienced defense attorney can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety associated with every DUI/DWI case.