Throughout the United States, DUI (driving under the influence) is a criminal offense that involves serious legal consequences. A DUI conviction, even for first time offenders, can result in high fines, jail time, probation, license suspension and alcohol education classes.
So what exactly is “driving under the influence”? Depending on the jurisdiction, DUI may be referred to with different names such as driving while impaired (DWI), operating a motorized vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI) or driving while intoxicated (also DWI). Texas and New York most commonly refer to drunk driving as DWI, but other states, like California, refer to it as DUI.
Although most of us think of driving as exercising control over a car, some jurisdictions may consider it illegal not only to drive down the road, but also to sit in the driveway with the motor running. So, depending on your state, DUI may not be limited to a “vehicle in motion”. Regardless of the name, it is a serious criminal offense in all states.
Many drivers who are arrested for DUI do not take their charges seriously enough. Many drivers try to defend themselves in court without understanding the full legal ramifications of a DUI conviction. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact a DUI divorce lawyer. Hiring the right DWI attorney can help you fight your DUI charges.
What is driving under the influence?
State laws vary, but in most states, driving under the influence or DUI can be defined as any of the following:
- Operating a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater
- Operating a motorized vehicle while under the influence of alcohol/drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs
- Operating a motorized vehicle with any amount of illegal drug in one’s system
Per se laws make it illegal in every state to operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. Drivers whose blood alcohol concentration or BAC is over this legal limit can be arrested, even if their driving actions were not considered reckless or illegal.
Drivers in all states may also be arrested if their BAC is less than the legal limit if a police officer has evidence that their driving may endanger themselves or others. Evidence can be gathered from a chemical test, but if the officer determines a driver cannot safely operate the vehicle, they can make a DUI arrest even if the blood, breath or urine test is within the legal limit.
Evidence that a driver may be unable to safely drive can be collected from a field sobriety test or from an officer’s observation of the driver, including alcohol on the breath, slurred speech and stumbling.
Identifying Drivers who are DUI
Drivers arrested for DUI, OUI, OWI, or DWI may be asked to submit to a chemical test. Many drivers do not realize that under their state’s Implied Consent Laws they have already given their “implied consent” to submit to a chemical test if they are arrested for DUI.
What if the driver refuses to take the chemical test? Drivers who refuse or who fail the chemical test face additional Administrative penalties and may have their driver’s license suspended or revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles in a separate administrative action which is separate from all DUI criminal charges.
Whether to refuse a chemical test is an important decision and sometimes the consequences of a refusal are more serious than a DUI conviction. Some states also allow the DUI chemical test refusal to be used against them at their DUI trial to demonstrate “consciousness of guilt.”
Ideally, drivers would have the ability to talk to a DUI lawyer prior to making their decision to submit to a chemical test, but in most states this is not allowed.