Often referred to as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), it is illegal in all fifty states to operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. DUI laws make it illegal to operate a vehicle if impaired by alcohol, drugs, prescribed medications and even over the counter drugs.
If a police officer stops a vehicle and suspects the driver may be under the influence, the cop will conduct a field sobriety test and ask for consent to a chemical test. Field sobriety tests may include having the driver walk a straight line, heel to toe; reciting the alphabet backwards; or the eye and penlight test. Many states allow the driver to choose which chemical test he or she would like to receive. Tests include a breathalyzer, urine test or blood test.
All states have implied consent laws that require drivers to submit to a test if suspected of a DUI or DWI. The logic of this DWI law assumes that by driving a vehicle on state road and highways, drivers have given their consent to DUI testing if a cop believes he or she is intoxicated. If a driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical test, penalties may include suspension of a license for six months to a year. Refusing a test may increase the penalty if eventually convicted for a DUI.
All 50 states have DUI laws that deem any driver “per se intoxicated” with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08. No additional proof of driving impairment is necessary in cases where the driver’s blood alcohol level is above. 08. All states also carry zero tolerance laws that apply to drivers under the legal drinking age.
A DUI conviction can carry penalties including fines, jail time, community service and probation. Many states have different minimum penalties for first time offenders, then increase penalties for each offense thereafter. Severity of the penalties vary according to whether the driver has a history of DUIs; whether a child was present in the vehicle; whether the DUI violation occurred with a moving violation; whether a car accident occurred; and whether a car accident resulted in property damage, injury or death.
In addition to criminal penalties, a DUI can severely impact driving privileges. Many states suspend a driver’s license of those with a blood alcohol level above .08 or those who refuse to take a breathalyzer test.
If you have been arrested for a DUI or DWI, you may need the help of a DUI lawyer. A skilled DWI attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected.