Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is a leading cause of road accidents in the US. Arrests for DUI are more than the combined arrests for murder, rape, burglary, and aggravated assault, Federal Bureau of Investigation data reveals. Different regions in the US deal with drunken driving differently with areas like South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming ranking higher in the list of criminal arrests for DUI. The state of Arizona has the strictest DUI law and is followed by Georgia which also outlines harsh penalties and jail terms for the offenders. To avoid being charged under the DUI law, one should be aware of the law in their state. Also, if a person has been charged with DUI, consultation with an expert lawyer is recommended to understand the nature and the impact of the charges.
What is DUI Law?
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other impairing drugs is considered a crime in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. A person charged with DUI or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) is considered innocent until proven guilty. And once the guilt is established the penalty is decided based on the applicable state law as well as the nature and extent of accident and injuries resulting due to DUI or DWI.
Charges under DUI law range from misdemeanors to felony offenses with wide-ranging penalties that can include revocation of the driver’s license, fines, and jail time. Some US states even require offenders to install ignition interlock devices at the driver’s own expense. This device is a breath test device that is connected to the vehicle’s ignition and the vehicle cannot be operated unless the driver blows into it and the result is a BAC below the pre-set low limit, usually 02 g/dL.
Most US states prohibit drivers younger than 21 years old to drive even with a small amount of alcohol in their bodies. Offenses by youngsters may not result in jail but can lead to license suspension and severe fines.
Circumstances Leading to DUI Arrest
Authorities can charge a driver with drunken driving or driving under the influence in several situations. An expert defense lawyer can help you understand the charges and their implications. Some situations that can lead to DUI arrest are:
- Probable Cause for Intoxication – If an officer has probable cause to believe that a person is intoxicated, he/she can place you under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Probable causes can be the presence of empty alcohol containers in the vehicle.
- Presence of a Crime – An officer can make an arrest if he or she sees a person driving rashly and an investigative breath test indicates that your blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit.
- Checks Reveal Intoxication – An officer can also make an arrest if you are stopped for a speed violation, or a faulty headlight and the routine check raises suspicion of you being intoxicated.
- Outstanding Warrant – If a person is the subject of a valid warrant for arrest, no further suspicion of wrongdoing is required.
- In most US states, a first offense is classified as a misdemeanor and punishable by six months or a year in jail. The amount of time a person spends in Jail for a DUI conviction largely depends on the number of prior convictions and factors like the damage caused. Some states outline severe punishments for DUI offenders if their blood alcohol concentration is very high at the time of their arrest.
- The Jail time may be greater in the case of the second and subsequent DUIs.
- And when a DUI or DWI has been classified as a felony because the driver killed or injured someone, or the driver has several prior DUI convictions- prison sentences of several years are given. The exact sentence varies from one state to another and depends on the facts of the case.
- DUI Convictions also result in fines whose quantum depends on several factors.
In the case of drivers who refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test, the authorities can suspend the license for a long period.
The amount of jail term for DUI offenses depends on several factors:
- The driver’s prior record
- The level of intoxication
- Whether there was a collision and whether there was an injury to another person.
- Whether there was a passenger or a child in the vehicle
- Whether the offender accepts responsibility for his/her actions
A DUI conviction is likely to stay in the convicted person’s driving record for several years. To deal with a DUI charge and conviction one should consult an experienced lawyer for the right guidance and for making timely appeals.