Driving under the influence (DUI) is when a person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Driving under the influence is a serious offense that can have serious consequences for both your driving and criminal records.
Every state has its own specific rules that define and penalize driving under the influence. Other names which a state may use to identify the offense of DUI include:
- DWI: Driving while intoxicated
- OUI: Operating under the influence
- OMVI: Operating a motor vehicle intoxicated
Can I Get a DUI If I Am Driving Something Other Than a Car?
Simply put, yes, you can get a DUI if you operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. State DUI laws can significantly differ from each other. It is possible to get a DUI for operating the following vehicles:
- Other farm equipment
- Golf cart
- Horse or horse-drawn carriage
What Substances are Included in DUI Laws?
Any substance that impairs an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely can be included in a state’s laws. This may also include legal substances.
Alcohol may be one of the most common substances that can lead to a DUI, but it’s important to remember that any substance that can impair or inhibit your coordination and cognitive abilities can lead to a DUI. Other substances which may lead to a DUI charge include:
- Illicit or illegal contraband drugs, such as:
- Other illegal drugs
- Prescription medication such as:
- Sleeping medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Some over-the-counter medicines, including antihistamines such as Benadryl.
If an individual is prescribed medications that come with a warning such as, “Do not take while operating heavy machinery,” it is likely that using this medication while driving could result in a DUI charge.
How Does the Police Determine a DUI?
When a driver is pulled over, and the law enforcement officer suspects they are intoxicated, they will ask the driver to test them. Common tests used by law enforcement during a traffic stop to determine if an individual is driving under the influence include:
- A field sobriety test occurs when a law enforcement officer asks a driver to step out of their vehicle and perform a series of activities designed to test their balance and agility. They may ask the driver to stand on one leg, take several steps and turn around, or attempt to bring their finger to their nose.
- A chemical breath test may be performed on-site or at a law enforcement station. This test is performed by a breathalyzer, which measures the concentration of alcohol.
- An individual may also request that a blood or urine test be performed, as these are often the most accurate. For these tests, the individual will be taken to a medical professional who will collect a specimen. A laboratory will then test it and the results will show the level of alcohol concentration.
What is Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
Auto-brewery syndrome is a rare medical condition in which a person’s digestive system creates intoxicating quantities of ethanol. That is the type of alcohol in whiskey, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. A specific type of yeast has been identified as the cause.
What occurs scientifically is that yeast overtakes the good bacteria in a person’s gut, and their gastrointestinal system ferments this material in the digestive tract. In effect, their digestive system turns into a small brewery. A person affected by auto-brewery syndrome does not have to drink any alcohol to have a high blood alcohol content because their own body is creating alcohol in their system.
Can I Show Signs Of Being Drunk If I Have This Condition?
Yes, you can show signs of intoxication if you experience auto-brewery syndrome. In fact, some symptoms that you may experience include:
- Slurred speech
- The odor of alcohol on your breath
- Excessive belching
- Dry mouth
These are the same symptoms exhibited by people who have consumed alcohol as usual.
Not only can you show outward signs of being drunk if you have this condition, but your blood alcohol level will be affected. Because the body is producing significant amounts of alcohol in the digestive system, you can actually have BAC test results that will indicate that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol, even if you haven’t touched a drink all day long.
Is It Possible to Treat and Manage Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
Auto-brewery syndrome is more likely to occur when a person with this condition has a large carbohydrate-rich meal (including pasta, bread or even the occasional sugary soda). Treatment for the condition may require a change in diet, requiring low levels of carbohydrates and high levels of proteins. However, because auto-brewery syndrome is so rare, some people may suffer symptoms without realizing they have the condition.
If you believe you suffer from auto-brewery syndrome, you may want to consult a physician for medical advice on treating the condition and keeping your digestive system balanced. There are many possible treatments besides keeping an eye on your diet, but it would be in your best interests to have the condition monitored by an experienced physician who can help you explore treatments that work best for your body.
What are the Possible Penalties for a DUI Conviction?
In most states, a first-time offense with a BAC level of 0.08% would be charged as a misdemeanor (a crime for which the maximum incarceration penalty is one year). If convicted, the driver will usually be ordered to pay fines and spend a short amount of time in a county jail. The court could also require that the defendant:
- Complete a set number of community service hours
- Suspension or revocation of the individual’s driver’s license
- Court-ordered alcohol or drug rehabilitation or attendance at support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous
- The cost of prosecuting the driver
- Installation of an ignition interlock device, which tests the level of alcohol in the driver’s breath and will prevent the car from starting if the offender has any alcohol on their breath
While a DUI is sometimes charged as a misdemeanor, it is possible to be charged with a felony DUI (a felony may be punished by at least one year of incarceration). Each state has different requirements for offenses that qualify to be charged as a felony DUI. However, generally, repeat offenders or individuals who injure or kill another individual while driving under the influence will face automatic felony DUI charges.
Do I Need to Talk to a Lawyer If I Am Facing a DUI?
If you are facing charges of driving while intoxicated, discussing the matter with a DUI lawyer is in your best interest.
An experienced lawyer can advise you on your rights and help you determine whether auto-brewery syndrome is an appropriate defense in your situation. If you do suffer from auto-brewery syndrome, your lawyer will work to have the charges of driving while intoxicated dropped.