Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense. The consequences can be quite severe. Depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case, penalties can range from any one or a combination of the following: monetary fines, required community service hours, mandatory treatment program, license suspension, license revocation to jail time.
All drivers are subject to the rules of the road, including impaired driving laws. It is against the law to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. The laws and penalties associated with driving under the influence (DUI) vary from state-to-state. In other jurisdictions DUI is also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI) or operating under the influence (OUI).
DUI and Alcohol
As a general rule, a person that is over the age of 21, driving an automobile in the United States with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher is considered legally drunk. There is a zero tolerance policy across the country for underage drinking, thus, the consequences may differ under such circumstances.
A blood test or breathalyzer test can measure and determine the BAC level of an individual. Depending on where one lives, the charges and penalties can be stiffened or aggravated if the BAC registers well above the 0.08 percent threshold.
DUI and Drugs
It is also illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs, including marijuana. While some states have legalized marijuana, it is still against the law to drive and be impaired by marijuana. Law enforcement officials suspecting drug or alcohol use by a driver may employ field sobriety tests to gauge a person’s ability to properly function behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Drug levels in a person’s body can be determined through blood as well as urine tests.
The use of alcohol and drugs can affect people differently. Factors such as a person’s weight and diet can vary the way a drink or drug react from one individual to the next. On average though, a person that weighs approximately 150 pounds and drinks four beers in an hour will reach the 0.08 percent BAC threshold. With a 0.08 percent BAC, an individual has challenges with controlling the speed of their vehicle, trouble reasoning, and difficulty processing information.
If that same person that weighs 150 pounds drinks seven beers in an hour, that will elevate their BAC to 0.15 percent. At this heightened BAC level, a driver will have serious issues being able to control their vehicle and stay focused on the road.
Drugs, including legally prescribed drugs, can alter one’s judgement when driving. Marijuana use may impair a person while driving because it can make them sleepy, alter their memory, confuse their sense of timing and impact their reaction time.
As noted earlier, penalties for DUI can vary. These punishments can include any of the following: monetary fines, required community service hours, mandatory treatment program, license suspension, license revocation to jail time. Factors surrounding the case will play into how a judge determines penalties.
This can include:
- The BAC level;
- The DUI is a first time offense;
- The individual is a repeat offender;
- The type of vehicle being driven (e.g., automobile, commercial vehicle, school bus, etc.)
- There was a child in the vehicle at the time of the offense;
- As a result of the DUI, there was an accident causing injuries; as well as
- Other factors that impact the case.
It is important to note that in some instances the reliability of a DUI test may be questionable. It can be argued that field sobriety tests (e.g., walking a straight line, touching finger to nose, etc.) are subjective to the law enforcement officer that performs the test. In general, blood tests are typically more reliable than a breath test to determine sobriety.
However, the accuracy of these tests, including a blood test, can be questioned. Human error is always a possibility when processing results. Some devices and machines may be less accurate due to an inherent design flaw or malfunction.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, DWI or OUI, it is imperative to contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. A DUI charge is a serious offense with serious consequences.
There are many factors that can influence whether or not penalties will be imposed on a DUI charge. Each case is unique and it is important to have sound legal representation to assist with all legal aspects that stem from the charges.