Driving under the influence (DUI) means having prohibited alcohol in your system while driving a vehicle. Any person who violates the maximum legal limit could be prosecuted for and convicted of DUI.
Different jurisdictions have similar limitations when it comes to permissible alcohol levels. However, there are further limitations on minors, professional drivers, commercial drivers, and those drivers with a restricted driver’s license. You can see how they differ from each state; some states even have a zero-tolerance policy.
What Are The DUI Penalties?
Penalties for a DUI conviction vary in each state. If the alcohol level exceeds the permitted amount, there will be graver punishments. This is frequently referred to as an aggravated DUI or extreme DUI. The punishments for any driver convicted of this could be increased fines, suspensions, or jail time. The driving licenses can be revoked, which is more common in other states.
Typically, when a driver is charged with a DUI, it involves two hearings. One hearing deals with the criminal court, and the other with an administrative driver’s license office. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will primarily handle those administrative hearings.
All states have implied consent laws for chemical testing as necessary to improve safety situations. Implied consent is given through a person’s actions, not verbally or in writing. Usually, a driver’s license revocation means that a DUI conviction will follow. Each jurisdiction has regulations for what the DUI charges will consist of.
It is important to note that once a person applies for or obtains a driver’s license, they automatically prove their consent for any tests mandated by law as the officer deems necessary. However, if a person refuses to comply with this and does not do a field sobriety test, chemical test, or urine test, it can lead to a criminal conviction with penalties equal to or harsher than a DUI conviction.
Some of the known punishments when a person is convicted of DUI include the following:
- Driver license revoked or suspended;
- Jail time in state or county;
- Vehicle confiscation or impoundment;
- Vector license plate confiscation;
- Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Restrictions;
- Completion of the required program and submission of state evaluations for abuse treatment programs;
- House Arrest and;
- Community Service.
How Do States Define DUI?
All states have distinct regulations defining blood alcohol concentration (BAC. For instance, all states but Utah define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08% as a crime. Effective December 30, 2018, current Utah’s BAC is set at 0.05.%
Penalties vary depending on which state you reside in as well. Examining local state regulations through the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is recommended. The data at GHSA reveals that the 44 states, D.C. and Guam, have increased penalties for drivers convicted at higher BACs.
Moreover, the 48 states, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands, have administrative license suspension (ALS) on the first offense. ALS permits law enforcement to confiscate a driver’s license for some time if the person fails a chemical test.
All states have some type of ignition interlock program, in which judges mandate all or some convicted drunk drivers must install interlocks in their cars to disable the engine if alcohol is detected on their breath. Just a little over half of the states require ignition interlock systems in their cars, including those for convicted drunk drivers or first-time offenders.
Look to your local state to determine whether or not these regulations and restrictions apply to you. Also, federal law requires that states adopt open container and repeat offender laws meeting specific requirements. States vary on this, and you can contact your local government county office to obtain more information on this.
What Happens At The Administrative Hearing?
Certain facts are considered at the administrative hearing, which your local DMV generally conducts. The following is an example of these findings in the state of Maryland:
- If there were reasonable grounds for the police officer to stop the person and believe that they were drinking and driving;
- Is there any evidence in the case that proves that the driver was indeed under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Whether the person complies or refuses to take the test or fails the test;
- The amount of alcohol concentration when the person last operated the vehicle and was that level permissible;
- Does the person possess a commercial motor vehicle or ever held one in the past and;
- Whether the person was involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused the death of another person.
Therefore, after the completion of the hearing, if the MVA’s Administrative Law Judge believes the driver was properly stopped, warned, and failed or refused to comply with the testing, then the judge will suspend the person’s driver’s license.
What Happens in Criminal Proceedings?
When a person has been arrested for a DUI, they will be charged for this crime. They would need to appear in court and follow through with the course of the case. Generally, DUI offenses are considered misdemeanors, but not in all cases. Depending on the seriousness of the damages, the case will be reviewed.
According to Maryland DUI laws, once a person is found guilty of a DUI, they have to pay a hefty fine and jail time. The penalties can vary from a $500 fine and two months in jail to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail. However, if minors are involved, the case can change drastically because of the vulnerability of this particular population.
What Happens If I Get Stopped?
With any stop, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over. It cannot be based on a simple hunch but must be based on facts. They must show that you broke the law and committed an offense. There are laws to protect your rights when an officer stops you. You can contact a local attorney in your area to understand your options when facing this situation.
Remember that the officer may stop you for violating another order, such as running a red light or making an improper lane change. The stop would be allowed on this basis, and then the officer would be able to make a DUI arrest if they notice indications of intoxication while interacting with you.
However, not all stops are warranted. This may become an issue if you do not understand your basic rights when dealing with the police officer. The priority when dealing with any law enforcement is to ensure respectful interactions. If, for some reason, you feel uneasy and uncomfortable, then you may report the case to the court. You would need to bring this case to the court. There are permitted reasons to stop a person, and there are some reasons that are not covered. Therefore, knowing your basic rights when being pulled over can be useful.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
Contact your local DUI attorney immediately if you have been charged with a DUI. The penalties for DUI vary across the states and depending on the facts of the case. You can research your local state laws regarding DUI penalties to learn more about them.