Drunk Driving Consequences

drunk-driving-consequencesDrunk driving usually refers to the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, medication, or prescriptions that impair the driver’s ability.  Various states refer to drunk driving using several different terminologies, but all mean pretty much the same thing.  These terms include: 1) driving under the influence (DUI), 2) driving while intoxicated (DWI), 3) operating under the influence (OUI), 4) operating while intoxicated (OWI), 5) driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUI), and 5) driving while under the influence (DWUI).  Curiously enough, you do not have to be driving an automobile to receive a citation for drunk driving.   Convictions have been made for drunk drivers of motorboats, mopeds, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, electric wheelchairs, golf carts, bicycles and ATVs.

Within the past twenty-seven years, United States drunk driving consequences have become more and more severe as the laws have become more stringent.  Drunk driving laws are enforced at the state level rather than the federal level, and as a result, laws and penalties vary in each state.  The federal government tempts state administrators to adopt certain laws through fiscal control.  As of 2001, federal highway structure funds are redirected into enforcing drunk driving laws and learning programs for states that do not act in accordance with federally suggested guidelines.  These tactics guarantee that most state laws follow a reasonably standard set of rules concerning drunk driving.

The most common and powerful form of evidence in a DUI case is a breathalyzer test.  A breath test measures the concentration of alcohol in your breath to estimate breath alcohol content (BAC).  Refusal of a breathalyzer test, in most states, will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license.  All states have adopted 21 as the legal driving age with two-thirds of states having Administrative License Revocation laws which allow arresting officers to take the license of a driver who fails or refuses to take a breath test.  All states have “per se laws” that state it’s a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08, and many states enforce Zero Tolerance laws, which prohibit drivers under 21 from having any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood system.  In addition, in some states, drunk driving is a crime, whereas in others, for instance New Jersey, drunk driving is a traffic offense.  In many states, penalties for drunk driving are mandatorily imposed by state law with mandatory jail time for repeat DUI convictions.

Consequences and penalties for drunk driving are determined by the state where the crime was committed, the quantity of alcohol consumed, the crime committed while under the influence, the quantity of assets damage caused, and whether any bodily injuries resulted due to the driver’s under-the-influenced condition.  The most common consequences and penalties for drunk driving include: 1) imprisonment, 2) revocation of driver’s license, 3) probation or parole, 4) revocation of auto insurance and/or higher insurance rates, 5) mandatory driving school, 6) impounding of vehicle, 7) mandatory installation of an ignition device (called an ignition interlock, which is a piece of equipment that attaches to the convicted DUI offender’s vehicle and requires the driver to perform a breath-test before the vehicle will start and involves expense to the offender in installation fees and maintenance), 8) significant fines, and 9) substance abuse treatment.  In addition, to get a suspended or revoked license back, most DUI offenders must complete some form of DUI school and go through an assessment interview with a professional counselor to determine if the offender’s drinking is problematic enough to warrant ongoing counseling or required attendance and participation in of programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Drunk driving consequences and laws are frequently updated and revised in the criminal justice system, making it difficult at best to determine just what an offender may face once they get in front of a judge to plead their case.  For instance, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that drunk drivers do not have the right to a jury trial.  Also, in Michigan v. Sitz, (No. 8801897), the United States Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints for the purpose of apprehending intoxicated driver is not in violation of the 4th amendment, which prohibits illegal search and seizure, only to have that decision later remanded to state court, with the state court of Michigan ruling the decision unconstitutional.

Defending drunk driving offenses may potentially include a defendant’s claim of insufficient evidence (a malfunctioning breathalyzer machine), a claim of factual innocence (defendant has been in recent contact with a chemical compound containing alcohol that increased breath alcohol concentration without raising blood alcohol content), and claims of illegal or improper police procedure (police violations of search and seizure procedures or violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights).  Since drunk driving consequences can be severe, the penalties issued by the criminal justice system can be commensurate.

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