A DUI charge is a criminal offense related to a person’s right to operate a vehicle. The acronym “DUI” is short for driving under the influence. The United States is the only nation lacking a single, national set of laws for driving intoxicated (based on the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Hence, under the concept of “States’ Rights,” a dizzying array of statutory provisions with debilitating consequences for a person’s driving privileges exist in many states.
Around 38 states have embraced the D.U.I. acronym, and over a dozen states and the District of Columbia have alternative acronyms that have become part of their vernacular in describing their drunk driving or drugged driving laws. Drivers arrested for DUI can be charged with DUI offenses even if they have refused a BAC test of blood breath or urine.
Federal Involvement in Influencing Passage of State DUI Laws
Partially due to states having to comply with federal government regulations controlling federal highway funds, several aspects of all states driving intoxicated laws are similar. These are some of the areas for which federal financial coercion have exacted national changes of many states’ D.W.I. laws:
No state can have a DUI per se (over the legal limit) adult BAC level higher than 0.08 grams percent;
Establishing a national driving age to age 21 in all states;
All states must have a zero-tolerance law for any drivers under age 21;
Any operator of a commercial motor vehicle is limited to a 0.04 grams percent over the limit alcohol content;
All states must have an open container law relating to alcoholic beverages in bottles, cans, cups, flasks or glasses; and
All states must have increased punishments for high blood alcohol cases (e.g., 0.15 grams percent or higher), which are known as aggravated DUI laws.
To assist all other states to identify a problem driver who has been deprived of driving privileges due to repeated serious driving offenses, a National Driver Register has been established in America. Because these records can now track every person in the country, automobile insurance rates can spike when a DUI conviction occurs nationally. This paragraph from their website defines the organization’s purposes:
“The National Driver Register (NDR) is a division in the National Center for Statistics and Analysis under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NDR maintains the computerized database known as the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS) which contains information on individuals whose privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been revoked, suspended, canceled or denied or who have been convicted of serious traffic-related offenses.
The records maintained at the NDR consist of identification information including name, date of birth, gender, driver license number, and reporting State. Based on information received as a result of an NDR search, PDPS will “point” the State of Inquiry (SOI) to the State of Record (SOR), where an individual’s driver status and history information is maintained.”
What’s a DUI Can Take Many Different Forms under State DWI-DUI Laws
Most states’ driving impaired laws outline multiple ways for the State to obtain a conviction. Typically, all state’s laws proscribe being too impaired to drive, due to alcohol, contraband drugs in any quantity, taking too much prescribed medication, inhaling or huffing noxious vapors or ingesting or smoking any substance that lessens your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
To prove that an accused was unsafe while driving, typical items of proof can include video or audio recordings made by police at the scene, testimony of the officer who has received field sobriety test training, circumstantial proof such as slurred speech, the odor of an alcoholic beverage, or eyewitness statements of the driving behavior.
Next, since alcohol is the first and most common impairing substance to be identified in all nations’ drink driving laws, having an illegal amount within your body while driving (as that is defined by your state law on DUI-OVI-OUI) is a crime, regardless of any evidence that the driver showed signs of impairment. These laws are often called the “per se” alcohol DUI-DWI laws.
In the last 30 years or so, states have also enacted per se-drugs laws. These typically are supported by a blood test that reveals some type of contraband substance like marijuana, PCD, cocaine, meth or other illegal substance in any detectable psychoactive amount. However, some states (e.g., Georgia) ignores whether the quantity can be correlated to impairment and criminalizes being detected with any measurable quantity of the illegal drug or its metabolites (burn-off products from that drug).
How to Avoid a DUI Arrest in Some Odd Situations
One great myth of American drivers is that they can pull off the highway, park the vehicle and go to sleep to thereby avoid a DUI-DWI-DUII. Most states have broadly written their laws to permit prosecution under a theory of “dangerousness” from merely getting too impaired and being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Drunks asleep in parked cars on the shoulder of the road or in a parking lot still means drivers can be charged.
The best that such drivers can do to avoid being convicted, in such circumstances, is to do these three things:
1. Cut off the engine;
2. NOT being in the driver seat or anywhere in the front seat, if possible; and
3. NOT have the ignition key or fob within the inside of the vehicle by which the engine could be activated.
If confronted by police say NOTHING except your name and address. That is all the Constitution requires. Their questions are designed and calculated to get you to self-incriminate, since you are not entitled to protection by Miranda rights before this questioning. Hopefully, the key or the ignition fob will not be found by police.
Non-Criminal, Administrative Driver License Laws under Implied Consent
Also, beginning in 1953, the federal government suggested that all states pass new implied consent laws. These are statutes focused on capturing an arrested driver’s blood levels of alcohol, drugs or other controlled substances immediately after arrest.
These non-criminal laws have been upheld as being a legitimate use of civil laws relating to a person’s state driving privileges. Such code sections permit states to immediately take away (by suspension or revocation) the right to drive for anyone who refuses to cooperate with testing, and those whose testing shows a high BAC quantity.
Because states control who can use their roads, and driving is not a Constitutional right, controlling the ability to operate motor vehicle is a powerful tool. Implied consent laws (also known as informed consent laws in some states) provides driver’s license sanctions.
These loss of driving privilege penalties are imposed when a driver either blows over the per se limit (e.g., higher than a 0.08 grams %) OR has refused the arresting officer’s request for him or her to submit to a post-arrest forensic test of breath, blood urine or other substances. Some states’ implied consent laws also carry criminal sanctions including state prison time, for multiple offenders who refuse implied consent testing.
Depending on the state, costly reinstatement may be available. For example, in Texas, that state’s law requires installation of an ignition interlock device to obtain limited driving privileges, whereas others have fashioned different route-restricted administrative driving privileges for an implied consent violation.
In other states, like Maine, refusal of the OUI test leaves the driver with no right to drive at all. For some repeat DWI offenders, New Jersey laws can impose an interlock requirement for 11 years, and charge thousands just to let you reinstate. A repeat offender in Louisiana can face 30 years in state prison, without any chance of parole or probation.
DUI Penalties, Accountability Courts and Alternative Punishment Methods
In the last two decades, psychological research on addiction has shown that intensive probation which is heavily supervised and monitored through random drug and alcohol testing helps prevent recidivism. Virtually all states’ DUI-OUI-OWI laws have sentencing components of screening by state-licensed professionals to look for those drivers who need treatment or counseling.
In addition, community service and attending DUI classes are part of a mandatory punishment package in most states for those who are found guilty or who plead nolo contendere to DUI. These sentencing conditions (in some jurisdictions) may offer a diversion alternative or some sort of conditional discharge. A trend for offering first time offenders the right to expunge or “record restrict” a 1st DUI seems to be growing. Some traditionally conservative states like West Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi have enacted such first offender DUI laws in the last decade.
Other states, like Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, continue to deny any form of expunction of any operating under the influence crimes. In the Peach State, under OCGA 40-6-391, which covers Georgia DUI laws, a specific subsection bars any court from granting record expungement. The GA first offender act allows some serious drug possession or trafficking cases to use the act, but not a first lifetime DUI offender.
Other DUI Consequences From Some DUI Arrests
In addition to criminal law and administrative license suspension penalties, the convicted driver’s insurance company rates may skyrocket. In states like South Carolina, with an integrated driver license and auto liability insurance law, premiums would immediately be boosted.
Drunk driving convictions may be on your criminal history for LIFE. Other states (e.g., California) nay provide a 1st offense DUI the opportunity to seek expungement after 10 years.
Employment issues are almost a certainty. You may be foreclosed forever from being hired, with some companies, or for 7 to 10 years with rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. The higher the job position you are seeking in terms of paycheck, the less likely the opportunity will be available for you.
Even menial jobs such as driving a school bus or delivery van for a company like UPS may be embargoed. These major companies pay well enough that they will comply with their company insurer’s requirements for hiring only the candidates with a “clean” driving record and go to the next applicant who has no blemishes such as drunken driving.
In DUI accidents, huge civil liability concerns will arise. The separate civil litigation may bankrupt you. Be aware that Section 523 of the U S Bankruptcy laws bars you from discharging a debt based on injures incurred by your DUI accident.
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