Legal Consequences of Drinking and Driving
For many years, a DUI/DWI was handled much like any routine traffic violation. Attitudes have changed, however, and so have the laws in most states. Driving under the influence or while intoxicated is now usually treated as a serious criminal offense.
In most states, you can be convicted if your blood alcohol content is .08 percent or greater, or if you fail a field sobriety test. The blood alcohol content limit is even lower for commercial drivers and drivers under the age of 21.
The Difference Between DUI and DWI
The terms DUI and DWI both refer to the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other substances. DUI means "driving under the influence." DWI is an acronym for "driving while intoxicated." In many states, the two terms are used interchangeably. In certain states, however, the terms are given different weight.
In these states, DWI is the more serious offense in which the driver was intoxicated, while DUI is regarded as a lesser offense. A higher blood alcohol level may result in the driver being charged with DWI instead of a DUI.
DUI/DWI Penalties Are Serious
A first-time DUI/DWI conviction typically results in severe penalties. Depending on the state, you may be subject to some or all of the following penalties for a first offense:
- Temporary impounding of your vehicle
- A fine of up to several thousand dollars
- Installation of an ignition lock that prevents your car from starting if you've been drinking
- Possible jail time
- Revocation of your driver's license
- Community service
- Completion of substance abuse classes at your own expense
These penalties increase substantially if you are involved in an accident or you are a repeat offender. You will also be saddled with a criminal record that may haunt you for years or even decades.
You Could Be Charged With a Felony
If you have multiple prior convictions, you can be prosecuted in any state for felony DUI/DWI - even if no accident occurred. In Florida, you can be prosecuted for felony DUI on your third offense within 10 years, and you can be charged with a felony for even a first offense if you caused an accident - particularly if someone was injured. If the accident resulted in a death, you can be charged with manslaughter or vehicular homicide, both of which can lead to imprisonment for years or even decades.
Common Defenses Against a Charge of Drunk Driving
DUI/DWI lawyers use a variety of defense strategies that may lead to a "not guilty" verdict or reduce the penalties you face. Your lawyer may challenge the reason for the original traffic stop, the results of a field sobriety test or the results of a breathalyzer test.
You May Be Able to Have Your Criminal Record Erased
In some states, you can file a request with the court asking to have your criminal record "expunged" - which generally means that it will be erased from public records. Some states expunge DUI arrests and charges but not convictions, while other states expunge first-time DUI convictions. States often place strict conditions on expungements.
For example, if you've had no previous criminal convictions, your request for expungement can be granted. In most states, the police and courts will still have access to your criminal record even after an expungement.
A Criminal Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding DUI/DWI arrests and convictions is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.
POSTED BY Lawyers.com
Crimes Involving Alcohol
Whenever you consume enough alcohol to dramatically change your mental or physical state, you run the risk of breaking the law. In most cases, alcohol-related crimes are misdemeanors. But the involvement of alcohol is often enough to turn a lesser crime into a more serious offense.
Drinking and Driving Carries Numerous Penalties
Driving after drinking is the most serious alcohol-related crime, because you're risking the safety of others as well as yourself. Depending on where you live, the charge may be "driving under the influence" or "driving while intoxicated." Some states use one of the acronyms, and some use both.
Typically, a DUI or DWI is a serious offense. It can be a felony charge if you're in an accident and hurt someone, or if it's your second or third offense. In some states, you don't even have to register as intoxicated on a test.If you're
obviously drunk, that's enough for a police officer to arrest you.
Minors Can't Purchase Alcohol or Drink in Bars
It's illegal for anyone under 21 years old to buy alcohol, or to drink alcohol in a public place like a bar or restaurant. Some states are more lenient about minors drinking at their own or someone else's home. In many states, minors can drink at home or on private property, but only with parental consent.
Adults who allow children to drink are liable for their actions. In some states, adults are criminal liable only if they allow a minor to drive after drinking. It's always illegal to sell alcohol to a minor.
Public Intoxication Is a Crime
Any time you consume alcohol in public, such as at a bar or ballgame, you run the risk of arrest if your drinking gets out of hand. Public intoxication - called a "PI offense," becomes a crime if a police officer feels that you're a danger to yourself or others. It is usually a misdemeanor and, depending on your actions, you might receive probation instead of jail time. However, you'll have a criminal record.
Alcohol Consumption Can Lead to Domestic Violence
Statistics show a link between alcohol and domestic violence. Drinking at home is not public intoxication, but if you lose your temper and hurt a loved one, it contributes to a crime. A judge can sentence you to mandatory counseling, probation, fines, or even jail time.
A Criminal Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding alcohol consumption and crimes is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.
POSTED BY Lawyers.com