Driving while inebriated is illegal in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C. If you are arrested for and charged with this offense, you could face any number of penalties, all of which are designed to reform your behavior, help you pay back your debt to society, and protect the public.
You may be like many U.S. citizens and not know what the legal blood alcohol limit is in your state or anywhere else in the country. You can decide whether or not to drive drunk by learning what the blood alcohol level is where you live and how you might be punished if you go over that legal driving limit.
Drunk Driving Definition
How do the states define drinking and driving and what kinds of behaviors do police officers look for to decide whether or not to test you for being over the alcohol driving limit? Drunk driving in its simplest terms is defined as driving while impaired because of consuming too much liquor or too many illegal or prescription drugs.
Some of the behaviors that law enforcement watches for to decide if you could be drink driving include:
- weaving in and out of traffic
- drifting onto the shoulder or driving over the rumble strips
- frequent and unexplained braking
- speeding up and then suddenly slowing down
Police officers can also stop you for possibly being over the drink drive limit if they witness you drinking liquor or using drugs while driving or if they smell alcohol on your breath while they have you pulled over for a traffic infraction. They likewise can stop and test you to see if you are below the legal limit to drive if they witness you throwing a beer bottle out of the car or trying to hide drugs in your pocket or purse.
The drink driving law in each state varies. Nonetheless, studies and statistics continue to prove that motorists over the drink drive limit pose a serious and deadly hazard to themselves and the public.
Blood Alcohol Content Facts
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted studies recently to determine how much of a threat that motorists above the legal drink drive limit can pose to the public. The findings were based in part on how people behave once they reach certain drink drive limit units of alcohol content in their blood.
For example, people who are 0.02 percent above the legal blood alcohol level demonstrate slightly impaired motor skills that could make them unsafe behind the wheel. This level is equivalent to consuming two alcoholic beverages. People who are 0.02 percent above the legal limit on the blood alcohol level chart showed characteristics of inebriation like:
- loss of judgment
- altered mood
- inability to follow a moving object with their eyes
- difficulty carrying out more than one task at a time
Similarly, people at a 0.05 percent above the legal alcohol limit showed more compromised behaviors like:
- impaired judgment
- lowered alertness
- release of inhibition
- reduced coordination
- difficulty steering
This level of inebriation is equivalent to consuming three alcoholic drinks.
In 2000, Congress mandated that all 50 states establish the legal driving alcohol limit at 0.08. People whose BAC levels are over 0.08 are considered to be fully inebriated and incapable of safely operating a vehicle. At this level or higher of drunkenness, people show behaviors like:
- difficulty concentrating
- short-term memory loss
- speed control
- inability to process information, detect signals, or visually search for something
They also have impaired perception, making them a significant danger to themselves and the public if they get behind the wheel of a car.
The U.S. government established the 0.08 percent legal limit of alcohol blood content to keep the public safe. Even so, millions of people ignore or remain unaware of the alcohol limit for driving and put the lives of innocent bystanders and motorists at risk of injury or worse.
Drunk Driving Statistics
As noted, the CDC and the NHTSA compiled evidence to prove how much of a public safety risk drunk driving is in every U.S. state and across the country. Their studies showed that 28 people in the U.S. die every day in drunk driving accidents.
This rate translates into one person dying from intoxicated driving every 53 minutes. In total, drunk driving costs the American taxpayers more than $44 billion each year.
Further, the evidence showed that in 2014 33 percent of all traffic-related deaths occurred because of drunk driving. Out of the 1074 car accident deaths among children 0 to 14 years of age that year, 19 percent were caused by drivers who chose to drive high or drunk.
Moreover, more than 121 million drivers self-reported operating vehicles while inebriated in 2014. Out of that number, only 1.1 million were arrested and charged with DUI or DWI.
Also as noted, inebriated driving can occur not only from consuming alcohol but also by taking illegal or prescription drugs. In fact, the studies showed that more people today are smoking marijuana before driving.
Thirteen percent of of nighttime drivers in the U.S. report smoking marijuana before getting behind the wheel of their vehicles. Studies have shown that people who use marijuana are 25 percent more likely to be involved in a DWI crash than drivers who are sober.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence
The penalties for DWI and DUI vary from state to state. However, the punishments can be mild and only include paying a civil penalty and doing community service. They can also be severe and include paying huge monetary fines and serving time in prison.
Many people who are first-time offenders are given the opportunity to reform their lives and avoid serious jail time. They are often sentenced to probation and may have to pay a fine of $500 or more or perform community service for a few months.
Repeat offenders are punished more severely and may even have to serve a prison sentence. After they get out of jail, they may have their driver licenses suspended or revoked. The worst DUI offenders, such as people who have four or more convictions on their records, might lose their driving privileges or have to allow their cars to be equipped with an ignition interlock device, which is essentially a mobile breathalyzer test.
Hire a DUI Lawyer
Even if you are a first-time DUI offender, you need to hire an attorney who practices DWI law. A lawyer will ensure that you are given your full rights during and after your arrest.
Your counsel can also guarantee that the punishment that you receive fits the nature of your DWI offense. It is reasonable to assume that you will not have to go to prison on a first offense unless you harmed or killed someone.
Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a lesser charge against you or have the charges dismissed. If you are sentenced to community service or probation, your attorney can also make sure that you serve out that punishment and report the completion of it to the court.
Each state has its own set of laws for drunk driving. Regardless of where you live or travel, you can expect to be arrested and charged if you are driving over the legal BAC limit in that state.
You can determine if driving while inebriated is worth it by learning how alcohol and drugs affect your ability to operate a vehicle. You also should discover at what limits you lose your ability to carry out routine tasks as well as basic decision making and motor skills that keep you safe while driving.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. An arrest for and conviction of this offense can have long lasting and devastating consequences on your life including your job, your family and household, and your future prospects of a promotion or raise.
Further, a DUI arrest requires that you remain actively engaged with law enforcement and the courts until your case is heard and any punishment is meted out to you. While you might handle basic legal tasks like posting bail, you may not be equipped to represent yourself before a judge. Rather than risk the outcome of your case or your legal and financial security, you should hire one of the experienced DUI lawyers in your area to assist you.
The Advantages of Hiring an Attorney
Exactly what does a DUI lawyer do and what can a DUI lawyer do for you as someone who might be expected to go before a judge and jury? DUI lawyers actually can help you in several key ways after you have been arrested for this crime.
First, your attorney can make sure that your Constitutional rights are fully protected from the time that you are arrested to the day that you finish your sentence. By law, you must be granted several rights that include being able to hire a lawyer to counsel you and act on your behalf. You also have the right to a speedy trial and due process.
Further, your lawyer will ensure that the police had a legal right to arrest you for DUI. He or she can review the facts of your case and guarantee that the officer had proper reasoning to pull you over or test you for inebriation. If you were not read your rights or the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, you could have the charges against you dropped.
Ultimately, however, the answer to how can a DUI lawyer help you revolves around the elimination or reduction of punishment. You want to stay out of jail, pay the smallest fine possible, and walk away with your life and future intact. When you ask yourself “What is DUI lawyer retention good for anyway?” you should remember that a good attorney can secure your rights and future better than if you were to show up to court alone.
How to Hire a Good DUI Attorney
You can help yourself right away by learning how to choose DUI lawyer qualifications that will benefit your case. What exactly should you look for when hiring a DWI attorney?
Your research should lead you to a lawyer who is more than competent and ready to take your case today and will see it through from start to finish. Your counsel should also make it a top priority to guarantee that you come out of the legal wrangling with your legal and financial future intact.
As you look for DUI lawyers in your area, you should consider those who:
- are experienced in DUI law
- have experience arguing before a judge and jury
- know how to bargain down or get DUI charges dropped
- is committed to you as a client
- will work to reduce or eliminate any sentencing if you are convicted
When you find an attorney who meets all of these qualifications and more, you should consider hiring this person to represent you in your DUI case.
Questions to Ask Your DUI Lawyer
Before you retain a DUI attorney, you should be prepared to ask some important questions to make sure he or she is ready and able to represent you in court. Some of the primary questions you should ask include:
- What kind of experience do you have in handling DUI cases?
- How long have you been a practicing DUI lawyer?
- How much of your practice is devoted to defending DUI clients?
- How much are your retainer and legal fees?
- What payment methods do you accept and could I make payments on my bill?
It is understandable that you might be concerned about how much DUI lawyer cost you can afford. In fact, many people arrested for this crime ask themselves how much are DUI attorneys and then dismiss the idea of hiring a lawyer based on their own misconceptions of what legal fees could be for their cases.
While you should wonder about how much do DUI lawyers cost, you should also raise the issue with an attorney in a face-to-face meeting. The attorney could charge less than you expect.
You also could pay using a credit card or even by making monthly payments to the firm. Some attorneys even allow you to use your next year’s tax return to pay your legal fees.
In terms of your future, however, investing in a good DUI legal defense can pay off if it keeps you out of jail, lets you keep your job, and helps you make amends to your family and to society. You may find it wise to pay a retainer fee for a good DUI attorney if you want to protect your life right now and ensure that you can have a happy and successful future in spite of your DUI arrest.
Finding a DUI Lawyer in Your Area?
How can you find a good, competent attorney who is ready to take your DUI case? You can start by asking others for their input and advice.
If you are not sure of what lawyers practice in your city, county, or part of the state, you should put the question to your relatives, family members, coworkers, and neighbors to find out whom they would recommend to represent you in court. Because driving under the influence is a common issue among the public, many people know where to find good DUI attorneys.
You also can ask your state’s bar association for a recommendation. State bar associations must keep lists of attorneys who practice in the various legal specialties.
You can call the bar association or go to its website to browse the list of lawyers in your area who practice DUI law. You can even ask the organization for the names of more experienced lawyers rather than those who are new to the specialty.
Of course, many people today use the Internet to find attorneys who practice DUI law. The Internet can be a valuable source of information throughout your DUI case, in fact. You can research what lawyers are in your state or city and choose those that have the highest reviews from previous clients.
As you read the reviews, you are encouraged to make sure the information comes from valid sources. Internet trolls are known to give false or bad reviews for attorneys purely out of spite or malice.
If possible, you could email the person giving the review and ask for general information about his or her case. You can then use those details to decide whether or not to retain the lawyer for your own legal matter.
A DUI arrest and conviction can damage your life in ways than you might be unable to imagine. You not only have a blemish on both your driving and criminal record. You also have a legal matter that could compel your employer to fire or demote you or your spouse and children to leave you.
This offense could also make it difficult to regain people’s trust or continue being promoted to higher paying positions at work. Because of the ramifications of DUI, you need a lawyer to help you get your life back on track. You can secure this legal counsel knowing how to search for and retain a good DUI attorney in your area today.