Impairment is the primary reason why drunk-driving is considered a major traffic offense. It makes a person less sober, resulting to slower reflexes. Besides this, impairment also affects a person’s judgment, perception, coordination, reaction time and general ability to focus on the road.
In 2013, as many as 1,171,935 individuals were arrested and charged with DUI in the U.S. In 2010, the number of arrests went as high as 1.4 million, based on records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With these huge figures it may be considered a relief that only a little above 10,000 die in car accidents due to alcohol impairment. Authorities attribute the reduction of alcohol-impaired drivers to stricter laws, the zeal of traffic enforcers in implementing these laws, and the efforts of private groups, such as the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) which, since 1980, has helped in the passing of new DUI laws, like the Zero Tolerance law that prohibits those below 21 from having in their blood system any measurable amount of alcohol while driving, and the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) law, which authorizes an arresting officer to confiscate the license of drivers who refuse to take or fail a breath test.
In some states, the charge imputed on impaired or drunk drivers can be driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI). However, in states where these acronyms are used separately, DWI refers to intoxication due to alcohol, while DUI refers to being under the influence either of alcohol or prohibited drugs.
In all US states, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher is a crime (the BAC limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%, while for those below the age of 21, it is zero tolerance, meaning they can be charged with DUI or DWI no matter how low the level of BAC in their blood is). First offenders are usually charged with a misdemeanor, granted that no one was injured or killed while driving under the influence. In such case killing or injuring someone, or if the BAC level was higher than 0.08% or if the offense were already the third or fourth violation, then the charge would be raised to something more serious: DWI felony or DUI felony.
In alcohol-impaired driving cases, drivers who are suspected of driving while intoxicated can be pulled over by police officers and asked to take a breath-screening test, also known as the Alco-Sensor test – the purpose of which is to determine the possible presence of alcohol in a driver’s breath. A positive result can lead to an arrest and once a driver has been taken to a precinct, he/she will be required to undergo a second test, which is a chemical test of his/her saliva, urine, blood and/or breath (using an instrument like the AlcoTest, Intoxilyzer, DataMaster or Breathalyzer) to determine his/her BAC level. Refusal or failure to submit to this second test can result to revocation or suspension of his/her license – this is based on administrative license suspension laws from his/her state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). (Submitting oneself to a chemical test, if suspected of driving while intoxicated, is one of the conditions of licensure as stipulated by the DMV. Thus, a license implies that a driver has implicitly consented to the chemical test that is required by DMV). Administrative license suspension laws are observed in the District of Columbia and in 41 other US states.
If convicted of DWI or DUI, a driver may also be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in his/her vehicle. The IID device is wired to a vehicle’s ignition; it will require the driver’s breath sample and will only enable the engine to start if no alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath. The device also requires periodic breath tests (while the vehicle is being driven) to make sure that the driver is continuously free from the influence of alcohol.
Furthermore, the court may require DUI or DWI offenders to fill out an SR-22 or Certificate of Financial Responsibility (CFR) form (also known as FR-44 in some states) to enable them to enjoy their driving privileges again (this is if their license has been suspended). This requirement usually lasts for three years and one effect of this is higher vehicle liability insurance premiums.
Camden DUI attorneys explain that “Many people, who are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), often claim that they have only had a few drinks or that they are not intoxicated, despite what a breathalyzer may say. Unfortunately, these common excuses do not often hold up in a court of law.
Alcohol-related charges have serious consequences, and a conviction for such a crime can dramatically affect you for the rest of your life. Thus, if you have been charged with a DUI, it may be best to call a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible to start preparing a valid legal defense that will save you from further legal problems.”