You have probably seen the advertisements around town warning passersby that buzzed driving is drunk driving. You may have even been in the situation where you grab a couple of drinks after work and you are feeling a little buzzed but you think to yourself “I’m not too buzzed to drive”. If you take that chance you risk being stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI).
More DUI Laws
As the frequency of DUI related traffic stops and accidents increase along with the number of injuries and fatalities you can expect more severe DUI laws to be enacted and enforced. Drivers, parents, communities, lawmakers, and law enforcement are working diligently to get drunk drivers off our roads. Many states across the country have enacted tough new laws to help deter drinking and driving. In fact, some states have even elevated misdemeanor violations to felony offenses and mandated extended jail time.
Drunk driving charges vary depending on the circumstances of the case. The category of drunk driving charge depends largely on a number of factors, which include:
- Where the arrest took place
- Age of the driver (Were they under 21 years of age)
- Type of vehicle (Was it a commercial vehicle?)
- Level of intoxication (Did they exceed .08% BAC?)
- Whether injuries occurred in the accident
- Whether fatalities occurred in the accident
- Whether property was damaged
It is easy to see how the concern over DUI is justified. Even drivers who are mildly impaired are much more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than those who are not impaired while driving. Underage drinking and driving also accounts for a high volume of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities. In fact, studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that car accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States for those under the age of 24 and approximately 40% of those fatalities involve alcohol.
In all states throughout the country the legal drinking age is 21 and the legal threshold for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% (many factors can affect BAC). However, recently discussions have been heating up in regards to the possibility of lowering the threshold to .05% BAC based on a proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board. It is certainly possible that in the not too distant future we could see the legal threshold lowered as a result of continued efforts to make our roadways safer.
What’s the difference between DUI and DWI?
For the most part, DWI or DUI charges are similar in many states across the country. DWI and DUI charges both describe criminal charges for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. However, some areas classify DUI and DWI separately and in those cases the charge generally depends on the level of intoxication at the time of the arrest with DUI being the lesser charge and DWI being more serious.
While DWI and DUI charges are similar in many states across the country specific charges can vary based on individual state laws. For example, in some jurisdictions drivers charged with driving under the influence (DUI) may be charged even if they do not meet the .08% BAC legal threshold. Commercial drivers, for example, can be convicted of DUI with a BAC of .04% while underage drinkers (those under 21 years of age) can be charged with DUI for driving with any detectable amount of alcohol.
Obviously, avoiding a DUI or DWI conviction is best accomplished by simply choosing not to operate a motor vehicle if you have been consuming alcohol. A common misconception is that DUI and DWI laws only apply to vehicles, however, you can be arrested for DUI/DWI when operating various types of vehicles and transportation modes, including:
- Boats and other watercraft (such as jet skis)
- Construction and farm equipment
- Horses and horse-drawn vehicles
- Commercial vehicles such as semi trucks or delivery vehicles
As a simple rule of thumb if you can drive it or ride it you can likely be arrested for DUI/DWI for doing so while impaired.
Consequences of a DUI/DWI Conviction
Beyond legal consequences a conviction of DUI or DWI can have significant personal and professional consequences as well, with some lingering for years. A conviction of DUI or DWI can have short-term consequences such as:
- Temporary driver’s license suspension
- Fines and fees
- Increased insurance rates
- Community service
- Drunk driving education programs
- Jail time
As many states are enacting tougher laws to deter drinking and driving we may see some of these short-term consequences carry stiffer, and longer lasting, penalties.
Although many of us are probably familiar with the short-term consequences listed above many are not aware of the potential long-term affects of a DUI. The fact of the matter is even after you have paid all of your fines and fulfilled your legal obligations your DUI or DWI conviction could haunt you for years, especially in your professional life, undermining future career opportunities. Understanding these significant and long-term consequences is an important first step in protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your personal and professional future.
Long-term consequences of a DUI/DWI conviction include, but are not limited to:
- Extensive legal fees
- Job loss and a significant impact on future job opportunities
- Increased auto insurance rates
- Detrimental to your personal and professional reputation
- Criminal conviction may be on your record for years
- Driver’s license revocation or suspension
- Jail time
As you can see, DUI and DWI convictions can be stressful, expensive, embarrassing, and damaging to your personal and professional life. The obvious solution would be to avoid putting yourself in that position in the first place, however, people make mistakes and if you find yourself in a position where you are facing DUI or DWI charges it would be in your best interest to seek the counsel of an experienced DUI attorney. Choosing the right DUI attorney is important, however, most attorneys offer a free initial consultation where you can confidentially discuss the details of your case and determine if you feel they can adequately represent you. If you have any questions or if you would like to schedule your free initial consultation please contact us at (559) 222-5800 today. In most instances appointments can be scheduled for the same day you call.