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Driving Under the Influence (DUI / DWI)

From lawbrain.com

Driving under the influence, is the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of alcohol or other drugs. The designation of the offense can vary from state to state, and includes "driving under the influence (DUI)," "driving while intoxicated (DWI)," "operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI)." Drunk driving laws often extend to a number of different vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, motor homes and even lawnmowers.[1]

Contents

Overview

Laws vary by state but generally make it unlawful for an individual to operate a motor vehicle if the the driver's ability to operate the vehicle according safely is impaired by the effects of drugs, alcohol, prescription medication or over-the-counter medications; or if the driver's intoxication level is above the state standard.[2] According to the Atlanta DUI Blog, Georgia is currently just one of three U.S. states that still has blue laws, laws that ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays, still on the books.[3]

In most states, if a person is found to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or greater he or she is presumed by law to be driving under the influence.[4] 

Elements of Driving Under the Influence

The elements of a DUI offense in most states include: (1) driving a motor vehicle; (2) on road or highway; (3) while under the influence of alcohol.[5] However recent state statutes also criminalize DUI's on a [Per Se|per se] basis--i.e. DUI for any individual driving with a Blood Alcohol level of over .08.

Each element has to be proven by prosecution to bring forth a DUI charge. Common issues with proving elements include distinguishing "driving" a vehicle from sitting or waiting in it. The element of proving that defendant is intoxicated is addressed through sobriety tests and symptoms of drunk driving. The driver's Blood Alcohol level is determined through a variety of methods including breathalyzer test, or blood or urine sample.

Sobriety Tests and Checkpoints

Law enforcement officers may ask a driver suspected of driving under the influence to complete field sobriety tests. These may include testing the driver's balance while walking, assessing the driver's ability to pay attention, and the driver's physical ability. The results of field sobriety tests have generally been upheld in court.[6] According to the Philadelphia DUI Blog, Pennsylvania generally requires a breath or blood sample (or even both) to determine whether a driver is intoxicated. If you refuse a breathalyzer, law enforcement officials will inform you that your license will be immediately suspended for 180 days.[7]

State law often allows law enforcement authorities to establish checkpoints to detain drunk drivers. These checkpoints are often synched with holidays associated with alcohol consumption such as New Year's Eve and Fourth of July. The constitutionality of checkpoints has generally been upheld by courts. [8]

Court Procedure & Sentencing

The first phase of a DUI proceeding is the [[Arraignment|arraignment] which is when the DUI/DWI charges are formally brought against a defendant. This can include the charge of DUI along with other related charges such as traffic violations.

If the case goes to trial there will be the usual stages of trial including [Jury selection], presentation of the state's case, presentation of the defense's case, jury instructions, and verdict. If the trial results in a guilty verdict, the defendant may appeal.

Defendants may choose to pursue a plea bargain, either through their attorney or on a pre se basis.

Suspension of an individual's driver's license is also a common consequence of a DUI charge.

Felony Drunk Driving

Some states have adopted laws that make drunk driving a felony if the driving resulted in injury or a manslaughter charge for a resulting death. These charges may result in state prison sentences. According to the Phoenix DUI Law Blog, a DUI conviction can lead to severe penalties in the state of Arizona, where the offense carries much greater consequences than a speeding ticket in the state.[9]

Other states allow prosecutors to charge individuals for assault with a deadly weapon (i.e. the motor vehicle) for driving under the influence.[10]

Common Defenses

Since each element of a drunk driving offense must be proved by prosecution, defendants often try to discredit the observations of law enforcement officers or witnesses.

Common defenses include [Necessity|necessity], [Duress|duress], [Mistake of fact], and [Involuntary intoxication].[11]

MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is an organization that seeks to eliminate drunk driving and works to increase attention on this issue through broad campaigns and active lobbying for stricter laws to punish offenders.

MADD estimates that 3 of every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetimes.[12] It estimated that nearly 12,000 individuals died in alochol-related driving accidents in 2008.

References

  1. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/dui_basics.html
  2. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/dui_basics.html
  3. http://atlantaduinews.com/atlanta-dui-laws/
  4. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/elements-of-drunk-driving-offense.html
  5. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/elements-of-drunk-driving-offense.html
  6. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/sobriety-checkpoints.html
  7. http://philadelphiaduiattorneyblog.com/pennsylvania-dui-laws/
  8. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/sobriety-checkpoints.html
  9. http://phoenixduiattorneyblog.com/dui-in-arizona/
  10. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/felony-drunk-driving.html
  11. http://dui.findlaw.com/dui/dui-overview/defenses-to-drunk-driving.html
  12. http://www.madd.org/Drunk-Driving/Drunk-Driving/Statistics.aspx

External Links

Related Resources on FindLaw

Related Blogs on FindLaw


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