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DUI: Drunk Driving Offenders

DUI (driving under the influence) is a roadside infraction that occurs when a driver’s blood alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

Impaired driving is a huge danger on North America’s roads and highways. Each year, approximately 1.5 million drivers are arrested in the US for being under the influence of alcohol. Each day, roughly 28 people die in accidents that involve drunk driving. 

Alcohol impairs a driver’s coordination, concentration and alertness. When the driver is also under the influence of hallucinogens, downers and/or other drugs, the dangers are even more severe.

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Driving Under the Influence

DUI incidents often happen at random when a driver leaves a bar or party after drinking too much alcohol. Once the individual gets behind the wheel and hits the road, his/her driving skills could be impaired due to the effects of alcohol, which include:

  • Distorted vision – inability to see other motorists and pedestrians from a distance.
  • Impaired hearing – inability to hear nearby vehicles or sense their presence.
  • Impaired judgment – making risky lane passes and abrupt turns; gunning lights as they change from yellow to red.
  • Decreased perception – inability to comprehend the risks of certain driving measures; increased likelihood of aggressive driving.
  • Diminished coordination – decreased hand-eye coordination; drunkenness can make a person wobbly and imbalanced.

When patrol officers spot reckless driving and pull the vehicle over, the driver gets his/her blood alcohol content measured. If the driver exceeds the legal limit, it’s a DUI.

Most states are punitive regarding DUI offenses. A first offense DUI can earn the offender prison time, steep fines, community service and a suspended license.

Risks of Drunk Driving

People who drive drunk risk arrest and loss of (or damage to) their motor vehicle. DUI fines are steep and often cripple people financially. A driver’s license suspension for DUI could last a year or more for first-time offenders. For people who commute long distances for work each day, this can be a huge inconvenience.

Drunk driving also puts other people at risk. Many traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers result in no damage or injuries for the party responsible but a huge loss for the victims.

Fatalities are another big consequence of DUI. During the 2010s, more than 10,000 people died in accidents caused by driving under the influence. The figure far exceeds the casualty rate of people who send text messages while driving (400 per year).

Due to the dangers of drunk driving, some states have adopted zero-tolerance policies. Since 2006, 90% of drunk-driving arrests in California have resulted in a DUI conviction.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

In a DUI traffic stop, where the driver gets pulled over for apparent reckless driving, the patrol officer will test the individual to determine his/her blood alcohol content. 

On roadsides, an alcohol test is usually performed with a breathalyzer. The officer may also order a test step to judge the driver’s coordination. A field sobriety test typically consists of three measures:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk-and-turn (WAT)
  • One-leg stand (OLS)

Patrol officers and state lawmakers are adamant that people don’t drive under the influence of alcohol. Nationwide, the BAC limit for people of legal drinking age is 0.07%. Anything higher (0.08% or more) results in a DUI. For drivers under the legal drinking age, the limit ranges from 0.00%–0.02%. Lower limits may apply to people operating commercial vehicles.

DUI Offenders

DUI offenses are never planned. Unlike premeditated crimes, where the perpetrator is well aware of possible capture and loss of liberty, most DUI incidents occur at random after a night of partying, clubbing or bar hopping.

For young people, alcohol is a new recreation that many don’t know how to regulate properly. An inexperienced drinker might commit his/her first offense while driving a short distance from a party or bar to a nearby apartment, only to get pulled over and wind up in loads of trouble.

In many states, pending DUI charges are scary to contemplate for anyone attending class or living paycheck to paycheck. As states ramp up their DUI convictions, more first-time offenders are paying steep fines and doing jail time.

In Oregon, a first-time DUI earns a $1,000 fine, a one-year license suspension, and either 48 hours in jail or 80 hours of community service.

When a driver has a second DUI within seven years, the penalties are three-fold. Whereas most states jail a first-time offender for one or two days, second-time offenders usually get jailed 10–30 days.

People caught driving over the blood alcohol limit cause intense ire among law enforcement. Alcohol-related crashes cost the US $48 million per year. Drivers who get pulled over and fined without any damage or injury are the lucky ones.

When people get one DUI and commit subsequent offenses, the consequences are worse. Even after a driver’s license suspension and jail time, the fact that some people still drive under the influence suggests that drunk driving is not always the result of carelessness or indiscretion. In many cases, it’s down to alcohol use disorder (AUD).

AUD is a mental health problem that requires treatment. American addiction centers treat AUD in a caring, supportive environment. Anyone struggling with AUD should get immediate help from a nearby certified alcohol rehab center.

On America’s roads and highways, patrol officers can’t be as forgiving; there’s too much at stake. A third offense is an automatic felony that results in lengthy jail time and other penalties.

DUI Arrests

Across the US, 2.27% of drivers have been pulled over with a reported blood alcohol level over the legal limit. The two states with the highest DUI percentages are North Dakota (5.17%) and Wyoming (5.16%).

In most states, a first-time DUI stays on the driver’s record for 10 years. Subsequent offenses carry stiffer penalties. 

People with upcoming court dates for DUI arrests have the right to a lawyer serving their jurisdiction. The attorney-client relationship guarantees the privacy of sensitive or confidential information. 

Anyone with a first-time DUI who drove drunk unintentionally should get legal representation from a lawyer versed in this area of law.

Laws by State

Nationwide, the law prohibits anyone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more from operating a motor vehicle. Underage drinking is not tolerated in any capacity on America’s roads and highways. 

State law varies regarding DUI penalties. The two states with the strictest penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are Arizona and Georgia, where offenders are jailed for a minimum of:

  • 10 days – first DUI conviction
  • 90 days – second DUI conviction

In Arizona, they impound the vehicle and suspend the driver’s license for 90 days. In Georgie, they don’t impound the vehicle but the license gets suspended for 360 days.

In Montana, Massachusetts and New Mexico, a DUI stays on a driver’s record for life. In Alaska, Nebraska and the District of Columbia, a DUI stays on a driver’s record for 15 years. In most states, the average is 7–10 years.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Driving with drugs present in the system is just as dangerous as operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. When people drive after taking hits of cocaine, LSD, heroin, speed, ecstasy and other drugs, the effects of those substances impair their concentration, coordination, judgment and senses.

According to a 2018 national survey by the NSDUH, 12.6 million Americans aged 16 and over have driven under the influence of illegal drugs. 

In a DUI scenario, it’s easy for officers to determine whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol with a breathalyzer field test. Determining drug use is more difficult. When officers suspect the driver is under the influence of marijuana, cocaine, heroin or other drugs, they’ll usually take that driver into the station for a drug screening.

People Who Drink and Drive: Get Help Today

If someone you know has been drinking and driving, get that person help immediately. No one should ever, regardless of the circumstances, operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

A DUI can stay on a driver’s record for years, possibly life. If found guilty and convicted for a third offense, the driver could receive lengthy jail time, steep fines and possibly never drive again.

Law officers are strict when it comes to drug screening and blood alcohol content tests. Attorneys deal with these cases every day, which have an overwhelming conviction rate in the strictest states.

To prevent anyone you know from becoming a statistic, do whatever it takes to impart safe driving practices. If the person has a drinking problem, contact a rehab center in your local area and get help today.

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

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