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Drunk Driving Laws In the US – DWI Basics Explained

Cruising down the roadway after getting wasted might look like a cool idea in the movies but the US legal system sure doesn’t think so. Drunk driving is a serious offense, one that is punishable under the US constitution. Here are some of the basic laws concerning drunk driving cases and the precautionary measures you can take up to avoid such as ordeal. Also, if you know someone who is convicted for driving while under the influence of alcohol you can check up on their jail term and other details on Inmates101, a website that keeps track of all prison inmates across the state;

What Qualifies as “Drunk”?

Now, each state has its own rules to define how drunk a person must be to be qualified as “being drunk”. However, the Congress has appealed for a standard yardstick to measure how inebriated the person is. States that want to tap on a major chunk of federal funding comply with the set standard that presumes that 0.08% of alcohol in the bloodstream is “drunk enough” to drive. There are states where the permissible alcohol content in the blood has been lowered to 0.04% for commercial drivers and even less for people under the age of 21.

Stopping a Drunk Driver

The police often set up random checkpoints on the highway or other frequented routes and stop every vehicle or any car at random for a drunk driving test.  A prior complaint by any other driver or any evidence of inebriated behavior adds on to the suspicion and may result in you having to pull over. According to the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “turning with a wide radius, straddling the painted lines on the roadway, weaving, appearing to be drunk, striking or almost striking another vehicle, swerving, driving on the wrong side of the road and, braking erratically”, all fall under suspicious behaviour.  

Field Sobriety

The field sobriety test usually involves the police officer asking the drunk driver to perform some tasks to check its brain-to-limb coordination. Some of the tests to check the cognitive abilities of a person would be to ask him to walk on a straight line or recite the alphabets backward. The police can even conduct a chemical test using a Breathalyzer to measure the drivers BAC or Blood-Alcohol concentration levels. Normally, the driver cannot refuse to give in a sample of his blood or urine to conduct chemical examinations. Failure to cooperate with the authorities may result in penalties or suspension of the license.  

DUI/DWI Laws

The Driving Under Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are two offenses registered by law which govern the drunk driving cases. All states have DUI laws which are further divided into two sections- the zero tolerance laws and the per se laws. The zero tolerance laws are for underage drivers. The legal age for drinking in the states is 21, people under the age of 21 if found behind the steering wheel with the lowest trace of alcohol in their bloodstream (even 0.01%) are liable for questioning and a penalty. The per se intoxication laws pertain to all adult drivers who have a BAC of 0.08% or more.

Evidence Involved

The police can convict the driver even without medical proof in case of a “per se intoxication” if there is other evidence to prove his intoxicated state. Most criminal penalties include paying a fee, jail time, probation or community service. People who have a history of DUI violations and reckless road behavior are more likely to get convicted. And if rash driving leads to loss of property or life, then the sentence is even more severe.

The Investigation and Conviction

Once there is enough evidence to convict a driver for rash road behavior, then the police are free to check up on his track record and conduct a detailed investigation to dig up more details. And getting convicted under the DUI laws have an immediate impact on your driving privileges. Your license will be canceled, your vehicle confiscated, and, in some cases, you might even have to serve jail time. If you have a clean track record, chances are the laws might not be as harsh upon you. A regular offender will have to pay the fee and get an ignition interlock system installed in their car at their own expense which could be used to monitor his activities on road.  

What Can You Do?

If you are convicted of drunk driving, the best way out would be to just cooperate with the officers. You can demand a lawyer and legal representation in court, but the district attorney offices are usually unwilling to negotiate for plea bargains especially if it’s a serious violation. You can contact a DUI lawyer to get actionable legal advice.

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