Individuals who are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol have committed a serious offense and require legal representation. It is not the goal of this article to give legal advice to anyone. The information here is only designed to be used for educational purposes and should not be construed in any way as legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal issues.
Meaning: DUI vs. DWI
Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol may be termed with different designations under different circumstances or in different states or jurisdictions, including DUI (driving under the influence), OUI (operating under the influence), or even DWI (driving while intoxicated). These offenses are serious and should not be taken lightly.
Definition: What Is a DUI?
Anyone who is operating a motorized vehicle or a vehicle with any type of drive train can get a DUI-type offense. This includes the use of motorized watercraft, lawnmowers, mopeds, and even non-motorized bicycles. Individuals using skateboards, rollerblades, etc., would not be charged with a DUI offense if they are stopped while they are intoxicated on these conveyances, but could be charged with some other offense, such as public intoxication, depending on the jurisdiction where the offense occurs.
Which of the Following Is True About Drinking and Driving?
There are several general issues to be aware of when an individual is charged with a DUI offense. All of these issues will vary from state to state, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, etc. In order to learn the exact details regarding DUI type offenses in one’s state, consult with a licensed attorney.
All of these offenses indicate that the individual has been apprehended by a police officer while operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The officer only needs to have an inclination that an individual might be intoxicated from their behavior, mild inconsistencies in their driving, their posture while they are driving, or for any number of other reasons that the officer can choose to make an initial stop. Once the officer stops the individual, they can administer tests to confirm if the individual is legally intoxicated.
The determination of whether an individual is legally intoxicated or not can be made by the officer based on various types of field sobriety tests, but the measurement of an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) via the of the use of a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine analysis is considered the definitive sign that an individual meets the standard for legal intoxication. The standard is almost universally accepted in the United States as a BAC of 0.08 due to federal standards to determine legal intoxication, although there might be some variation in certain jurisdictions. However, individuals displaying a BAC of 0.08 or higher have very little power in debating the issue in a court of law unless their attorney can somehow call into question the method by which the BAC was measured. Thus, the individual’s BAC is considered the definitive standard to determine if an individual is legally intoxicated, and supersedes any and all other measures. Even if an individual passes all the field sobriety tests and fails the BAC measure, they are basically going to be arrested immediately. In order to understand how alcohol consumption is related to various BAC levels, readers can consult this website.
However, in many jurisdictions even individuals who test with BAC levels below the limit for establishing legal intoxication may be charged with DUI offenses depending on their behaviors, how they are driving, if they have been in an accident, etc. This is because many judges, state officials, etc. consider any level of alcohol in an individual system to potentially impair an individual’s judgment and driving ability.
A Drunk Driving Offense Is Not Limited to Just the Use of Alcohol
Any charge of operating under the influence (DUI) is not limited to the use of alcohol. An individual who is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of other drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and even illicit drugs, can be charged with this offense.
If Arrested for a DUI-Type Offense, You Will Spend Time in Jail
If an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense, the arresting officers have the responsibility to remove the individual from the situation and get them off the road. Typically, this means taking them into the police station, booking them, and then putting them in jail until they post bond.
In many jurisdictions, individuals must also demonstrate a significant drop in their BAC in order for them to be released on their own recognizance after being arrested for a DUI or related offense. The actual amount of time an individual spends in jail is dependent on the situation, jurisdiction, etc.
Is a DUI a Felony?
DUI type offenses may or might not be felonies. In most jurisdictions, an individual who is getting a first-time DUI will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor. However, an individual who severely injures or kills someone while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs will be charged with a felony. Some states now also charge individuals with felonies even for first-time offenses if they have a very high BAC; the level can vary from state to state, but as an overall standard, a BAC of 0.15 or higher is a red flag to most legal authorities.
If an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense while their driving privileges have been suspended or restricted, they may be charged with higher-level offenses. The trend in numerous states is also to charge individuals with multiple DUI offenses with felony convictions after they have been arrested many times for DUIs or similar offenses (most often, three times or more). Thus, in many states, after an individual has two (or three) DUI convictions on their record, any subsequent arrests for DUIs are felony convictions.
Arraignments Are Easy; After That Get an Attorney
After an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense, they will go to court for an arraignment. At the arraignment, the individual will be formally charged with a criminal offense and will be allowed to plead guilty or not guilty. The standard legal advice is to plead not guilty at the arraignment, pay the bond, get released, and then seek the assistance of an attorney for further steps in the process.
Expect Immediate Financial Responsibilities
The entire process of getting a DUI is extremely expensive. Even before one is formally convicted, one should expect to start shelling out money. Individuals often have to pay the court a bond to be released, pay a bond to get their car back, and pay towing charges. They often have to give their chosen attorney a down payment before the attorney begins working on their case. Depending on the situation, other financial responsibilities could be incurred. Even before one goes to trial for their DUI offense, they may have already spent thousands of dollars.
Be Ready to Have Restrictions on Your Driving Privileges
These days, in most states, it is a safe bet to assume that once an individual is convicted of any DUI-type offense, there will be ramifications on their driving privileges. In most states, an individual who refuses to take a BAC test automatically has their driver’s license suspended. The length of time varies depending on the state but typically ranges from three to 12 months.
In some states, the arresting officer confiscates the individual’s driver’s license once they are arrested, and the individual gets a temporary driver’s license until their trial. Upon conviction of any DUI offense, an individual’s driver’s license will most likely be restricted, suspended, or revoked depending on the state and the nature of the offense. First-time offenders most often have suspended licenses for a period of 90 days, but again, these suspensions can vary from state to state and case to case, and they are subject to being shorter or longer depending on the judge and situation.
Most often, individuals have to meet certain specifications, such as having interlock systems installed on their car ignition if they are issued restricted driver’s licenses, or they must wait for a specified period of time to get their license back if it is suspended or revoked. In many of these later instances, individuals often have to appear before the Department of Motor Vehicles and formally evaluated in terms of their risk for future infractions in order to get their full driver’s license returned. All of these issues incur a further outlay of money, are significantly embarrassing for most individuals, and produce significant stress and resentment.
Expect to Pay More Money for Car Insurance
Individuals who have DUI offenses on their record pay significantly higher premiums for car insurance. There is no way around this. In many cases, insurance companies may drop them, and individuals are forced to seek out insurance companies that will accept them. These companies typically charge significantly higher rates for limited automobile insurance.
Expect to Be Placed on Probation
Because being convicted of a DUI offense is a criminal offense, the vast majority of individuals will be placed on probation for some period of time following their conviction. Probation costs money, and individuals can expect to shell out more money here.
The specifications of probation require that an individual not use alcohol or other drugs, and not be in places where the primary purpose of the business is to serve alcohol (e.g., a bar). Other restrictions may be incurred depending on the state, situation, judge, and the individual’s probation officer. While on probation, individuals are required to notify their probation officer and get permission to leave the state and in some cases even the city in which they reside.
One Might Have to Attend an Alcohol Education Program
More and more jurisdictions are requiring that even first-time offenders attend a formal alcohol education program. The program can vary depending on the situation and the state where the program is delivered. Expect to pay for the program and have your attendance monitored in some way.
One Might Have to Complete a Formal Alcohol or Substance Use Disorder Evaluation
The courts will often require that an individual be formally evaluated by a mental health provider that is attached to the court system or a private mental health provider for substance abuse issues prior to going to trial. This assessment often includes an interview with the healthcare provider/clinician and completing a series of tests. The court often uses this information to determine sentencing, probation, the need for treatment, etc.
Again, these assessments can be relatively expensive, and the court does not pay for them in most cases. One should expect to shell out even more money for this court requirement if it is imposed.
Courts Most Often Require That the Individual Receives Substance Use Disorder Treatment
The legal system does not want to see repeat DUI offenders. Most courts require that individuals receive substance use disorder treatment as a condition of their probation. If individuals do not attend treatment or are not able to demonstrate to the probation officer that they are attending treatment, they could be subject to jail or even steeper fines.
The treatment is often specified by the judge and can include participation in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and/or substance use disorder therapy. Individuals may be required to attend inpatient or residential rehabilitation programs for alcohol abuse. The specification of treatment is often a requirement for an individual to complete probation and may be a requirement for an individual to get their driver’s license back.
Upon Conviction, Expect More Fines
Once an individual is convicted of a DUI offense, they are typically fined by the court. These fines will often eat up the individual’s bond and may require the individual to pay additional monies. Individuals can arrange to be put on a payment program because, in many cases, the fines are extensive.
More Jail Time Might Be in Your Future
States are becoming stricter and stricter regarding punishments for individuals who incur DUI-type offenses, even for first-time offenders. Judges are given less leeway in giving out fines and jail sentences in the current milieu and may be required to include incarceration as a result of charging an individual with a DUI-type offense.
In most cases, judges have some leeway concerning the length of the sentence they impose, but the trend is that individuals who commit more than one DUI offense will spend some time in jail. Serious repeat offenders or individuals who have injured someone or caused property damage may be forced to spend significant time in prison. In some cases, individuals may be placed on a tether in lieu of a jail sentence and are not allowed to leave their home except during specified periods (house arrest).
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record
Once an individual is convicted of a DUI offense, there is a record of it somewhere. In many cases, individuals are required to report these offenses on job applications and for other purposes, such as when applying to the military, applying to certain colleges, etc. Insurance companies often investigate an individual’s driving record for as far back as 5-7 years, and when offenses are uncovered by insurance companies, they will tend to charge higher premiums for services or will not cover the individual.
Individuals subject to background checks for employment or other purposes often experience a DUI resulting in complications for certain types of employment. Even though it may not appear in some types of background checks or searches years after an individual has committed the offense, there is always a record of it somewhere.
Individuals who have multiple DUI convictions, who have seriously injured or killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, or who committed significant property damage while under the influence may have these convictions follow them around for the rest of their lives.
The Bottom Line
Getting a DUI or related offense is costly, inconvenient, and embarrassing. The ramifications and records associated with it last for years. The only surefire way to avoid getting a DUI is to not drive after drinking alcohol.