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If you are accused of a DUI, you may have some common inquiries. The following are answers to frequently asked questions about drunk driving.
What is a DUI?
A DUI, or “driving under the influence,” refers to laws that prohibit operating a vehicle while intoxicated. In the United States, a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08% caught driving a motor vehicle may be charged with DUI. Driving under the influence of certain drugs (even prescription) or a combination of drugs and alcohol may also be considered a DUI. DUI is also known as “Driving While Intoxicated” (DWI) and “Operating While Intoxicated” (OWI).
Drunk Driving Offenses
There are several ways you can be charged with drunk driving, including operating a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol that impairs your physical abilities, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher regardless of whether your driving is impaired, and operating a vehicle while impaired after taking drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. If drugs cause any impairment in your physical abilities, you may be found guilty of a DUI.
Can the Police Pull Me Over for Any Reason?
Police must have “reasonable suspicion” based on a traffic violation or unusual or erratic driving behavior to pull you over. The standard for “unusual” driving behavior is very low, meaning you may be pulled over for everyday driving that is not even illegal. You may also be stopped or investigated at a sobriety checkpoint before the officer observes anything suspicious about your driving behavior.
What Happens if I Am Pulled Over for a Drunk Driving Investigation?
If you are pulled over for a drunk driving investigation, the police officer will request your driver’s license and registration, and may ask you additional questions such as “Do you know how fast you were going?” or “Have you been drinking tonight?”
It’s important to remain calm and polite, and never argue with the officer. Your behavior can be taken into consideration during the investigation.
If the officer has reason to believe that you are driving under the influence, they may ask you to get out of the vehicle to perform a series of “field sobriety tests“. These tests are designed to measure your physical and mental ability and may include reciting the alphabet, walking along a straight line, standing on one foot for a few seconds, and other tests.
Additionally, the officer may use a portable breath test meter to measure your blood alcohol concentration. If you have any chronic physical problems that make it difficult for you to perform the tests, it’s important to inform the officer prior to performing them.
If you fail the field sobriety tests or the breathalyzer test, the officer will inform you that you are being arrested for driving under the influence. You will be handcuffed, searched, placed in the police car, and taken to jail. You will remain in jail until you post bail or until a judge releases you on your own recognizance without bail.
These Measures of Your Physical and Mental Ability may Include:
- Reciting the alphabet
- Walking along a straight line
- Standing on one foot for a few seconds
- Touching your nose with your finger while closing your eyes
- Following an object with your eyes without moving your head
It’s important to note that the specific tests used may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the officer conducting the investigation. Additionally, if you have any chronic physical problems that make it difficult to perform these tests, it’s essential to inform the officer prior to performing them.
What Happens if I Fail the Field Sobriety Tests?
If you fail the field sobriety tests, it’s likely that you will be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). The officer will inform you that you are being placed under arrest, and you will be handcuffed, searched, and taken to jail.
Once you’re at the jail, you will likely be asked to take a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer or blood test, to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If your BAC is over the legal limit, you will face charges for DUI or DWI.
The consequences of failing a field sobriety test can be severe, including fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and even imprisonment. It’s important to note that you have the right to refuse to perform field sobriety tests or chemical tests, but doing so can have legal consequences, including automatic suspension of your driver’s license in some jurisdictions.
What Tests are Used for Determining Blood Alcohol Content?
There are two methods used to determine your blood alcohol level:
- Blood sample – most exact and effective for prosecution
- Breath (breathalyzer test) sample – quicker but less reliable.
You do not have the right or option to refuse either test.
What Happens if I Refuse to Take a BAC Test?
If you refuse to take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test after being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), the consequences can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of your case.
In many jurisdictions, refusing to take a BAC test can result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license, even if you are later found not guilty of DUI or DWI. Additionally, your refusal to take the test may be used against you in court as evidence of your guilt.
In some states, refusal to take a BAC test can result in increased penalties if you are convicted of DUI or DWI. For example, in some jurisdictions, a first-time offender who refuses a BAC test may face a longer license suspension, higher fines, or even mandatory jail time.
It’s important to note that the laws regarding BAC test refusals can be complex and vary widely from state to state. If you are arrested for DUI or DWI and are unsure about your rights or the potential consequences of refusing a BAC test, it’s important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction.
What Are the Penalties for DUI?
The penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the severity of the offense, and whether you have prior DUI convictions. Generally, the penalties for DUI can include:
- Fines: DUI convictions typically carry fines that can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
- License suspension: If you’re convicted of DUI, your driver’s license may be suspended for a period of time, ranging from a few months to several years. In some jurisdictions, you may be eligible for a restricted license that allows you to drive to work or school during certain hours.
- Probation: Some jurisdictions may require you to complete a period of probation, which can involve regular check-ins with a probation officer, drug and alcohol testing, and other conditions.
- Jail time: Depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the offense, you may be sentenced to serve time in jail or prison.
- Alcohol education or treatment: In many cases, individuals convicted of DUI are required to attend alcohol education or treatment programs.
- Ignition interlock device: Some jurisdictions require individuals convicted of DUI to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles. An IID requires the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before starting the car, and will prevent the car from starting if the driver’s BAC is above a certain limit.
- Community service: You may be required to perform a certain number of hours of community service as part of your sentence.
It’s important to note that the penalties for DUI can be severe, and can have long-lasting consequences, including a criminal record, increased insurance rates, and difficulties with employment or professional licensing. If you’re facing DUI charges, it’s important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction.
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