For anyone who has ever driven in Los Angeles, Houston, or Atlanta, you know that it is hard enough to drive while plain sober. So if you add the influence of alcohol or other substances into the mix, it makes a bad situation much worse. Alcohol-related accidents happen all across the United States almost every day. They are responsible for numerous deaths, serious injuries, and thousands of dollars in damages to personal property. If you are caught and arrested while driving under such conditions, you could face DUI charges.
What is a DUI? It is an abbreviation for Driving Under the Influence and is the legal term for operating a vehicle while inebriated on alcohol or drugs. Driving under the influence is illegal and if you are arrested for a DUI, you can face some serious charges. There are strict state laws concerning drivers who drive under the influence. Penalties can be pretty severe, even for first time offenders. You can even be held criminally accountable for any injuries. If you have been pulled over and arrested for a DUI in the recent past, you need to know what you are in for.
Driving Under the Influence
The legal requirement to be considered as driving under the influence is a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or higher. If, however, you are under the age of 18 (legal drinking age is 21) then the alcohol level is .02 or higher.
Police and other law enforcement watch for unsafe driving such as vehicles that cross into other lanes, are driven dangerously fast, or appear to be a hazard to other drivers. If a law enforcement officer observes suspicious behavior, they can legally perform a traffic stop of the suspicious vehicle. If the driver appears to show signs of being under the influence such as slurred speech, has alcohol on their breath, or appear to be incoherence then the officer has the right to perform what is called a field sobriety test. A sobriety test will include things such as walking in a straight line, counting backwards, or closing your eyes and touching your nose.
Is A DUI A Felony
It depends on the nature of the offense. For a first time DUI offense it is considered a misdemeanor. However, there are always exceptions. Even if it is your first DUI, if someone was injured or killed because of your actions, some states will seek to raise the offense to a felony. If someone died, you could be charged with reckless homicide. At the very least, it would be considered manslaughter. Drivers who have been convicted of DUI numerous times may face felony charges for being a repeat offender. Repeat offenders with three or more DUI’s would be considered as having never learned their lesson so they are generally charged to the full extent of the law.
How Severe Are The Penalties For A DUI
The penalties for a DUI can be very severe. At the very least, you will spend time behind bars at some point. Most state laws have a minimum jail time for drivers charged with DUI. Usually this is when the driver is first arrested after either failing or refusing a BAC. There are also what is termed as aggravating circumstances that can lengthen that jail time. Aggravating circumstances include things like driving 30 mph over the speed limit, driving the wrong way, having an alcohol level of .18 or higher, and causing an accident that results in injury.
Penalties that incur depend on how many DUI offenses you have. For a first time offense, a driver can face a fine of anywhere from $200 to a $400. You are also looking at some jail time of between 2 to 30 days in a county jail. Your drivers license can be suspended for up to 4 months and you may be required to take a counseling course of alcohol and drug abuse. First time offenders will be on probation and have to serve several hours of community labor.
If you have more than one DUI offense, the penalties get more severe. The fines get higher. A second offense can cost you $500 while a third offense can be as high as $2000. Repeat offenses also have longer stays in the county jail or you could be looking at a year in a federal prison (if the charges are a felony). You could lose your license for 3 years and have to go to a mandatory in-house substance abuse treatment program.
If a driver goes to prison for felony charges, the problems to not end once they get out and get back behind the wheel. There are many states that have passed laws requiring the driver’s vehicle to be equipped with a built-in breathalyzer. This device tests the blood alcohol level of the driver before they can ever start their car. If the blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, the car will not start and gets locked down for a minimum of a few hours. Only when the driver can delivery a legal breath test will the car start.