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Driving Under The Influence

Driving under the influence is the most common definition used when describing people who are driving while using alcohol or being drunk, and people who are using drugs or under the influence of drugs. This term applies to people who are operating a vehicle, bicycle, boat, airplane, and a horse. This is typically a criminal offence in most countries, specifically while driving while intoxicated. Along with DUI’s, there is also a term or charge called DWI, which means driving while intoxicated, this as well applies to alcohol and drugs. DUI’s and DWI’s are the most common offences used to charge people in the United States.

When police are charging people with these offences, they typically establish guilt by observation, and in most case's, sobriety tests are used. In 1936, in Norway, the first law for blood-alcohol content (BAC) was established. BAC is not the only method used by law enforcement officials; they can detect signs of impairment by also field sobriety tests, which help determine guilt. There is a common myth about drinking coffee, eating dehydrated foods, and salty foods; this does not improve the individual’s ability to overcome being impaired; these are all just illusions.

DUI Offences

Most states work with two different offences, DUI’s, DWI’s, and in some cases OWI’s, which means operating while intoxicated. The second and most-recent offence used is, driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08% or higher. The law enforcement officer will have to get proof of intoxication, and proof of BAC before any charges can be laid. In most, if not all the United States, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offence. There are various versions of DUI’s; there are misdemeanors, which can land a person one year in jail. This charge could actually be elevated to a felony, which could lead to longer imprisonment. This will happen when the individual involved causes serious injury or death, extensive property damage, or if they have previous DUI charges against them.

There has been another law or charge used in DUI cases, and that is Administrative License Suspensions, or ALS. This can apply when an individual refuses to take sobriety tests, or blows over the legal limit, and their license can be confiscated on the spot. To determine if this applies, law enforcement officers will conduct on the individual field sobriety tests, using portable breathalyzers, and field tests to determine their probable cause. This type of charge has been effective at young drivers; unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes were still the leading cause of death in 2002. To this day, drunk driving is still the major cause of death for people under the age of 25.

Law officials take DUI’s very seriously because of the high fatality rates that they can cause. In 2006, there was 13,470 DUI traffic related deaths in the USA. The most gruesome fact was that these deaths comprised of 32% of all automobile fatalities in the USA. When people are pulled over, intoxication is determined by the blood-alcohol content; the measure of concentration of alcohol in the blood stream. Each state has its own legal blood-alcohol limit. Typically, it will be between .02% and .07% in all states, with .08% being considered normally over the limit. The more drugs and alcohol persons uses while driving, they will of course will always increase their chances of getting into an accident. In 2006, there were 1.46 million people in the USA, whom were arrested for driving under the influence? This just goes to show the severity of DUI’s in the USA.

Legal Consequences

There are many common legal consequences for DUI’s, such as: revoking the driver’s license, jail sentences, confiscating license plates, and impounding the vehicle. All of these charges of course are determined on the exact circumstance that took place when the person is being charged and/or investigated. It also very common for repeat offenders to have interlock devices installed in their vehicles; these devices are designed to measure the BAC of the person when they blow into it. If they blow over the legal limit, then the individual’s vehicle will not start, which certainly prevents the person from driving, and could save lives in the process.

The minimum punishment in all states for a DUI is the loss of the individual’s license for a period of time. Some states have some very specific laws and convictions based on the blood-alcohol content of the person when this test is conducted. Every state uses field sobriety tests and chemical tests; these procedures vary from state to state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has three brief field sobriety tests that can be used. They are the horizontal gaze, walk and turn, and the one leg stand. Chemical tests such as, urine analysis, blood analysis, and breath analysis can also be used. In all but five states, when multiple offenders are charged, they have to have an interlock device installed in their vehicle. In over 40 different states, it is illegal to have open containers of alcohol in the vehicle while driving. Throughout all the USA, there are many similarities for DUI convictions; however, there are many variations. Either way, a DUI is a criminal offence, and is taken very seriously by all law officials within the United States. 

Works Cited – Wikipedia 8 June 2009 11 June 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DUI>
DUI Foundation 2008 11 June 2009 http://www.duifoundation.org/