It is a crime in every state for a motorist to operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, including prescription medications. Depending on the state, the offense is called driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating under the influence (OUI), or a similar term. Even if evidence of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) shows impairment, a skilled defense lawyer may seek to have the case dismissed or the charges reduced. Attorneys can also often negotiate for lesser sentences and treatment diversion programs.
Upon conviction of a DUI, the defendant will receive some sort of criminal sentence (such as community service, a fine, even jail) and face a driver's license suspension, depending on the severity and whether it is a first offense. An attorney may be able to help the defendant regain driving privileges with restrictions, such as using an ignition interlock device (IID) or receiving limited permission to drive to and from work.
Although DUIs are generally prosecuted on the state level, drivers can also be charged with a federal DUI if they were driving while impaired on federal property, e.g. national parks, forests, monuments, federal buildings, military bases, or attached parking lots.. Members of the military may be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they are found operating a vehicle while impaired.
Terms to Know
- Duty to Submit: In every state, motorists consent to chemical testing as a condition of receiving a driver's license. Failure to submit to a BAC test breaks this agreement and results in a driver's license suspension.
- Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC): The concentration of alcohol in one's bloodstream, which is used to determine a motorist's level of alcohol impairment. Sometimes this is reported as Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) if the testing procedure involves breath samples.
- Drug Recognition Experts: Officers specially trained to determine the drug impairment of a DUI suspect.
- DUI Checkpoints: Roadblocks set up by police, typically along busy roadways or on special occasions (New Year's Eve) and other alcohol-related events and holidays, in which motorists are checked for impairment at random.
The Usefulness of a DUI Attorney
Drunk or impaired driving is a serious offense and is taken seriously by courts, particularly since it can be so deadly to other motorists. As such, the stakes of a DUI case are quite high. Those convicted of a DUI usually lose their license for a certain period of time, pay a hefty fine, and sometimes serve time in jail (especially if it is a repeat offense). Even if a defense lawyer is unable to persuade the prosecution to dismiss the case, he or she may be able to reduce the sentence or otherwise provide for a softer landing.
Charged with DUI? Get Help from an Attorney.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, contact an experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney in your area. Legal representation might not be cheap, but a skilled DUI lawyer should be able to help you with the outcome of your case. To learn more about how a DUI attorney may help your case, see Hire a DUI Lawyer and Get Legal Help with a DUI.
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