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Drunk driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol, is a fairly common crime that some people commit without even realizing that they are doing it. While it is possible to get a DUI for driving under the influence of drugs, drunk driving is a term that is specifically used in relation to alcohol consumption. It is possible to be arrested for drunk driving even when stopped; for example, if the police find you sitting behind the wheel, with the key in the ignition, you could be arrested if you had only pulled off to the side of the road.
Drunk driving has been a crime for more than a century, when looking at a global perspective. In fact, the first recorded instance of someone being arrested for drunk driving happened all the way back in 1897. The man who was arrested had been in an auto accident, and he was a taxi driver.
Generally speaking, you could be considered to be a drunk driver if you take a breath test and you blow more than 0.08; this is true for drivers who are over the age of 21. However, if you are under 21, you could still be given a DUI for blowing less than 0.08, seeing as how you were not legally above the drinking age, and therefore you were not supposed to have any alcohol.
While a blood alcohol level that tops out over 0.08 will get you a DUI in any state in the union, it is important to note that most DUI laws are state-specific, so the consequences depend on where you live.
For example, there are 42 different states, along with the District of Columbia, in which you would lose your license after just one DUI conviction. This is known as an administrative license suspension, or an ALS, and the length of the suspension differs by state. However, in the eight remaining states, you may -— depending on the situation —- be allowed to keep your license after a single offense.
One place in which states differ a fair amount is when it comes to ignition interlock systems. These are systems that measure your BAC before allowing your vehicle to start, and they can be used on the cars of drivers who have been convicted of drunk driving. Not all states have the same regulations or procedures, however.
For example, if you live in Alaska, it is mandatory that you use one of these systems after any conviction, even if it is your first. If you live in Alabama, you have to use one if you have been convicted multiple times, but not necessarily the first time. If you live in Idaho or Iowa, the use of these is discretionary, meaning that a judge can order that one is used if he or she deems it wise, but it is not mandatory.
Most of the discrepancies in the laws come about when looking at punishments and fines. The states do all agree that drunk driving is illegal, so all drivers should know that they cannot get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol of any type. Blowing a BAC of 0.08 or higher when given a breath test will always get you arrested for drunk driving.
Finally, it is worth noting that federal laws do come into the picture at times, usually just in the way that they influence what state lawmakers have to do. For example, federal regulations say that states have to have laws about open containers in vehicles. The federal mandate gives requirements that these laws have to meet in order for there not to be repercussions in funding. For the most part, though, the states are allowed to craft and enforce their own laws, with minimal federal guidance.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified drunk driving lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local drunk driving attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.