DUI Basics

Drunk driving is a serious criminal offense that can lead to significant criminal charges. There is a variety of terms used to describe these charges that differ among states.

The generic and most widely used term for drunk driving charges is driving under the influence or DUI. Some states refer to it as driving while intoxicated, or DWI, while others use operating under the influence (OUI) or operating while intoxicated (OWI). In the state of Ohio, it is referred to as operating a vehicle impaired, or OVI. These charges can be imposed regardless of whether the impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs.

What Specifically Do DUI Laws Prohibit?

DUI laws in each state prohibit drivers from operating a motor vehicle if their blood alcohol content is at or higher than .08 percent. In many states, underage drivers may not have any alcohol in their system at all. With respect to a commercial driver, most states have adopted the regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which set the legal limit for such drivers at .04 percent.

Implied Consent Law

Implied consent means that you have given consent to law enforcement officers based on another action you have taken. In the context of DUI, you have consented to a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine when you were issued a driver’s license. In some jurisdictions, a police officer can arrest you for refusing to take a breath test.

Per Se and Zero Tolerance Laws

A per se law as it relates to a DUI is any law that sets an objective standard for impairment by drugs in excess of a specified limit. Six states have these types of laws in effect for one or more illegal drugs. Zero tolerance laws provide that a driver could be charged with a DUI for having any amount of drugs whatsoever their system. Sixteen states have zero-tolerance laws regarding one or more drugs.

DUI Convictions: Criminal Penalties

There are many different penalties that you could receive after being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. You could face jail time, a fine, and a license suspension if you are found guilty of a misdemeanor. If you are facing felony charges DUI could face stiff penalties like a prison and a license revocation in addition to a fine or probation. You may be required to install an ignition interlock device for subsequent convictions for you to retain or eventually regain your driving privileges.

Additional Penalties for a DUI Conviction

After a conviction for a DUI, you may lose your license for a period of several weeks to several years. However, you may be allowed to get a restricted license that makes it possible to drive to work or school. Drivers may also be limited as to how far they can drive as well as what hours they are allowed to operate a motor vehicle.

Plea Bargains in DUI Cases

It is possible that a defendant may be offered a deal by the prosecutor after being charged with a DUI. This may involve entering a plea of guilty to a lesser offense, such as reckless driving. It may help a defendant avoid more serious penalties such as jail time. These types of agreements often require the defendant to agree to perform a specified number of hours of community service as well as the payment of a fine and completion of treatment for alcohol abuse. This is usually done through a diversion program.

Plea bargains are often offered to first-time offenders or to those who didn’t have any aggravating factors, such as an extremely high BAC or an accident involving serious injuries to others, in their cases.

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