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DUI Laws and Arrest Information

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DUI stands for driving under the influence; DWI, for driving while intoxicated. In the United States, a person is considered legally intoxicated, and therefore not competent to drive, when his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches .08 percent. Drivers under the age of 21 may be arrested for any traceable amount of alcohol in the bloodstream (as low as .02 percent). Driving while intoxicated, or driving under the influence, is punishable by fines, license suspension and/or jail time, depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction in which the offense takes place. If you have been arrested for DUI or DWI, you should immediately contact a DUI lawyer. DUI suspects are protected by the U.S. Constitution as well as state laws. These laws protect the person accused of driving under the influence from a variety of unlawful actions during the arrest process. A qualified attorney can help determine if any of these unlawful actions have occurred during the arrest process and if the rights of the accused have been violated. In some cases, the DUI lawyer can obtain a reduced sentence, or can get the DUI charges dropped completely.

Conducción bajo la influencia (texto en Español)

Car Accidents and DUI

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1.4 million people were arrested on DUI charges for driving under the influence in 2004 (the latest figures available). In many cases, these DUI arrests occurred after being involved in a car accident. Those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs face significant fines, driver's license penalties and, in some cases, jail time.

Boating, Cycling and Other DUI Accidents

Drug- and alcohol-related accidents are not limited to automobiles. Boating and cycling are just two activities where alcohol and drug intoxication have a significant effect on the user's judgment and reaction time.

Arrest for riding a bicycle or operating a boat or other moving vehicle while under the influence is a serious matter. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, a DUI lawyer can tell you what DUI charges to expect and help you determine the best course of action for your circumstances.

DUI/DWI Arrest Process

The DUI arrest process for those accused of driving under influence generally occurs as follows:

  • The driver is pulled over
  • The police officer conducts a field sobriety test
  • If the suspect fails the field sobriety test, he or she is arrested
  • The suspect is booked
  • The suspect may arrange for bail
  • Arraignment occurs. If the accused pleads guilty, this is the final stage

The following are subsequent steps that, though rare in DWI cases, can occur in any court case:

  • Plea bargain
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Pre-trial motions
  • Trial
  • Sentencing
  • Appeals

DUI and DWI Classification and Punishment

DUI and DWI can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. For example, in California the court considers whether any "enhancements" are involved (having a child under 14 in the car, refusing to submit to chemical testing, etc.).

In every state, legal penalties for DUI differ significantly depending on whether the accident results in injury (or death) and whether the accused has prior DUI or DWI convictions, or is a first time driving under the influence offender.

Driver's License Suspension

A DUI or DWI conviction typically results in driver's license suspension. In 41 states and the District of Columbia, refusal to take a breath alcohol test results in "administrative license suspension," which occurs when a person's license is taken away prior to conviction. However, a DWI attorney can help determine the circumstances for a driver's refusal to take the test and in some cases may be able to affect the outcome of the driver's license suspension.

In some states, those convicted of driving under the influence must equip their vehicles with an ignition interlock, which is a breath analyzer attached to the ignition. If the device's analysis of the driver's breath provides evidence that he or she has been drinking, it disables the ignition.

Additional Penalties

In addition to license suspension, people who are convicted of driving while intoxicated may also be subject to fines, public service, driving school and jail time.

Costs Associated with DUI Arrest

Being arrested for DUI or DWI can be very costly. In fact, by some estimates, a DUI can cost the person arrested as much as $20,000. The following is a list of possible expenses a person may incur as a direct result of arrest for driving while intoxicated:

  • Court costs
  • Fines
  • Hiring a lawyer
  • Cost of bail for DWI
  • Increased insurance premiums
  • Car damage
  • Property damage
  • Medical costs

In some jurisdictions, the fines associated with a DUI arrest can be lowered through community service or by attending driving safety courses. Often these steps can also improve your eligibility for a driver's license. To help determine the best course of action for your circumstances, contact a DWI attorney in your area. For more information on DUI and DWI costs, visit our page devoted to this topic.

Your Legal Rights

The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination, yet some state laws — namely "implied consent" laws that compel motorists to submit to breath alcohol and/or urine tests — may conflict with this right. To find out more about your legal rights, contact an attorney in your area.




Did You Know?

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit drivers, passengers or both from having open containers of alcohol in the car.