Driving under the influence (DUI) of behavior-altering drugs or alcohol is against the law in every state. While laws and penalties may vary from state to state, the consequences of drinking and driving are similar in severity. In every state, chemical tests and field sobriety tests are used to determine the presence and level of alcohol. The standardized field sobriety tests are set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and include three simple tests: walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and eye movement. Some law enforcement officials may also choose to go forward with standard chemical tests, which generally include breath analysis, urine analysis, and/or blood analysis. Depending on the specifics of the arrest and conviction, the police officer is responsible for determining the statutory offense based on test results and their observations. Since DUI and penalties differ depending on where you live, it’s important to understand your state’s laws regarding DUI. Learn more about marijuana DUI and prevention by reviewing the facts and resources below:
- Approximately one-third of all drivers arrested for drunk driving go on to become repeat offenders.
- More than 1.2 million drivers were arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The rate of drunk driving is highest among people aged 21 to 25, accounting for 23.4 percent.
- The average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of approximately one drink per hour.
- An average drunk driver has driven drunk about 80 times before their first arrest.
Penalties of a DUI
- In all states, a first-offense DUI is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail.
- Courts can and do impose high fines for DUI charges, generally ranging from $500 to as much as $2,000.
- A DUI offender is at high risk for having their license suspended for a substantial amount of time.
- In addition to legal penalties, a DUI offender’s insurance company may cancel their policy or drastically increase their rates.
DUI Laws by State
- All states use a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as one threshold of drunk driving.
- The U.S. has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under age 21 who drink and drive.
- Administrative license revocation (ALR) is the removal of an offender’s driver’s license at the time of arrest or upon the failure or refusal of a chemical test.
- Additional penalties may be added to a DUI offender’s conviction if they are caught driving drunk with a child passenger in the vehicle.
- A DUI can become a felony offense based on the number of prior convictions. [PDF]
- Roadside sobriety checkpoints are used by law enforcement to deter alcohol-impaired driving.
- Portable breath alcohol testers (PBTs) are used to record a highly accurate measure of breath alcohol content.
- Zero Tolerance Driving Initiative
- A driver’s balance, coordination, and dexterity may be tested on the field to determine if they have been drinking.
- Tests often used in the field include an eye movement test, walking in a straight line and turning back around, and standing on one leg while counting. [PDF]
DUI and Ignition Interlocks
- A breath alcohol interlock device (BAID) prevents the functioning of a motor vehicle if a driver exceeds a pre-determined BAC.
- Ignition interlocks require the driver to blow into the device before the vehicle can be started.
- The ignition interlock system is designed to deter convicted DUI offenders from operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
- Ignition interlock devices are costly, averaging over $1,000 annually. [PDF]
- Sentenced offenders who are caught driving without an interlock device in their vehicle may be punished with jail time and/or revocation of their probation.
- Be responsible and never risk drinking and driving, as sooner or later, you will be caught.
- If you plan to drink, first find a trusted designated driver who will be available to drive you home.
- If you’ve been drinking, take mass transit or a taxi or ask a friend or family member to drive you home.
- Never allow someone who has been drinking to get behind the wheel of a car, and never get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.
- Don’t bring your vehicle if you know you’ll be drinking; instead, get dropped off or plan to walk home.
By Ted Burgess