Overview of the Crime of Drunk Driving (DUI or Physical Control)
Each US state has its own set of drunk-driving laws, but there are certain concepts and features common to most states’ drunk-driving jurisprudence. Basically, as we all know, it is illegal and a crime for a person to operate a motor vehicle (or be in physical control of a motor vehicle) after consuming alcohol and/or drugs to a degree that impairs his or her safe driving ability and judgment. Both criminal and civil penalties for drunk driving can be harsh and often include:
- Loss or suspension of license
- Mandatory fines
- Substance-abuse treatment
- Mandatory jail or prison time
- Community service
- Criminal record
- Restrictive probationary license programs, including ignition interlock devices and Cinderella licenses
In addition, the social stigma and effect on your career may have lifelong negative consequences.
The Prosecutor’s Role in a Drunk-Driving Case
Prosecution refers to the government’s role in the criminal-justice system. When criminal activity is suspected, it is up to the government to investigate, arrest, charge and bring the alleged offender to trial. A prosecutor is a lawyer who works for the government and who is responsible for developing and presenting the government’s case against a criminal defendant. Prosecutors may be called county attorneys, city attorneys, district attorneys or states’ attorneys. Some jurisdictions may even have experienced police officers act as prosecutors in drunk-driving cases. The prosecutor is the opponent or “adversary” of the criminal defendant and his or her attorney; the two sides go head-to-head against each other in court.
Reliability of Breath-Test Results in a Drunk-Driving Case
Blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is the level of alcohol in the bloodstream from drinking alcoholic beverages. BAC readings are used in court as evidence in drunk-driving cases. The most common method of measure is a breath test, although blood and/or urine testing is sometimes done. A result of .08 or higher may establish a presumption of intoxication. The details of the .08 BAC presumption laws vary among the states, but all 50 states have adopted .08 as their official intoxication level, in large part because of a federal threat of otherwise withholding highway funds.
In every state in the US, a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher is presumed to be legally intoxicated for drunk-driving purposes. Each state has also enacted an implied-consent law. Implied-consent laws provide that every licensed driver within the state is considered to have given his or her consent to chemical testing to determine his or her BAC whenever a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion of intoxication. In most states, refusal to submit to such a test results in license suspension or revocation.
Refusing a Breathalyzer® test
Every state has its own version of an implied consent law providing that a driver impliedly consents to alcohol testing just by the act of driving. In many states, a refusal to take a breath test is itself a criminal violation subject to stiff penalties. For example, refusing a breath test might result in automatic drivers-license suspension or revocation. If you are ultimately found guilty of a drunk-driving offense, there may be additional penalties because of the test refusal, such as a stiffer sentence.
The Impact of a Drunk-Driving Conviction on Your Auto Insurance
An alcohol-related car accident and subsequent drunk-driving conviction can bring many negative consequences into your life, possibly including jail or prison time, a criminal record, car repair or replacement, restitution, guilt and grief over harm to others, higher insurance premiums, a civil lawsuit, fines, court and administrative fees, community service, alcohol education, substance-abuse treatment, social stigma, restrictions on or revocation of your drivers license, attorneys fees, restrictive probation and others. If you are arrested for or charged with drunk driving, a criminal-defense lawyer can advise you about your legal rights and help you fight the charges.
The Role of Probation in Drunk-Driving Sentencing
Probation is by far the most common sentence for people convicted of drunk driving, especially for first-time offenders. Probation is a criminal sentence served in the community, rather than in jail or prison. Most states limit terms of probation to a maximum of five years. If you are facing a drunk-driving charge, an experienced lawyer can assist you with your defense and, if necessary, advocate for a fair sentence.
At the Law Offices of Feldman & Lee, we focus on DUI defense. We use our thorough familiarity with the system to help clients through their legal crises to land safely on their feet. If you face a DUI charge, contact Feldman & Lee to talk with a zealous and knowledgeable legal team.