Find a DUI DWI Lawyer

State laws largely regulate Driving under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) laws; together, they are often described as America's most common crime. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws defining it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a proscribed level of 0.08 percent.

Drinking impairs a driver's skills (he or she becomes sleepy, has slow reactions and uncoordinated body movements, along with blurry vision and poor judgment. More than 50% of all fatal highway crashes involving two or more cars are alcohol related, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Over 65% of all fatal, single-car crashes are alcohol related. Studies also show that, when drinkers are at the level of intoxication, the risk of causing an accident is six times greater than for non-drinking drivers.

DUI DWI laws vary from state to state. For example, only 43 states and Washington D.C. have laws prohibiting the driver, passengers or both from possessing an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Under the Vehicle Code in California, for example, it is a misdemeanor offense to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and/or drive when the Blood Alcohol Count is 0.08% or greater. Even though these are two separate offenses, an individual can be charged and prosecuted for both; however, because the punishments for both offenses are identical, a person can only serve one punishment.

In addition, in California, a person does not have the right to an attorney until after a field sobriety test has been either submitted or refused. States vary widely on how they treat a driver's refusal to undergo alcohol-level testing at the time of an accident. In Texas, a drunk driver involved in an accident involving a fatality in his/her own vehicle or in another vehicle can be sentenced to jail for vehicular manslaughter for more than a year.

Two recent legislative enactments are important in this field of law. First, New Jersey is the first state to pass a vehicular-homicide law allowing the prosecution of people who drive while feeling fatigued (Maggie's Law), similar to the laws regarding drunk drivers.

Secondly, quite a few states have enacted legislation providing for Ignition Interlock Systems. This technology services as an alternative to license suspension. A vehicle operator is forced to blow into a small handheld alcohol-sensor unit attached to a vehicle dashboard. Passing the test is required before the car's engine will start. Moreover, it requires additional tests every few minutes while driving.

Remedies and penalties (such as imprisonment, treatment programs, community service, license suspension) depend on whether it's a first, offense, second offense, or multiple offenses, habitual offender

Lawyers practicing in this area are most frequently involved in keeping drivers out of jail, helping them retain or retain their drivers' licenses. They also prosecute and defend DUI DWI drivers involved in accidents where a fatality and/or extensive damages occurred.

By Kathleen Goolsby           

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