Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol may be termed with different designations under different circumstances or in different states or jurisdictions, including DUI (driving under the influence), OUI (operating under the influence), or even DWI (driving while intoxicated). These offenses are serious and should not be taken lightly. Anyone who is operating a motorized vehicle or a vehicle with any type of drive train can get a DUI-type offense. This includes the use of motorized watercraft, lawnmowers, mopeds, and even non-motorized bicycles. Individuals using skateboards, rollerblades, etc., would not be charged with a DUI offense if they are stopped while they are intoxicated on these conveyances, but could be charged with some other offense, such as public intoxication, depending on the jurisdiction where the offense occurs.
A Drunk Driving Offense Is Not Limited to Just the Use of Alcohol
Any charge of operating under the influence (DUI) is not limited to the use of alcohol. An individual, who is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of other drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and even illicit drugs, can be charged with this offense.
If Arrested for a DUI-Type Offense, You Will Spend Time in Jail
If an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense, the arresting officers have the responsibility to remove the individual from the situation and get them off the road. Typically, this means taking them into the police station, booking them, and then putting them in jail until they post bond. In many jurisdictions, individuals must also demonstrate a significant drop in their BAC in order for them to be released on their own recognizance after being arrested for a DUI or related offense. The actual amount of time an individual spends in jail is dependent on the situation, jurisdiction, etc.
Is a DUI a Felony?
DUI type offenses may or might not be felonies. In most jurisdictions, an individual who is getting a first-time DUI will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor. However, an individual who severely injures or kills someone while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs will be charged with a felony. Some states now also charge individuals with felonies even for first-time offenses if they have a very high BAC; the level can vary from state to state, but as an overall standard, a BAC of 0.15 or higher is a red flag to most legal authorities. If an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense while their driving privileges have been suspended or restricted, they may be charged with higher-level offenses. The trend in numerous states is also to charge individuals with multiple DUI offenses with felony convictions after they have been arrested many times for DUIs or similar offenses (most often, three times or more). Thus, in many states, after an individual has two (or three) DUI convictions on their record, any subsequent arrests for DUIs are felony convictions.
Arraignments Are Easy; After That Get an Attorney
After an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense, they will go to court for an arraignment. At the arraignment, the individual will be formally charged with a criminal offense and will be allowed to plead guilty or not guilty. The standard legal advice is to plead not guilty at the arraignment, pay the bond, get released, and then seek the assistance of an attorney for further steps in the process.
Expect Immediate Financial Responsibilities
The entire process of getting a DUI is extremely expensive. Even before one is formally convicted, one should expect to start shelling out money. Individuals often have to pay the court a bond to be released, pay a bond to get their car back, and pay towing charges. They often have to give their chosen attorney a down payment before the attorney begins working on their case. Depending on the situation, other financial responsibilities could be incurred. Even before one goes to trial for their DUI offense, they may have already spent thousands of dollars.
Be Ready to Have Restrictions on Your Driving Privileges
These days, in most states, it is a safe bet to assume that once an individual is convicted of any DUI-type offense, there will be ramifications on their driving privileges. In most states, an individual who refuses to take a BAC test automatically has their driver’s license suspended. The length of time varies depending on the state but typically ranges from three to 12 months. In some states, the arresting officer confiscates the individual’s driver’s license once they are arrested, and the individual gets a temporary driver’s license until their trial. Upon conviction of any DUI offense, an individual’s driver’s license will most likely be restricted, suspended, or revoked depending on the state and the nature of the offense. First-time offenders most often have suspended licenses for a period of 90 days, but again, these suspensions can vary from state to state and case to case, and they are subject to being shorter or longer depending on the judge and situation. Most often, individuals have to meet certain specifications, such as having interlock systems installed on their car ignition if they are issued restricted driver’s licenses, or they must wait for a specified period of time to get their license back if it is suspended or revoked. In many of these later instances, individuals often have to appear before the Department of Motor Vehicles and formally evaluated in terms of their risk for future infractions in order to get their full driver’s license returned. All of these issues incur a further outlay of money, are significantly embarrassing for most individuals, and produce significant stress and resentment.
Expect to Pay More Money for Car Insurance
Individuals who have DUI offenses on their record pay significantly higher premiums for car insurance. There is no way around this. In many cases, insurance companies may drop them, and individuals are forced to seek out insurance companies that will accept them. These companies typically charge significantly higher rates for limited automobile insurance.
Expect to Be Placed on Probation
Because being convicted of a DUI offense is a criminal offense, the vast majority of individuals will be placed on probation for some period of time following their conviction. Probation costs money, and individuals can expect to shell out more money here. The specifications of probation require that an individual not use alcohol or other drugs, and not be in places where the primary purpose of the business is to serve alcohol (e.g., a bar). Other restrictions may be incurred depending on the state, situation, judge, and the individual’s probation officer. While on probation, individuals are required to notify their probation officer and get permission to leave the state and in some cases even the city in which they reside.
One Might Have to Attend an Alcohol Education Program
More and more jurisdictions are requiring that even first-time offenders attend a formal alcohol education program. The program can vary depending on the situation and the state where the program is delivered. Expect to pay for the program and have your attendance monitored in some way.
One Might Have to Complete a Formal Alcohol or Substance Use Disorder Evaluation
The courts will often require that an individual be formally evaluated by a mental health provider that is attached to the court system or a private mental health provider for substance abuse issues prior to going to trial. This assessment often includes an interview with the healthcare provider/clinician and completing a series of tests. The court often uses this information to determine sentencing, probation, the need for treatment, etc. Again, these assessments can be relatively expensive, and the court does not pay for them in most cases. One should expect to shell out even more money for this court requirement if it is imposed.
Courts Most Often Require That the Individual Receives Substance Use Disorder Treatment
The legal system does not want to see repeat DUI offenders. Most courts require that individuals receive substance use disorder treatment as a condition of their probation. If individuals do not attend treatment or are not able to demonstrate to the probation officer that they are attending treatment, they could be subject to jail or even steeper fines. The treatment is often specified by the judge and can include participation in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and/or substance use disorder therapy. Individuals may be required to attend inpatient or residential rehabilitation programs for alcohol abuse. The specification of treatment is often a requirement for an individual to complete probation and may be a requirement for an individual to get their driver’s license back.
Upon Conviction, Expect More Fines
Once an individual is convicted of a DUI offense, they are typically fined by the court. These fines will often eat up the individual’s bond and may require the individual to pay additional monies. Individuals can arrange to be put on a payment program because, in many cases, the fines are extensive.
More Jail Time Might Be in Your Future
States are becoming stricter and stricter regarding punishments for individuals who incur DUI-type offenses, even for first-time offenders. Judges are given less leeway in giving out fines and jail sentences in the current milieu and may be required to include incarceration as a result of charging an individual with a DUI-type offense. In most cases, judges have some leeway concerning the length of the sentence they impose, but the trend is that individuals who commit more than one DUI offense will spend some time in jail. Serious repeat offenders or individuals who have injured someone or caused property damage may be forced to spend significant time in prison. In some cases, individuals may be placed on a tether in lieu of a jail sentence and are not allowed to leave their home except during specified periods (house arrest).
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record
Once an individual is convicted of a DUI offense, there is a record of it somewhere. In many cases, individuals are required to report these offenses on job applications and for other purposes, such as when applying to the military, applying to certain colleges, etc. Insurance companies often investigate an individual’s driving record for as far back as 5-7 years, and when offenses are uncovered by insurance companies, they will tend to charge higher premiums for services or will not cover the individual. Individuals subject to background checks for employment or other purposes often experience a DUI resulting in complications for certain types of employment. Even though it may not appear in some types of background checks or searches years after an individual has committed the offense, there is always a record of it somewhere. Individuals who have multiple DUI convictions, who have seriously injured or killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, or who committed significant property damage while under the influence may have these convictions follow them around for the rest of their lives.
Reasons Prosecutors May Reduce or Dismiss DUI Drug Charges
• Lack Of Probable Cause To Stop Your Vehicle: Before a police officer can stop your vehicle, he or she must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do so. Probable cause is “reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop” This means that you were observed having violated a traffic law, such as: Speeding,, Failing to stop completely at a stop sign, or Straddling the lanes. An example of lack of probable cause to stop you is racial profiling.
What Happens If There Are No Witnesses?
If no one makes a statement to the officer and there are no indicators as to who the driver is, there may not be sufficient probable cause to arrest any of the persons standing near the vehicle which is known as the “no driving” defense.
However, if there is any evidence that could suggest that one person was likely the driver such as:
• The way the seat is adjusted, or
• The fact that one of the parties is the registered owners of the vehicle
What If The Engine Is On But You Did Not Move The Car?
If your engine is running, the officer can assume you had just driven or were about to drive. Other indirect or circumstantial evidence of your having driven include:
• A warm engine
• Gear is in drive
• There is a damaged vehicle at scene of an accident
• The absence of an alternative driver
An adjunct to this is a scenario where you had been in an accident but left the vehicle and the scene and returned home or went to a nearby bar or restaurant where police found you. Unless you admit that you had not ingested any drugs (or alcohol) during the interim between the time you left the vehicle and your being questioned by police, you could just have likely become impaired after you left the scene.
What Symptoms of Impairment Are Officers Looking For?
Classic symptoms of impairment are slurred speech; watery, bloodshot eyes; fumbling with documents; and an inability to understand simple directions or questions. It may be different for drivers under the influence of a drug since different drugs produce different symptoms. If DUI marijuana is suspected, for example, your coordination is usually not affected. Few people who smoked or ingested marijuana exhibit slurred speech or have watery, bloodshot eyes, though they may appear glassy. If the officer testifies to this, a defense expert can counter with studies that refute such conclusions in the majority of subjects.
Field Sobriety Tests
In traffic stops where the officer has observed symptoms of drinking or of ingestion of a drug, the officer may request that you take a series of field sobriety tests that test your coordination and balance. These may include:
• Walk and turn
• Stand on one foot
• Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
Do You Have To Take Field Sobriety Tests?
You are under no obligation to take any of these tests and will not be penalized at all if you refuse. However, the majority of defendants are either too fearful of appearing uncooperative, or are unaware that they can refuse to take the tests, and commit to taking them. This includes blowing into a PBT, or preliminary breath test, which only detects the presence of alcohol in your blood. Its results are not admissible as evidence but do provide probable cause to suspect you are under the influence of alcohol.
The following are some of the legal grounds on which your DUI case can be dismissed:
• Improper cause for stopping your vehicle by the police
• Illegal seizures and searches by the police
• Illegal field sobriety tests conducted by the authorities
• Illegal chemical tests conducted by the authorities
• Your blood was withdrawn without consent and a warrant
• Violation of a right to speak with your Lawyer
• Successful ousting of license suspension
Illegal Field Sobriety Tests
There are certain kinds of field sobriety tests. There is also a specific manner in which they can be conducted. A test done without your consent is one of the reasons the judge may dismiss your DUI charge. Furthermore, if these tests are run in an invalid fashion, then the arrest is considered to be invalid. According to expert impaired driving lawyers, the most common reason for dismissal of a DUI is due to using faulty testing instrument. Thus, they can challenge the validity of the results of a test in a court of law.
• The conclusions will be false if breathalyzer is not calibrated well before use.
• The results may be inadmissible in the courtroom if you have a specific medical condition.
• Blood tests need to be administered using standard procedures. Blood must be drawn by a specialist technician. There should be no alcohol-based cleaning agents used where blood is drawn. The blood vials must contain an adequate amount of preservative and coagulant, which should not have expired. They should also be correctly mixed with the sample. This sample should be properly labeled and stored in safe custody at all times.
Successfully Ousting the License Suspension
If your lawyer can successfully dismiss the license suspension against you, then the prosecutor might be forced to offer you a plea bargain. He or she may withdraw all DUI charges against you for a much lesser penalty because their case will become weaker in the eyes of the law once the driving suspension is over. Although it seems very difficult to remain positive when you are facing Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges, you should never accept the charges easily. Hire a competent DUI lawyer to defend you.
Right to Speak with Your Lawyer
At the time of the arrest, you should be properly notified by the police officers that you can speak with your lawyer. The defendant can challenge the authorities to have violated this basic right while being arrested.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506