Apr

18

Driving Under the Influence – No Automobile Required

By Mary Ann

A California man was charged with a DUI offense earlier this week after an accident…in a golf cart.

DUI Laws vary from state to state–in at least one state, a charge of driving under the influence on a bicycle was successfully challenged. However, other states have separate statutes specifically prohibiting riding a bicycle on a public highway under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While some states require a certain speed capability or horse power or engine size to qualify as a “motorized vehicle” under DUI laws, others define “motorized vehicle” simply as any self-propelled vehicle.

This potentially encompasses–as charges around the country have reflected–motor scooters, tractors, riding lawn mowers and, in at least one Florida case (ultimately dismissed), a motorized wheelchair.

Apr

13

“Driving” Under the Influence?

By Mary Ann

More than one question has been posed about what constitutes “driving” under DUI law. The answer, of course, is that it varies from state to state.

However, the one thing that is clear and consistent is that you can’t count on “driving” meaning what we typically think of as driving. That is to say, “driving” doesn’t necessarily mean steering a car that’s moving down the road under its own power.

For instance, in at least one state, steering a car in tow has been held to be “driving” for purposes of a DUI conviction.

Many states consider a person “in control of” a motor vehicle if the person is sitting in the driver’s seat and the car is running–or even, in some states, if the keys are in the ignition and the car isn’t running.

In fact, there’s been at least one case in which the “driver” was convicted of a DUI committed while his keys were in his pocket.

There are too many variations in statutory language and in the interpretations of various courts to attempt to advance any kind of blanket definition.

The bottom line is that “driving” doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does, and it’s best to find out how it’s defined in your state before it becomes an issue–or a criminal conviction.

Apr

12

DUI Charges Below the “Legal Limit”

By Mary Ann

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Recently, a visitor to the site asked how it was possible to be arrested and charged with a DUI with a blood alcohol content reading far below the “legal limit”.

Specific DUI laws vary from state to state, but there are at least two possible reasons that someone could be charged with a DUI despite a blood alcohol content of less than .08%.

One is that the driver might be under the age of 21. In many states, the “legal limit” for a driver under the age of 21 is significantly lower than .08%.

FACT: Sometimes Just Having ANY Alcohol in Your System Can Lead to an Arrest

In fact, in some states any trace of alcohol is sufficient to convict an underage drinker of driving under the influence.

Another possibility is that the driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading somewhat lower than .08%, but also showed signs of impairment. The “legal limit” is simply the number above which a driver is automatically guilty of driving under the influence (or some related statute) without any other evidence.

However, many states also allow for a DUI offense and conviction when a driver has a slightly lower BAC reading but also fails field sobriety tests, drives erratically or otherwise shows signs of being impaired.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI and you were below the legal limit, talk to a lawyer about how you may be able to beat your DUI case.

Apr

12

Breathalyzer Battle Nears an End

By Mary Ann

For months, DUI attorneys in Florida have been arguing for the release of the Intoxilyzer 5000 source code. The resistance has come not from courts or prosecutors, but from the manufacturer of the breathalyzer machine.

The company argues that the source code is a “trade secret”, and refuses to turn the information over to prosecutors and DUI attorneys.

DUI lawyers have argued that without access to that information, they can’t evaluate possible challenges to the validity of the breath test results, which are usually the primary evidence in a DUI offense.

Courts have taken the argument seriously enough that more than 400 cases currently hang in the balance–and many more could be affected, since the Intoxilyzer 5000 is or has recently been used in as many as twenty states.

Judges heard testimony this week to help them determine whether the reliability of the machines could be determined by conventional means or the source code was necessary to assessing their accuracy.