Learn About DUI
By: Mike Stetzer
A DUI Conviction Can Be Serious - Take it Seriously While You Can Still Impact the Outcome of Your Case
What Is a DUI?
DUI (called DWI or OWI in a few states) means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It's a crime; in some circumstances, it is a felony. A DUI conviction can carry serious penalties, including jail time, probation, fines and court costs, drug and alcohol counseling or education, community service, and driver's license suspension or revocation. Similar charges apply in many states for the operation of other types of "vehicles", such as boats, motorbikes, and in some states even bicycles.
In every state, the "legal limit" is now .08, but that terminology can be misleading because:
- In most states, .08 is not the highest level at which you can legally drive, but the level at which you are presumed to be under the influence. Most statutes make it a crime to operate a motor vehicle "with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater", or language to that effect; and
- There are a variety of situations in which a person whose blood alcohol content (BAC) is lower than .08 may nonetheless be charged with a DUI or related crime. For instance:
- Many states have separate statutes relating to underage drivers, and those drivers can be charged with DUI or an equivalent crime at a much lower BAC. In some states, the level is .02, while in others even a trace of alcohol is sufficient for conviction;
- Most states have separate statutory provisions that allow for conviction of DUI if the driver has a BAC lower than .08, but also shows other signs of impairment; and
- In most states, commercial drivers may be charged with driving under the influence at a lower BAC than an individual operating his personal vehicle.
- Many states have a more serious crime called "aggravated" or "extreme" DUI, which imposes more severe penalties with drivers who exceed a certain BAC-the level may vary from state to state, but is commonly .15 percent.
The DUI Process
When you're pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, you'll be asked to take a breathalyzer test. You may also be asked to take field sobriety tests. Then, if the officer believes that you are intoxicated, you'll be arrested. In many areas, you will not be eligible to post bond until your blood alcohol content level has dropped to a prescribed level. In most states, you'll receive a court date before you leave the jail, although in some areas you may receive notice of the hearing date by mail or by some other means after you've posted bond.
You'll want to get advice from a DUI lawyer in your area right away, so that you'll know what to expect when you appear in court. Criminal cases tend to move quickly through the system, and unfamiliarity with procedural requirements and deadlines could harm your case.
A DUI lawyer can also assess your case for you and let you know whether there are weak points that might allow you to successfully fight your DUI charge, or at least negotiate a more favorable plea agreement.
Use the information on the Total DUI website to learn about DUI charges, the possible challenges, the penalties you may be facing, and your rights in a criminal proceeding. But every DUI case is different. Your best means of protecting your interests is to talk to a DUI lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Fortunately, Total DUI can help you arrange a free consultation with a DUI attorney near you. There's no obligation-simply talk with the lawyer, learn about your rights and options, and then make a more informed decision about how to proceed.