Legal Definition of Drunk Driving

While state DUI laws do vary, the national legal limit, or legal definition, of drunk driving is based on the level of blood alcohol content, or BAC, in a person’s system. The national legal limit is .08 percent. Therefore, you may be considered to be drunk driving, and in violation of the law, if you:

  • Are in control of a vehicle of any kind, including cars, boats, motorcycles and more.

There are, however, exceptions to these rules. If you are under 21-years-old you could be charged with drunk driving under your state's zero tolerance law. Also, some states have laws that call for lesser charges and penalties for drivers who register a BAC below .08.

State Penalties

State laws penalize drunk drivers in a variety of different ways, and the penalties may go up depending on the BAC, the driver's history and other factors. Common penalties include jail time, fines and loss of driver's license. In general, repeat offenders or individuals with a high BAC level are given much more severe penalties.

Some states have alternative sentencing programs. These programs allow offenders to get treatment and may include mandatory use of an automobile with an ignition locking system. This system requires the driver to pass a BAC breath test or the car will not start. The driver must then pass tests again once on the road. If they fail a test, the car will shut down.

The Cost of Driving Under the Influence

It is estimated that the cost of DUI accidents totals many billions of dollars each year. That’s why citizen activist groups and advertising campaigns have worked to raise public awareness of this often lethal offense.

Public lobbying efforts in addition to federal incentives have influenced certain state legislatures to enact new drunk driving laws that impose severe penalties on DUI offenders.

Some drunk driving laws are designed to punish and intimidate the offender into not drinking and driving again. Other laws have been set up to educate the drunk driver in order to prevent this person from recklessly operating a vehicle in the future.

Connect with a Lawyer Today

Drunk driving laws vary by state and by the severity of the drunk driving offense. So if you’ve been arrested for a DUI and you have questions about the specific laws in your state, you can be connected with an attorney near you. Just fill out the form below to get started today.

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