Defending a DWI
Every state in the United States has Drunk Driving laws. Most of the states refer to drunk driving as DUI (Driving Under the Influence). Some states refer to drunk driving as DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). Other states refer to drunk driving as OUI, OWI, DUII, DWAI, OUIL or OMVI. The penalties and consequences are potentially severe, no matter what you call it. These DUI Penalties may include fines, loss of your driver's license, jail, attendance at alcohol education programs, required ignition interlock devices, community service or freeway cleanup, lectures give by MADD, SADD or RADD, a criminal conviction, increased car insurance rates and more.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have per se laws that define it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a proscribed level. This varies from state to state at 0.08% to 0.10%. Forty-five states allow some previous offenders to drive only if their vehicles have been equipped with ignition interlocks. These are devices that analyze a driver's breath and disable the ignition if the driver has been drinking. In 30 states, multiple offenders may lose the vehicles they were driving while impaired by alcohol. Forty-three states and Washington D.C. have laws prohibiting the driver, passengers or both from having an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
If you have been arrested on charges of DUI or DWI, you may wonder what you are facing. In some states, DWI and DUI are used interchangeably. They mean the same thing. In other states, there is a difference made between the two terms.
DUI Defense Process
What steps will be taken against you? What will the procedure be? How will you be prosecuted?
Obviously, there is no set step by step procedure that is used in prosecuting a DUI or DWI case in every state in the United States. The procedure, penalties and how the case is prosecuted will vary somewhat from state to state. The following is a general overview of what will probably be the steps taken in prosecuting you for a DUI or DWI.
When you are stopped for drunk driving (or whatever it is called in your state) and a police officer has reason to believe that you have been drinking, you will usually be required to take a sobriety test (blood, breath or urine) to determine your BAC (blood alcohol content) level. Most states have implied consent laws. This means that you have to take a test or face fines and/or driver's license suspension for refusing to take the test. Some times this license suspension can take place right on the spot.
Some states have abandoned the urine test because of reliability issues, but otherwise you usually get your choice of the available tests. Which one of the tests should you choose? That depends. A breath testing machine may be easier to fault for accuracy than a blood test, but a breath testing machine cannot test for the presence of drugs. You must remember that a DWI can also be driving under the influence of drugs.
If you refuse the test or are found to have a BAC over the state limit, you will probably be taken into custody and brought to a police station. There you are usually held until someone can pick you up, or until the next morning when you have sobered up.
In addition to this, your driver's license may be temporarily suspended. Also, your vehicle may be impounded for a period of time after the incident.
After a DUI Arrest
You may have a possible administrative hearing that reviews the circumstances surrounding your DUI Arrest. This is also to see if your driver's license should be administratively suspended (as opposed to being suspended by a court). This hearing usually takes place within 5 to 10 days after your arrest. It is independent of your appearance in court.
Then, you must usually go to court where either a jury or judge will decide your fate. In any criminal case, including drunk driving, you have the right to a jury trial. However, if you are convicted, it is up to the judge as to what punishment you will receive.
In many states there are mandatory DUI penalties and consequences that do not allow the judge any discretion as to what your punishment will be if you refused to take a mandatory test or your BAC was of a certain level. Generally speaking, for each prior conviction of drunk driving within the previous 5-10 years, the DUI penalties will become progressively more severe. In other words, if this is your first drunk driving conviction, your DUI penalties will not be as severe as if it is your second conviction. There may also be mandatory minimum sentences.
If you are found guilty, in most states the courts will usually:
- Require participation in a drunk driver education program
- Impose various statutory fees that are intended to offset the state's budget expenses for trying drunk driving cases
- Impose fines (some states add on additional driver responsibility tax)
- Add points to your driver's license (your car insurance will probably increase)
- Suspend or revoke your driver's license (the Motor Vehicle Dept. may do this even if the court does not)
- Sentence you to jail or require community service as an alternative
- Put you on parole (called probation in some states)
As you can see, being arrested for either DUI or DWI is an extremely serious matter. You are going to need the help and representation of a skilled DUI attorney who will provide you with the best DUI defense possible.