If you or a friend or loved one has been placed under a DUI or DWI arrest and faces DUI charges there are many questions that you may have. Hopefully the answer or answers to some common questions that are asked about DUI/DWI will be helpful to you.
What do these terms mean? DUI stands for “driving under the influence”. DWI
means “driving while intoxicated”.
You may wonder what the difference is in these two terms. In most states these two terms are used interchangeably, meaning the same thing. In some states, however, the drunk driving laws are different for a DUI and a DWI. In these states, the charges are not the same for a DUI and a DWI. In these states, the DUI is a lesser charge. Usually, in these states, a DUI means there is a lesser degree of intoxication. This is determined by your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. Sometimes, these states will allow the charges of a DWI to be reduced to a DUI with the help of a DUI or DWI lawyer.
There are also other terms that are now being used in some states to refer to drunk driving. OUI means “operating under the influence.” OWI stands for “operating while intoxicated.” OMVI means “operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.” DUIL is used in some states to stand for “driving under the influence of liquor.” Oregon uses DUII, which means “driving under the influence of an intoxicant.” DWAI is used in Colorado and New York to mean “driving while ability impaired.” It is used in these two states as a lesser offense than either DUI or DWI. Wyoming uses the acronym “DWUI” meaning “driving while under the influence.” DUBAL or UBAL both mean “driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level.”
You may ask, “Is it safer to drink beer, wine or hard liquor in excess.” The answer is “None of them is safer.” A shot glass of hard liquor is usually only about 1-1/2 ounces of alcohol. This may end up having the same effect as one five-ounce glass of wine or one twelve-ounce beer.
Therefore, drinking any alcoholic beverage to excess is always a bad idea. You may not only seriously injure yourself or others if you decide to operate a car after drinking excessively; you may also have other physical injuries, even if you decide not to operate a motor vehicle. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause damage to your heart, brain, kidneys and liver. Excessive use of alcohol within a short period of time can even lead to death.
You may wonder what a blood alcohol content is. A blood alcohol content (BAC) or blood alcohol level (BAL) is a measure of how much ethanol is in your system. A byproduct of the broken down alcohol that you drank is the ethanol level in your blood. In all 50 states, it is now considered illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
You may ask, “How do they know what my blood alcohol content is?” There are three ways of determining your BAC. They are by breath (breathalyzer), urine or blood tests. The most accurate is a blood test. The least accurate is a urine test.
If you are given a choice as to which test you would like to take, a blood test is probably the wise choice if you are sure that you are sober. A urine test is probably the best choice if you believe your BAC is above the legal limit because it is the least accurate and easiest to challenge in court.
“Do I have to take a breath analyzer test,” is a question you may have. This depends on the state that you are in at the time. In some states, your license can be suspended if you refuse to submit to a breath analyzer (breathalyzer) test or other similar test for measuring your BAC or BAL like a blood test. Even if you are later found to have not been impaired or intoxicated, your license can still be suspended in some states as a result of your failure to cooperate by refusing to take the test.
Another question you may ask is, “Can I be placed under dui arrest for driving after taking or using drugs?” The answer is, “Yes.” This applies to both illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine and prescription medications that can impair your driving. (link to page Drugs That Impair Driving) You need to check the label carefully on any prescription drug that you take to see if it prohibits you from driving.
“What happens if I have more than one DUI/DWI conviction,” you may ask? Again, this depends on the state that you are in. In most states, the penalties and consequences increase and are more severe with each succeeding DUI/DWI conviction.
You may ask, “Are ‘alternative’ penalties allowed in DUI/DWI cases?” In cases where you have seriously injured or killed another person, the judge may not have any leeway. On the other hand, in less serious matters or if this is your first offense, “alternative” penalties may be allowed.
Another question may be, “Is DUI/DWI really a big deal? Is it a really serious matter?” The answer is a great big, “Yes”. Even if this is your first DUI arrest, you may face time in jail and a long driver’s license suspension. In many states, judges are being required to give out stricter DUI penalties and fines. Other DUI penalties and consequences you may face for first time DUI charges are mandatory attendance at drug and alcohol classes (DUI School) and community service.
The most important question you may ask is, “Can I handle this myself? Do I really need to get a lawyer? Hopefully, you realize by now a DUI/DWI arrest is an extremely serious matter that can affect you for the rest of your life. You will definitely need an attorney to provide you the best possible DUI defense.
How do you choose the right attorney? Family lawyers and those who have a general law practice are wonderful, but are they the right ones to help you face DUI charges?
You need an attorney who knows DUI laws and DUI penalties. You need an attorney who specializes in drunk driving cases. You need a DUI/DWI attorney.