In all states, drinking and driving offenses can lead to some major legal problems. State laws do however differ, and so do some terms. For our purposes, DUI and OWI and DWI, driving under the influence, operating while intoxicated, and driving while intoxicated, mean the same thing: you are driving a vehicle down the road and have high amounts of alcohol or drugs in your system. How these laws are enforced can be quite different from state to state and judge to judge.
But why are you pulled over in the first place? Who can help? Answers to these questions and many more are given in this short guide.
Why are you pulled over?
Typically, an officer pulls you over on either a suspicion you’re drinking because of your driving or because you simply broke a driving law. It can then lead to a DWI case, where you potentially face jail time, fines, license suspension, probation, and mandatory classes.
If you break normal driving laws such as speeding, it does not always mean you will be tested for alcohol. The officer may not suspect this, and you may obviously not be drinking. But if you break a law, perhaps at night, and your driving is odd, the officer may suspect you’re intoxicated. If you swerve in and out of lanes, speed, run a stop sign, or any other way your driving is hurt by intoxication, you will likely be pulled over on sight.
In some cases, the reason for you’re being pulled over is illegal. The officer must have clear suspicion you’re drinking, but may pull you over for no reason other than because you are a minority or you have a certain type of car. This can be hard to prove, but it does occur.
What if you refuse a breathalyzer or other sobriety test?
If you’re pulled over and refuse a breathalyzer test, your license will immediately be suspended. Many state laws punish you less if you take the breathalyzer and fail rather than refusing and being charged. Also, other sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line, can legally be refused with no punishment, though it depends on the state.
If you refuse a breathalyzer, in most cases you face charges. It’s then time to contact an attorney.
What if you are on medication?
Drinking and driving is not the only DWI offense; you may be using illegal drugs, or using legal ones which you shouldn’t be taking while driving. If you take even a legal drug which impairs your driving, you can by law be charged with a DWI.
What charges do you face?
Typically, punishments are the first thing on your mind once you’re pulled over and know you’re intoxicated. Unfortunately, penalties are very high, though lesser for first time offenders. For a first offense, you can expect your license to be suspended for six months to a year, to pay some fines, to stay in jail for a few days, face probation, and be required to take some classes on driving. The more charges you get, the more penalties you receive. If you are a repeat offender, you may even face prison time because of felony charges.
Who can help you?
You have rights in any DWI case, and one key right is told to you upon arrest. You have the right to an attorney. You cannot do this alone. Attorneys are not free, but no matter the offense, no matter if you’re innocent or guilty, you need to pay the fee. However, not all DWI attorneys have the time, experience, and knowledge to defend you. Be thorough in comparing rates, experience, and time to help.