What is DUI?

The acronym DUI stands for “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs, but the actual definition can vary from state to state. Did you know that “driving” in some states may actually include sitting in a parked car in a parking lot or driveway? Some drivers have been arrested in a parking lot, sleeping in the driver’s seat of their car.

So what does the state mean when they say “legally impaired” and do you have to consume alcohol to be considered impaired? No, you can be legally impaired, according to state laws, if you have taken any substance, including prescribed medication, which has limited your ability to safely operate your motorized vehicle. So when exactly can you be found guilty of DUI or driving under the influence?

When are you DUI?

1. You have consumed enough alcohol to register a blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of 0.08% or higher using a blood, urine or breathing test.
2. You have been driving and the police determine that your driving ability has been impaired by either drugs or alcohol. Your BAC does not have to be at or above the illegal limit if the officer has evidence that your ability to see, hear, walk, talk or drive is not at a normal level and is unsafe for operating your motorized vehicle.

Keep in mind, in some states the police have the legal authority to force you to take a blood test to determine if you have been using drugs or drinking. Even if you have taken a legally prescribed dose of medication, you can be convicted if you are found to be impaired.

Field Sobriety Tests and DUI

One of the most common methods law enforcement officers use to test a driver’s impairment is the standardized field sobriety test (FST). The FST generally includes the following:

• One-leg stand – the driver must stand on one leg for approximately 30 seconds without losing their balance, falling or placing their foot back on the ground.
• Heel-to-toe test – the driver must walk a certain number of paces along either a real or imaginary line, counting a loud, turn and return along the same line. The person must complete the test without losing their balance, falling, or stopping.
• Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – the HGN test measures the involuntary jerking in a driver’s eye as they track an object from side to side. A law enforcement officer generally uses a flashlight or small pen, guiding it approximately 12 inches from the driver’s face, to track the movement of the driver’s eyes. The early onset of nystagmus, or jerking of the eyeball, may be an indication that the driver has been drinking. There are, however, many reasons why a driver may have an unusual nystagmus that do not have anything to do with alcohol consumption.

Should you take the field sobriety test? It may be hard to know at the time unless you are familiar with your state’s laws. In some states you can refuse to take the field sobriety test without suffering any penalties. In other states a refusal of the FST test could be used against you in court. Keep in mind, if a police officer has additional evidence that you are DUI they can arrest you even if you refuse to take the field sobriety test.

DUI Penalties

DUI penalties and fines have dramatically increased over the last 10 years as groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and state legislatures have worked together to stop drunken driving.

DUI penalties also vary by state and it is important to talk to a DUI lawyer immediately following a DUI arrest to find out the DUI penalties you may face. Common DUI penalties include loss of a driver’s license for a specified amount of time, a fine, possible jail time, probation, community service, driver rehabilitation school, and substance abuse counseling.

If you have killed or injured another person or if this is your second, third or fourth DUI, the penalties you face will be even more severe.

The fact of the matter is that driving in every state is not a right; it is a privilege. The state institutes very specific laws and statutes which regulate legal driving actions and if you fail to follow these laws, the state has the right to revoke your license. The courts and police have wide discretion to enforce state driving laws.

Hiring a DUI Lawyer

If you are interest in contacting a lawyer, fill out the FREE case evaluation form and a DUI advocate will contact you to discuss the facts of your case. Visit our website at http://www.duiattorneyhome.com or call our 24/7 DUI Help Line at 1- 866-228-3201.

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Beth

Beth L. is a content developer for LeadRival, a cutting edge company that helps connect DUI lawyers with DUI clients. Beth L. writes about a variety of DUI topics to help drivers who have been arrested for DUI, getting them the legal help they need.

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