If you have recently been charged with a DUI or DWI, you are no doubt running scared. You may not have any idea of what is about to happen to you. You may also be worrying about losing your driver’s license or even being sentenced to spend time in jail. Now is the time for you to educate yourself about the various types of laws related to drinking and driving so that you will be able to deal with the judge’s decision on whether or not you will or will not face any penalties. The best way to get yourself prepared for the future is to hire a lawyer who can help you answer your charges in a way that will possibly get them reduced or even dismissed altogether.
Drinking and Driving Laws Will Vary from State to State
The first thing you should learn is that, while there are certain penalties for drinking and driving that will be roughly the same throughout the country, there are also some significant differences that exist from state to state. If you commit DUIs in Florida, you may not pay the same exact penalties that you typically would have to pay for the same offense in Oregon. However, no matter where you go within the country, the record of your past offenses will be available for a judge to pull up. If you have a history of such offenses, even if in a different state, it will be taken into account and used against you.
Are There Specific Differences Between D-UI and D-WI in the Certain States?
If you live in the state of Texas, you should be aware that there are definite legal differences between D-UI and D-WI. Anyone over the age of 21 who is arrested while operating a vehicle in a legally intoxicated state can be charged with a D-WI. By legally intoxicated, this means a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or higher. While this may seem discriminatory to persons who are over the age of 21, the reverse may actually be true.
In Some Cases, Being Charged with DUI Come Automatically
If you are under the age of 21 and pulled over with any kind of alcohol in your system, you can automatically be charged with a Driving Under Influence. It is illegal throughout the entire state for anyone under the age of 21 to have any kind of alcohol in their system, under any circumstances. You should note that, even if you are under the age of 21, you can still also be charged with a D-WI. Again, this is due to the zero tolerance policy for underage drinking.
Are There Different Types of Penalties Assigned for DUIs and DWIs?
There are major differences in the severity of the penalties that you incur by being convicted of a Driving Under Influence or Driving While Impaired. If this is the first time you have ever been convicted of a Driving While the Impaired offense, the judge is legally entitled to sentence to you to receive a fine of up to $2,000. Depending on how the judge reckons the severity of your offense, you may also receive time spent in prison for anywhere between 3 and 180 days. You may also have to surrender your driver’s license for up to a full year. On top of all this, you may even have to pay an annual fine of $1,000 to $3,000 for 3 years to keep your license.
Your Penalties Will Be Lower If You Are Under the Age of 21
If you are under the age of 21 and are pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence, you may receive a fine of up to $500. You may also merit a suspension of your drivers’ license that may last up to 60 days. The judge can also order you to perform anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of community service. Finally, you will very likely be ordered to attend a series of mandatory alcohol awareness classes at a state accredited institution. The severity of the penalties for both Driving Under Influence and Driving While Impaired will increase with each repeated offense.
D-UI Is the Most Serious Drunken Driving Charge in Some States
In the state of Colorado, a Driving Under Influence is typically considered the more serious of the two major types of drunk-driving charges. This is due to a number of reasons. For one thing, this is a state with a very high rate of arrests for drunken driving – over 30,000 arrests on an annual basis. For another, this state has a very strict “no tolerance for alcohol usage” policy. To be considered guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol, you need to have a blood alcohol percentage of over .08.
Penalties for First Time Offenders Are Stiff in Some Areas
The penalties for conviction in this state are particularly severe, especially those that involve repeat offenses. Even for a first-time conviction, the penalty is significantly higher than you may face in other areas of the country. Being convicted for a first time D-UI offense will get your driver’s license suspended for nine months. You will very likely receive a fine of up to $1,000. You may also receive up to a full year in prison.
Penalties for Second Time Offenders Can Be Even Harsher
For a second offense, the penalties tend to increase even further in very swift fashion. A second offense will net you a full year of revocation – not suspension of your license but the full loss of all right to operate a vehicle under any circumstances. In addition, your fine may be increased to $1,500, while you may also face a mandatory year in prison. These penalties have been imposed in an effort to send a stern warning to drivers who abuse alcohol while behind the wheel of a car and should be taken with full seriousness.
A Suspended Sentence Can Sometimes Lead to Automatic Return to Prison
When you are released from serving your jail sentence, you will be sentenced to probation lasting a minimum of two years. You may also be given another year in prison, which will be suspended pending full completion of your probation. If you fail to comply with all of the terms and conditions imposed, you will find yourself behind bars for another year. These are not theoretical penalties, but figures that represent the average severity of such a verdict in this state.
If You Don’t Know the Difference Between the Two, Don’t Guess
If you aren’t presently qualified to judge the real difference between the two major types of drunken driving charges, it’s not a good idea to guess. And it’s definitely not a good idea to try to represent yourself in court against the charges you are facing. Your best bet is to hire a qualified lawyer who can explain to you exactly what the differences between the two types of charges are. Your attorney can then let you know exactly what kind of penalties you may be facing and how to prepare for them. Finally, they can let you know if there is any realistic hope of beating or reducing the charges.
It’s Easier Than Ever to Contact a Qualified Lawyer to Represent You
You don’t have to spend too much time or effort these days to find a qualified lawyer who can you represent you at your Driving-Under-Influence trial. You can use the resources of the web to search for an attorney who can take your case and give you an honest estimate of your chances, as well as what the entire process will cost you in legal fees. All of these can be accomplished when you schedule an initial free consultation with your lawyer. This is the recommended course of action for people who will soon be answering to charges of this nature in court. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of victory will be.
Many people assume that they will not be charged with a DUI as long as they avoid substances before getting behind the wheel. However, modern laws may consider you “under the influence” even when you are totally sober. These cases can be difficult to fight because there is no way to prove you were capable of driving at that moment in time. If you have been charged with a crime because of sleep-deprived driving, it’s important to find the right lawyer to represent your defense.
Is Drowsy Driving a DUI?
Many people work at jobs that require long hours. They might be a nurse who is on the wards overnight or a long haul trucker taking needed goods to their destination. Driving home safely can be a challenge after a long shift, but most people in these professions make it work. Few would consider such a surgeon driving home after an emergency operation to be impaired, but the law might disagree. As of 2003, however, many states consider drowsy driving to be a form of DUI.
In 2003, Maggie’s Law was passed in New Jersey. This law makes it illegal to drive while too exhausted to function well. Many states followed suit and have passed similar laws against driving while sleep deprived. While this law began with good intentions, many innocent people are facing charges as a result of it. These laws do not just apply to people who are falling asleep while driving, but to anyone who appears impaired as a result of being tired. This is a very subjective judgment call. Even if you are not “sleep driving,” you still may face charges and need a lawyer to help defend your rights.
What Is a Drowsy Driver?
You may think that you were capable of driving before you stepped behind the wheel. However, the law may not necessarily agree. If you are pulled over or in an accident, even through no fault of your own, you may find yourself charged with a DUI based on the idea that you were intoxicated from a lack of sleep.
For some people, they may have been without sleep due to long working hours. Long hail truckers, doctors, nurses, and many other professions are required to work long hours. The prosecution may argue that these long hours left you unable to make good decisions while driving. They may even argue that you were actually asleep when the incident occurred, even if there is no evidence for this. Ironically, doctors are allowed to practice medicine or perform surgery after 24 hours without sleep, yet many prosecutors will argue that they are not fit to drive.
Other people are charged with being drowsy drivers because of medical conditions. Some people take medications that, while not intoxicating, can make them sleepier. Others have medical conditions that have the same effect. If you are on a medication or have a condition that makes you more tired than other people, the prosecution may argue that this is an impairment. It is up to you and your lawyer to prove that even with these medical conditions, you were still awake and capable of making good decisions.
What Laws Affect Drowsy Driving?
You may think you are capable of driving home after a long shift, but the law could disagree. People such as health care workers who are awake for more than 24 hours may be charged with sleep driving. People who have conditions such as sleep apnea that make it difficult for them to stay awake also can be charged. While it is possible to avoid drunk driving, it is almost impossible to avoid a long shift or a medical condition. The rate of people who are charged with DUI because of lack of sleep are rising.
Drivers often have no idea that they were considered legally impaired before they are charged with this crime. Many people work long shifts on a regular basis and do not realize that merely driving home is a crime. It is important to find a lawyer who is experienced in fighting these charges when you are faced with this kind of accusation.
The Consequences of Sleep Deprived Driving
New laws place drowsy drivers under the same umbrella as drunk drivers. This, the consequences of sleep deprived driving are identical to those of a DUI. People may have to complete classes, pay fines, or even serve jail time. You may lose your license and be unable to get to work. Because this is a felony charge, many people may lose their ability to work in certain fields. Getting a commercial driver’s license will be especially difficult, or even impossible. In addition, people convicted of impaired driving may be sued in civil court for damages even if the accident or incident was not completely their fault. A DUI conviction is devastating regardless of why the driver was considered impaired.
The problem with these charges is that they assume all people are impaired when sleep deprived. Every person has different sleep needs. Some people may function well when sleep deprived and be perfectly capable of driving home. Many people are legally considered capable of practicing medicine at the same time that this law considers them incapable of driving home from their shift on the wards. It is possible to fight these charges and avoid their devastating effect on your life if you have the right lawyer. The onus is on you and your legal team to prove you were completely capable of driving when you were behind the wheel.
Who Decides If I Was Too Drowsy?
In most states, the outcome of these cases is decided by a jury. People who have no experience in medicine or psychology will be the ones to determine if you were indeed tired enough to be impaired. This is a case where a jury of your peers can be a hindrance. It is easy for many prosecutors to convince a group of people that an accident or other incident was due to the defendant falling asleep, even with little evidence. A good DUI lawyer knows how to make your case to both judges and the everyday people who comprise juries. It is important to be heard when you are charged with a serious and life-altering crime.
How Can a DUI Lawyer Help Me?
Because drowsy drivers are considered impaired drivers, they are often best served by lawyers who specialize in DUI. A conviction can lead to similar consequences to that of a DUI, including losing driving rights, fines and jail time, having to attend classes, and a lifelong criminal record. The consequences can last a lifetime. The prosecution will have lawyers and thus it is essential that defendants have them too.
A DUI lawyer who is trained in defending this type of case will be able to carefully examine the evidence against you for loopholes. While it is easy to prove that a person is drunk, it is more tricky to determine whether they were too impaired to drive. It is also difficult to prove that they were, in fact, perfectly capable of driving. You deserve to have a person who is experienced in ‘driving with sleepy’ charges to defend your rights and ensure that your best interests are served at every step of the process.
No one intends to be charged with a DUI. This is especially true of people who were not legally intoxicated with a substance when they were arrested. You should not be punished for working long hours to support your family. Get a DUI lawyer experienced in sleepy driving now to ensure that your constitutional rights are served throughout this ordeal. Fighting criminal charges is scary. Having an experienced advocate can make all the difference in whether you move on from this ordeal.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
DUI offenses are typically related to alcohol intoxication. However, alcohol is only one of any number of substances capable of impairing a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), often referred to as drugged driving, can also result in potentially damaging and costly DUI charges.
Driving while impaired by drugs, even perfectly legal prescription muscle relaxers and medical marijuana, is legally the same as driving drunk, and can also be considered a DUI offense according to drug driving law. A doctor’s prescription is no defense against DUI charges.
A 2010 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey revealed approximately 10 million people in the U.S. drove while impaired from illegal drugs the year before. The survey didn’t even take into account legally prescribed medication. Another survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration found that one out of every five car crash fatalities in 2009 involved the use of drugs. While these numbers are a few years old, they serve a sobering point.
What Is Impairment?
In the case of DUI law, you are generally considered impaired if you’re unable to safely operate a motor vehicle due to the consumption of alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal drugs. Since different substances affect people differently, measurable limits are set according to “per se” laws. For example, drivers with a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.08 or greater are automatically assumed impaired. In some states, people with trace amounts of certain substances in their bloodstream can also be considered impaired.
How Is Drug Impairment Measured?
Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater is against the law in all 50 states. Alcohol is flushed from the body very quickly, making it easy to measure the BAC of a driver during a traffic stop. Alcohol breathalyzer tests are also fairly accurate, resulting in a higher percentage of DUI guilty pleas and convictions.
With other drugs, however, this isn’t always the case. For instance, THC from marijuana can be detected in a person’s bloodstream or urine for up to a month or longer after use. Therefore, there is no way to detect a person’s actual level of marijuana-related impairment.
While cocaine and certain other drugs leave the body in only a day or two, the NHTSA wrote a letter to Congress stating current knowledge regarding marijuana, prescription medications, and all drugs other than alcohol is “insufficient to allow the identification of dosage limits that are related to elevated crash risk.”
Nonetheless, some police and sheriff jurisdictions utilize Drug Recognition Experts to determine whether or not certain motorists are impaired. When determining impairment, these “experts” will perform a roadside drug test and closely examine the driver’s behavior, eye movements, and any other clues that may be pointing towards drug impairment.
Currently, nearly every state has instituted Drug Evaluation and Classification Programs specifically to train Drug Recognition Experts how to properly perform each and every drug driving test. However, even with blood and urine samples, only the presence of a drug is detected, not the amount.
In fact, a report co-released by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and the Governors Highway Traffic Association stated, “…the data only records the presence of drugs, not the amount of the drug that could be used to compare to an equivalent blood-alcohol level.”
“Per Se” Laws
Although prosecuting drivers charged with driving under the influence of drugs is more difficult than it is with alcohol due to ambiguous drug driving limits, 15 states enforce “per se” drug driving laws. These laws make it a crime to operate a motor vehicle with absolutely any measurable amount of certain drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, in one’s system. The states with DUID “per se” laws are:
• Rhode Island
Furthermore, 12 of the states enforce zero-tolerance policies. If you’re facing a dwai Colorado or any of the other 35 states, the burden lies much more heavily on the prosecution to prove you guilt.
Which Drugs Are Most Commonly Linked to DUID?
Aside from alcohol, marijuana is the most common drug found in the bloodstreams of motorists involved in auto accidents. However, the role marijuana plays in auto accidents is still very unclear. Unlike many other drugs, THC from marijuana can be detected in a person’s body weeks after use.
According to a comprehensive NHTSA study, drivers with marijuana in their system do not pose an increased crash risk. However, other studies have found differently, so it’s clear more research is needed on the subject.
In addition to marijuana, prescription medications are also heavily linked to DUID crashes. In fact, a nationwide study of fatal auto accidents found that approximately 50 percent of drivers with drugs in their system had consumed a prescription drug. Pain relievers, such oxycodone, were the most common types of prescription drugs found.
Illegal Drugs and Their Impairing Effects
• Marijuana – Increased heart rate, paranoia, drowsiness, relaxation, disorientation, image distortion, and altered perception of space and time.
• Cocaine – Increased heart rate, increased alertness and focus, excitation, aggressiveness, irritability, euphoria, disoriented behavior, dizziness, and confusion.
• Heroin and Morphine – Depressed heart rate, diminished reflexes, analgesia, drowsiness, sedation, intense euphoria, nausea, and vomiting.
• Methamphetamine – Increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, insomnia, excitation, lack of impulse control, and hallucinations.
• LSD – Tremors, hypertension, hallucinations, altered perception of time and space, and altered mental state.
Impairing Effects of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs
Some drugs purchased legally over-the-counter (OTC) or via prescription can be equally as dangerous as alcohol for drivers and also result in a DUI charge. If you’re ever in doubt about the impairing effects of a drug, make sure to ask your pharmacist or read the warning label on the back.
Here’s a look at some common OTC and prescription drugs capable of impairing drivers:
• Sleeping Pills – Even 10 hours later, the residual effects of sleeping pills can impair drivers.
• Decongestants – Many decongestants available over-the-counter can cause dizziness and drowsiness.
• Antihistamines – Many OTC antihistamines impair coordination and reaction time.
• Valium – This popularly prescribed tranquilizer can also cause impairment similar to the effects of alcohol.
• Antidepressants – Many antidepressants have sedating effects similar to alcohol that can impair drivers.
• Hydrocodone – This commonly prescribed pain reliever is found in Vicodin and other prescription pain pills. It can cause impairment similar to the effects of morphine and oxycodone.
Free DUID Legal Analysis
Alcohol-related DUI charges are relatively straightforward because alcohol leaves the bloodstream very quickly and BAC testing devices are fairly accurate. However, driving under the influence charges involving other substances are much more complicated. Since it’s difficult for officers to determine a driver’s level of impairment from marijuana and other drugs, a skilled dui lawyer can often form a successful defense.
While standard sentencing is often mandatory for first-time DUI offenders, in many cases involving second- or third-time offenders, pleading guilty to a DUI charge can often result in reduced sentencing. Rather than taking it to trial, a prosecutor may be willing to offer a reduced sentence for a guilty plea. If it’s a drug-related DUI charge, an experienced DuI Law Firm may be able to negotiate sentences down even further and minimize the drug driving penalties. Many times, drug testing requirements and other conditions of probation can be lessened as well.
When charged with driving under the influence of drugs, deciding whether or not to hire an attorney can be a difficult decision. While a skilled DUI lawyer can help put together a strong defense against questionable or less than solid charges, you may want to save some money by representing yourself.
Very few situations are as stressful and terrifying as being pulled over by a law enforcement officer, arrested, and charged with a DUI. Drivers often have dozens of different questions running through their heads such as do people face jail time for DUI and how much it will cost to hire an attorney? While driving drunk is extremely dangerous, many drivers are illegally arrested or given much stiffer penalties than they deserve. If you have recently been arrested for driving drunk, then now is the time to act. Scheduling a consultation with a DUI lawyer is the first step toward clearing your record and moving on with your life.
Every single drunk driving offense is slightly different, and the penalties for these misdemeanors and felonies vary by quite a bit. As a general rule, a driver’s first DUI is classified as a misdemeanor unless there are extenuating circumstances such as additional charges. The judge also has the ability to upgrade a misdemeanor to a felony if the driver injured another party or caused extensive property damage. Drivers who are arrested for driving drunk are going to face a much different process than all other driving infractions. They will be forced to schedule a hearing with the DMV as well as an arraignment before a judge in order to understand their charges.
Driving drunk can also be upgraded to a felony charge if the driver is a repeat offender. Anyone who has their charge enhanced to a drunk driving felony will almost always spend at least some time in jail. The charges will also go on the individual’s permanent record, and that can affect everything from their job prospects to loan applications. Being convicted of driving drunk could potentially alter the course of your life for decades to come. Those are just a few of the reasons why it is so important to contact an attorney who has experience handling DUI cases.
Base Fines and Fees
The overall cost of a DUI is determined by dozens of different factors. Even if no one was injured and you didn’t damage any private or public property, your first offense could potentially cost you upwards of $20,000. The first expensive you will have to pay is your bail, and that could be as much as $2,500. You will then need to schedule an appointment with the DMV in order to have a hearing over the state of your license. A driver might have to pay hundreds of dollars just to apply for a temporary license while their drunk driving case moves forward.
If the driver is convicted of driving drunk or enters a guilty plea, then they will have to pay a variety of courthouse fines and fees. A judge has the ability to apply many other penalties including mandatory sobriety classes, the use of an ignition interlock device, and community service. Not only are convictions expensive, but they can also be extremely time-consuming. Many states and counties require a minimum sentence of 100 community service hours for first-time offenders.
What most drivers don’t realize is that a conviction is also going to have a major impact on their insurance. Some of the leading insurance providers in the country won’t insure drivers who have these misdemeanors and felonies on their records. That means you will need to apply for specialty insurance before your license will be reinstated. SR22 insurance for those who have been convicted of driving drunk generally costs thousands of dollars more per year. Your premiums will remain that high until the DUI finally comes off of your record. Most states will leave a DUI on a driver’s record for at least seven years.
Can I Go to Jail for DUI?
When it comes to driving drunk, the fines are only the tip of the iceberg. If this is your first DUI, you could be given a sentence of six months in county jail. For many drivers, that will make it nearly impossible to hold a steady job or move forward with their career. Felony DUIs come with much longer sentences, and drivers must identify themselves as felons on all future loan and job applications. Any jobs that require you to drive a vehicle or be around alcohol will most likely be out of the question for the rest of your life.
How Much Will It Cost Me to Beat the DUI Charges?
If you have been arrested for driving drunk, then you are most likely wondering how much it will cost to hire an attorney. The final costs vary by quite a bit, and they are determined by factors such as how long the trial takes and the official charges. Even if you are worried about the overall costs, you should still contact an attorney to schedule an initial consultation. Most DUI attorneys offer free or low-cost consultations to drivers who are unsure of their legal options. What all drivers should realize is that being convicted of driving drunk is going to affect their daily habits, personal relationships, and career options.
Following an Arrest
After being arrested for driving drunk, your only two legal obligations are to provide the law enforcement officers with your personal information and submit for the chemical BAC test. Once those steps have been taken, drivers don’t need to discuss the case with any law enforcement officers until they have contacted a lawyer. Quite a few drivers attempt to talk their way out of these charges, but that will almost always hurt their case. Anything that is said during or after the arrest can be used against the driver at a later time. You might try to claim that you only had a few drinks and weren’t driving drunk, but that could potentially be considered an admission of guilt.
As soon as you are able to do so, you must immediately contact a DUI lawyer to discuss your options. During your initial consultation, you will need to provide them with information such as what took place before the arrest and how the arrest was carried out. While some of that information might seem trivial, it could actually have a major impact on the plea bargain or trial.
Beating a DUI Charge
There is no single tactic that can be used to defeat all DUI charges. After hearing your side of the story and then collecting the evidence, your lawyer will need to come up with a personalized plan to have your charges reduced or removed. One of the most common ways to beat a DUI is to claim that the traffic stop or DUI checkpoint wasn’t conducted legally. Law enforcement officers must adhere to very strict rules when conducting a traffic stop or establish a DUI checkpoint. If they don’t adhere to all of those rules, then any arrests that they make might not be legal.
Another method that is used to beat DUI charges is to prove that the driver’s BAC was not correctly reported. The law enforcement officer might have used the chemical testing device incorrectly or the device itself could have been faulty. All of that information must be taken into consideration before making the case. Even if the charges aren’t dropped entirely, bringing those variables up could result in much lower fines and fees.
Working With a DUI Attorney
There is simply too much at stake for you to try to take on the legal system alone. Working with a local DUI attorney could help you avoid some of the worst penalties for driving under the influence. Even if you have admitted guilt or failed to contact the DMV, you might still be able to avoid long-term penalties with an experienced lawyer by your side.