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What is a DUI? How a DUI Attorney can help you?

What is a DUI? How a DUI Attorney can help you?

Driving Under the Influence

A DUI, or a DWI, refers to driving while under the influence. While in most instances it applies to driving under the influence of alcohol, it also includes operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an illegal controlled substance or a legally prescribed medication.

Driving under the influence laws also extend to operating boats and airplanes. For any DUI offense, you need to consult with a DUI attorney.

Under the Influence

In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, you cannot legally drive a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. Your blood alcohol level is measured by a chemical test, usually a breath test, but a blood or urine test may also be used.

At 0.08 percent BAC, there is a legal presumption that you are under the influence, regardless of your driving behavior that led a police officer to have probable cause to stop your car for either violating a traffic ordinance or law, or that your driving conduct was so erratic as to constitute a risk. An officer can stop you for an equipment violation; it need not be for a suspicion of drunk driving.

You can also be stopped at a roadblock designed to nab drunk drivers. Usually, these roadblocks can only be set up after following certain protocol such as advance notice to motorists.

Once you are legally stopped, the officer can ask you to perform certain performance or sobriety tests if he or she has probable cause, or a reasonable suspicion, that you are under the influence. Reasonable cause can arise from observing your demeanor. Slurred or confusing speech, the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, or an open container of alcohol in the vehicle is usually sufficient.

The sobriety tests are a series of coordination tests, which you can refuse to perform. But the officer can request that you take a chemical test if you are suspected of a DUI. A state’s implied consent law means that all drivers have impliedly consented to a test of their blood alcohol if probable cause exists that they are under the influence. Although you can refuse to take a test, absent a legitimate excuse, your driver’s license will be suspended, usually for one year for a first offense.

Even without a blood alcohol test, or if your blood alcohol was below 0.08 percent, you can still be charged with a DUI or DWI if the alcohol or drug impaired your ability to drive in the slightest. If you confess to feeling “buzzed” while driving or you drove erratically and exhibited symptoms of intoxication, you can still be found guilty of driving under the influence.

A skilled DUI lawyer can challenge the legality of your stop, the credibility of the performance or sobriety tests, the officer’s observations, and the validity of any chemical test.

Drugs

You can be arrested and charged for a DUI if your driving conduct was affected by a drug. A urine or blood test can detect the presence of certain drugs in your system, but this does not indicate how long the drug has been present or that it affected your driving. There is no minimum standard for drug levels as there is for alcohol, and many drugs remain at detectable levels for days or weeks.

Still, some officers are specially trained to ascertain if a motorist is under the influence of a certain category of drugs through a series of eye examinations, a check of vital signs, and an interview. If a toxicological test confirms the presence of a drug, then this may be sufficient evidence of driving under the influence.

Many states have “per se” laws, meaning any detectable drug in your system is evidence of being under the influence. An experienced DUI lawyer can challenge any test or present any other defenses if you are suspected of driving under the influence of a drug.

Penalties

Each jurisdiction or state has its own laws regarding jail time, license suspension, and fines for a DUI conviction. First offenses may include some minimum jail time coupled with a fine, participation in an alcohol or drug education program, and a license suspension. A DUI offense is generally a misdemeanor.

Your license suspension is a civil proceeding, and you can challenge your revocation in an administrative hearing, although the standard of proof is less for the state. It has to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence.

Most states also enhance the penalties for jail time and fines if your blood alcohol was at least 0.15 percent.

Subsequent offenses carry stricter jail sentences and longer license revocation periods, and may also require reinstated drivers to install an interlock ignition device on all their vehicle that measure their BAC before starting.

A DUI can be elevated to a felony if there was serious bodily injury or a fatality involved. Some states elevate the offense to a felony on the fourth conviction within a 10-year period.

Retaining a criminal attorney who has handled cases like yours is essential if you want to ensure protection of your constitutional rights and give you the best chance for a favorable resolution of your case.

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