The number of lives lost to drunk driving yearly is alarming. In the United States, about 37 people lose their lives daily in accidents involving drunk drivers.
This is why there are stiff penalties against offenders—driving while drunk is a criminal offense that can land you in prison and forever impact your career.
Aside from the risk of losing your life in a fatal accident, drunk driving can also result in losing your driver’s license and increase your insurance premium.
Even though getting behind the wheel while drunk is a misjudgment on your part, it should not be the end of your career, according to DWI lawyers Cohen and Winters, a team of dedicated DUI lawyers in New Hampshire.
Many people make a lot of mistakes that turn out to worsen their predicament when they are arrested for DUI.
In this article, we will highlight things you need to know about drunk driving and common mistakes to avoid when arrested.
DUI vs DWI ─ What is the Difference?
DUI means Driving Under the Influence (DUI), while DWI refers to Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Although these offenses are similar, they are slightly different.
DUI could mean driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In this case, the drugs do not need to be illicit. This means prescription and over-the-counter medications could result in DUI if they impair you after taking them.
On the other hand, DWI may mean Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired. Meanwhile, some state laws categorize them as the same while others charge them separately.
In some states, you will unlikely encounter DUI or DWI offenses; instead, they refer to them as OWI and OUI.
OUI means “Operating Under the Influence of Intoxication Liquor,” while OWI means “Operating While Intoxicated.” The five states that currently use these terms are;
- Indiana: OWI
- Iowa: OWI
- Maine: OUI
- Massachusetts: OUI
- Michigan: OWI
- Wisconsin: OWI
However, in states like Michigan, you can be charged with OWVI, which means “Operating While Visibly Impaired.” At the same time, in South Carolina, you may be arrested for Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC).
Irrespective of what it is called in your state, drivers are generally charged with DUI or DWI when a law enforcement officer observes you are too impaired to drive, irrespective of the cause.
Basic DUI Laws
Most DUI laws across the U.S. are similar, with the most important being the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit.
The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is 0.08% in all states in the U.S., except in Utah, where it is 0.05%.
This means that in the 49 states if your BAC is higher than 0.08% and 0.05% in Utah, you can be arrested for DUI.
It is also vital to note that you can still be arrested for DUI if your BAC is below the limit. In such a case, the Prosecutor must be able to provide concrete evidence of impairment for you to be convicted.
Some states also set lower BAC limits for certain drivers, such as teenagers and commercial drivers. Instead of the general .08%, truck drivers may be subject to a .02% BAC.
Many people find it surprising when requested to undergo a sober or DUI test. While your car might be your personal property, the safety of every other driver on the road is of utmost priority.
The implied consent laws that exist nationwide allow a law enforcement officer to demand every driver submit to a BAC test with probable cause. Failure to comply might result in fines and suspension of your license.
Penalties for drunk driving vary from state to state. Some states have mandatory minimum jail sentences for drunk driving offenses. If you are convicted, you must serve at least that much time in jail.
On the other hand, many states have a minimum fine if you are convicted of the offense. In states like Arkansas, offenders risk a minimum fine of $150 in addition to a minimum of 6 months of license suspension and using an ignition interlock device after the suspension is lifted.
Mistakes to avoid when arrested for impaired driving
Getting convicted of DUI can have severe consequences. What you do after following your arrest will have a significant impact on your case.
Law enforcement officers do not arrest drunk drivers; they only arrest suspected drunk drivers. Only the court can find you guilty of drunk driving; therefore, it is important not to do anything that could damage your case.
Below are some mistakes to avoid:
Failing to exercise your Miranda rights
Do not answer any questions after your arrest. Ask for a lawyer, then remain silent; it is your Miranda right.
While explaining what transpired might seem right, things you say could be used against you and worsen your case.
Not taking the charges serious
DUI is a serious charge. It should not be treated as your normal ticket or a fine that could be ignored.
Although going through the legal process of a DWI case can be scary, it needs to be done.
Not taking DUI charges seriously, such as missing crucial deadlines or underestimating the evidence against you, can result in unfavorable court outcomes and severe penalties.
Assuming the worst
Although it may feel like there is no way out, do not lose hope; there is always a chance to challenge your DUI charges.
For instance, you can get the case dismissed if you show the arresting officer made serious errors when you were stopped or detained.
Also, your lawyer might be able to introduce doubt about whether the chemical test conducted to ascertain your BAC was accurate. This could prevent the failed test from being tendered by the Prosecutor as evidence against you.
Posting your case online or discussing it with others
The less you discuss your DUI charges with a third party other than your lawyer, the better for your case.
Do not share anything about the case on social media. Also, avoid discussing it with friends. This is to avoid saying things that might implicate you during the discussion.
Not hiring a DWI lawyer
Do not try to defend yourself or speak with law enforcement officers without the presence of your lawyer.
DUI laws are complicated, even for trained lawyers. When hiring a lawyer, only choose a DWI lawyer with years of experience handling cases related to yours.
To show you how complicated state DUI laws are, consider the legal definitions in New York:
- Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol): If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is more than .05 but less than .07, or if there is other evidence of impairment.
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): If you have a BAC of .08 or higher or a BAC of .04 or higher, you are a commercial driver.
- Driving While Ability Impaired by a Single Drug other than Alcohol (DWAI/Drug): If you are impaired by another drug other than alcohol.
- Driving While Ability Impaired By a Combination of Drugs or Alcohol: If you have consumed multiple impairing substances.
- Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Aggravated DWI): If you have a BAC of .18 or higher.