Summers are all about pool parties, barbecues, picnics, and much more exciting things. Fixing up your favorite drink is never a fault. The blunder is when you grab the key of your vehicle after getting boozed up.
To drive under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all 50 states of the United States. Though the rules may vary the way it is implicated, you would find Driving Under the Influence (DUI)/Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) overlapping at many junctures.
Did you drink and drive?
Did you sustain injuries from a DUI accident?
This blog would give you an insight into DUI law and the legal detriments, either if you are a DUI victim or an offender.
Let me put forward a disclaimer before getting into the business. This blog is not to whitewash drunk driving. Never get behind the wheels when you are tipsy. Putting another life in danger with your mistake could never be justified.
Demographics on DUI
Reports by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that drunk-driving crashes snatch the life of one person every 52 minutes. As of last year, about 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes.
As per the 2018 data, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia were in the first three positions with high numbers of fatal drive under the influence accidents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 had an alcohol content in their bloodstream. 81% of them had BACs higher than the legal limit allowed for adults.
Most of the teens who drive under the influence of alcohol are found to have five or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours. This is called binge driving.
The welcome news is that mortalities due to drunk driving had declined in 2019 to the lowest percentage since 1982 when NHTSA first started reporting alcohol data.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Getting to know about drive under the influence, let us get started with Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). It is defined as the amount of alcohol detected in the bloodstream of an individual. It reflects the extent to which the person is drunk. To be more precise, BAC is the number of grams of alcohol in 100ml of blood. The legal limit of BAC in the US for drivers above 21 years old is 0.08.
i.e. 0.08 gm of alcohol in every 100 ml of the blood sample.
If you are under the age of 21, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have a “zero tolerance” law that makes it illegal to drive under the influence of any amount of alcohol. For most of the states, the zero- tolerance BAC level is 0.02 percent whereas, in few states, even 0.00 percent of BAC is chargeable for underage drivers.
BAC is usually quantified by DUI breath test, DUI blood test or urine test. Even if you do not feel the effects of alcohol, your BAC may be higher than the legal limit permitted in your state.
Studies suggest that it would take half an hour for the alcohol to get absorbed into the bloodstream. BAC could stay elevated for up to three hours after your last drink.
How Dangerous is to Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol
Getting behind the wheels, let it be a motor vehicle or a commercial truck requires decent vision and thinking ability. Though 0.08 percent is the legal BAC limit, CDC suggests that having a BAC as low as 0.02 percent could hinder the driving skills of an individual.
The frontal lobe of the brain which is involved in the decision making is affected when you drive under the influence of alcohol. It also affects how quickly you react to a situation. It is called ‘thinking distance’. Studies suggest that each drink increases the thinking distance by 20 percent.
Alcohol interferes with the processing of neurotransmitters due to which you would feel relaxed and drowsy. Impaired signals would affect muscle movements. You may also feel sleepy while you drive.
Intake of alcohol makes you feel overconfident and you would find it tough to comprehend traffic signs. It also causes blurred vision which would make it difficult to follow the traffic signals.
Did You Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol?
The first and foremost thing you should apprehend is that the deadlines and the legal procedures in a drive under the influence of alcohol may vary according to the state. The following are the legal proceedings that may follow in a DUI offense.
When you drive under the influence of alcohol, the immediate legal consequence would be arrest followed by booking. Personal information, fingerprints and other details would be collected. At this point, it would always be a smart move to dial your attorney and get advice. However, it need not happen in all cases.After the arrest, you may need the help of a bondsman to get released on a bail. You would have to pay upfront for the bail.
Sobriety tests may be taken by the officer which is not that mandatory. Unlike chemical tests, walking in a straight line may not give accurate results. Be informed that refusing a sobriety test is not an offense. However, it may depend upon the law of your state.Chemical tests like blood test, breath test etc. may be done which is mandatory. Refusing chemical tests would not a good decision and may be considered an offense under ‘implied consent’ law.
- Suspension of Driver’s License
If your BAC level is found to exceed the legal limit, your driver’s license would be suspended immediately by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In a first-offense DUI, license suspension would be mostly for 30 days. If you have a prehistory of DUI, it may result in losing your driving privilege for a year or longer.Be watchful while answering the queries of the officers. Your answers may reshape the case. You can always request the assistance of your attorney before you answer.Case evaluation by a DUI lawyer would help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the case. A DUI lawyer would help you challenge the suspension of your driver’s license by requesting a DMV hearing and advice you about the upcoming legal proceedings and the paper works.
- Appearing in the Court
You may receive a summon with the date and time to appear in the court. Your case would be presented for defense. Your attorney would defend you by presenting the supporting evidence if any. If there is no significant reason for the arrest, and/or the officer did not follow proper protocols while accumulating evidence, your attorney may be able to present them as strong arguments.
- Charges for Driving Under the Influence
If you are a first-time offender in a drive under the influence, you would be charged with a misdemeanor. This is applicable if you have not injured anyone because of your drunk driving.Did your driving cause injury or death of an individual? You may end up in the charge of a felony. If convicted, you may be in jail for few years.
- Jail Time
Most of the states like Arizona, Tennessee, New Jersey and Georgia demand mandatory jail time even if it is a first-time drive under the influence offense. For instance, if you are in New Jersey, you would get a jail time of 30 days. With second and subsequent drive under the influence convictions, the jail time may be greater.
On the other hand, states like California, Connecticut, and Indiana does not demand jail time for first offenders. Jail time is also dependant on certain other factors in your offense like BAC and the severity of the accident you have caused.
In general, the penalty for a first-time DUI offender may start with a minimum amount of $500. If you are in Texas you may need to pay up to $1000 if you are a first-time offender and up to $2000 if you are convicted in DUI for the second time. For third-time offenders, the penalty may go up to $5000.
It is to be noted that your penalty amount may also depend upon certain factors that are listed below.
- Refusal to take chemical tests
- Prior DUI convictions
- High BAC
- Property damage
- Having an underage passenger in the vehicle during the arrest
Apart from the fine, you may also have to pay additional for license reinstatement and court fees.
- Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
You may have to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle which is a handheld car breathalyzer. IID measures the amount of alcohol in your breath which would allow you to operate the vehicle only when your BAC is below the pre-set limit.
- Alcohol Education Program
You may be ordered to undergo few hours of alcohol education program classes which is mandatory to get your driver’s license reinstated. You would be evaluated and counseled for alcohol abuse.
To drive under the influence of alcohol is not just about the suspension of your license, probation or penalty. It may leave its mark on your vehicle insurance premium, job applications and course admissions.
Did You Get Hit by a Drunken Driver?
Driving under the influence of alcohol could end up in civil or criminal charges in the defendant depending upon the severity of the accident and injuries you have endured.
When victimized in an accident by a drunken driver, the immediate action should be seeking medical attention for the injuries you have sustained. Gathering evidence like photographs and video footage of the accident spot and the drunken driver may help you later.
Hiring an expert personal injury attorney specialized in drive under the influence claims would make the claiming formalities easy for you. Getting your injuries treated becomes more crucial when going for a personal injury lawsuit against the drunken driver. Medical records reflect the damages you have sustained from the accident. If the mishap had aggravated any of your pre-existing health problems, that would also be indicated in the medical records.
The attorney would collect your medical charts from the healthcare providers and proceed for a medical record review and analysis. Medical record review companies like us cream off the clinical data and help you substantiate the claim.
Before proceeding with an injury lawsuit, it is always advisable to try for a settlement with the defendant’s insurance provider. Your personal injury lawyer may draft a demand letter that would reflect your injuries and related expenses. DUI lawsuits always trigger the insurance carrier to come up with better settlement options. A DUI claim if reaching the trial would end up in a tidy sum that may turn out hefty for the defendant’s insurance carrier. Average settlements for DUI accidents may range between $80,000 to $125,000
You may be asked to sign a release of liability form after agreeing to the settlement. Keep in mind that, signing the form would close the possibility of any claim pertaining to the accident.
If you reside in a no-fault state, you have to depend on your own insurer to cover your injuries and not the defendant’s insurance provider. If your damages are beyond the limits of your state, you have to file a civil lawsuit which would end up in a pre-trial settlement.
If the negotiation does not end up in a fair settlement, the claim may proceed to the court
The below-mentioned evidence could be used against the defendant during the trial.
- Empty container of alcohol found in the vehicle after the crash
- Physical symptoms like blurred vision or slurred speech in the defendant
- Reports of breath, urine, or blood tests of the defendant
- Police report
A successful DUI lawsuit would cover the following damages you have sustained.
Medical expenses: Medical expenses would cover ambulance charges, hospitalization, surgery, medication, in-home services and rehabilitation expenses. Hospital bills and records would serve as evidence for your injuries.
Pain and suffering: You are entitled to claim for physical pain and mental anguish resulting from a DUI accident.
Lost wages: Sustaining injuries from the accident may interfere with your attendance in the job. This would be covered under lost wages. If you have lost your job because of the injuries, you may be entitled for loss of earning.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages may also be covered which punishes the defendant for the negligent behavior.
If the accident had resulted in the death of the victim, his legal dependents are entitled to go for a wrongful death lawsuit.
The compensation amount for a DUI claim may vary in each case depending upon the state, type of accident and damages of the claimant. The average amount of compensation for DUI in Florida ranges between $50,000 to $100,000.
Drunk driving is an alarming epidemic in the US and must be addressed more effectively. The best practice for drivers is not to drive under the influence of alcohol. Before driving, wait an hour for each standard drink you have enjoyed. Reports indicate that the repeat offenders encompass almost one-third of all convicted drunk drivers. Never be one among them.
If you are injured by the impaired driving of a drunk driver, fight for your rights. Do not leave your future to chance. Though pursuing a claim would not compensate for your pain and anxiety, it may help you to meet your financial needs.
Let’s wind up with an interesting part in the bipartisan infrastructure bill which has a provision that edicts a drunk driving monitoring system in all passenger vehicles by 2027. It would prevent the vehicle from operating if any alcohol is detected. We have to wait and watch how effective it would be from the current Ignition Interlock Device (IID) system.