UNDERSTANDING THE LAWS & THE RISKS
Driving while intoxicated is a real issue in the US. Currently in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico there are now two statutory offenses associated with driving under the influence of alcohol.
The first and original offense is known as driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI), or operating while intoxicated/impaired (OWI). These charges are brought about based upon a police officer’s assessment of a driver, usually either determined by driving behavior, slurred speech, a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test.
The second type of offense is called “illegal per se”, which is driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
In 2006, there were 13,470 deaths in automobile accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers, those with a BAC of .08 or higher. This number accounted for 32% of the total traffic deaths for the entire year. In addition to this 16,005 deaths were attributed to what are called alcohol related motor vehicle accidents, those who had a BAC of .01 or higher, but still under the legal limit. Of the fatalities attributed to alcohol consumption, 306 of them were children, and half of these children, 153, were driving in a vehicle that was being operated by a person with a BAC level of .08 or higher.
And although there have been many attempts to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, the statistics are still almost the same from 1996 as they were in 2006, with actually a few more fatalities in 2006, which after 10 years of progress is a bit disappointing.
Now, 13,470 fatalities may not seem that many in a population size like that of the US, but in reality that it the equivalent of a person dying every 39 minutes from an alcohol related injury.
Drivers with a BAC level of .08 or higher involved in a fatal auto accident were eight times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving under the influence or driving while impaired than drivers involved in accidents that were not related to alcohol.
Keep in mind that in these statistics for 2006, at least 55% of the drivers involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking had a BAC of .15 or higher, over twice the legal limit. Showing that in many of these cases, these drivers were well past the point of legal intoxication. This would mean that they probably were showing significant symptoms and others should have been aware of their condition and discouraged them from driving to avoid just this scenario.
It is important to remember that when you are intoxicated, your judgment is impaired and therefore, you need someone to stand up and tell you not to get behind the wheel of the car. It is an important and yet difficult issue, however, if the person is your friend and you know that they are intoxicated then try to discourage them from driving. It is true: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN CITED WITH A DUI OR DWI
Hopefully, if you find yourself in this situation it has not come down to killing someone else, but merely that you found yourself being pulled over by a police officer when you were out after having a few drinks. If this is you than you need to find an attorney that can help you deal with the charge against you as well as help you get the guidance you need to get your life back on track, before you or someone you love, or someone you don’t even know becomes a victim to your reckless behavior. This is a wake up call and one that you should take very seriously, if you don’t your life or someone else’s could be irrevocably changed, and that would be a shame.
In this situation, you want to be sure to find an attorney that specializes in these types of cases and who has a good track record with the state bar association. This is important to make sure that they are a legally licensed attorney in the state that you are dealing with. If you have an interstate case, then you must seek out legal representation in the state that you had the problem in and not your home state. Many people get confused on this issue.
If you or a loved one have been charged with driving while impaired, then it is important to seek out an attorney immediately. This is not the type of charge that you want to try and deal with yourself, and it is important not only to find an attorney, but one that is knowledgeable in this area of law.
It can make all the difference in the punishment that you face and the way it is handled by the courts.