Driving under the influence of alcohol is the crime of driving, operating, or even being at fault for a motor vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. It is a legal concept in most states that if a person is charged with a DUI then it will be considered a DWI offense, even if the accused does not have a blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for driving. The penalties for driving while intoxicated can be very severe for many people. The minimum legal punishment is a limited suspension of driving privileges, increased fines, community service, probation, and jail time.
Certain medications such as marijuana can also cause drowsiness and slow reaction time while driving. Some people do not realize that marijuana use can reduce reaction time while driving because they have not realized that the effects of marijuana are different from those of alcohol. Marijuana does not cause immediate impairment but the lack of coordination and sluggishness can lead to accidents. Other common side effects include disorientation, slurred speech, blurred vision, and nausea. Smoking marijuana can also cause anxiety and panic attacks in people who are not already susceptible to them.
Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol can occur at any time, even while at home. Most people recognize that the effects of alcohol and drugs are more pronounced during the day, when driving is the main chance for people to get behind the wheel. Because many states use a “penalty” system which levies more fines on drivers caught driving while intoxicated, the number of drivers charged with DUI has dramatically increased over the past few years. This increase is due to a variety of factors including stricter enforcement, higher costs of penalties, and the ease of implementing sobriety programs for impaired drivers.
Although a BAC reading of 0.08 or greater will result in a DUI arrest, some states consider any traffic offense involving alcohol as an aggravated battery. As such, a conviction for driving under the influence will carry a greater penalty than one for simple drunk driving. A conviction can also result in a permanent license suspension, hefty fines, loss of drivers’ licenses, loss of job benefits, and other consequences. Some states also require a psychological evaluation before a conviction can be applied to a specific individual.
States often treat a BAC reading as the equivalent of the breathalyzer test in determining whether a driver is intoxicated. This is because many states require a person convicted of driving under the influence to submit to a roadside sobriety test. The test is conducted outside of the vehicle, usually at the arrest location. It can detect alcohol, but other chemicals, such as Nitrous Oxide, can also be detected. A BAC test is considered conclusive evidence that the driver is impaired.
The defense that a driver is not impaired by alcohol is called reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion requires that the police have a reasonable belief that a person is impaired, in this case, driving a vehicle. If the police officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is impaired, they must provide the individual with a lawful breath or urine test in order to determine their degree of impairment. Once the results of the breath or urine tests are in the system, the police should document everything. The documentation will become part of the case file and will need to be introduced at a hearing to determine if there is probable cause to arrest the individual.