DESSEN, MOSES & ROSSITTO

Last Updated: May 29, 2006


INFORMATION ABOUT
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL


Drunk driving is a serious crime in all states. The information below may be helpful if you are stopped for driving under the influence.

We hope that the questions and answers presented here will assist you in familiarizing yourself with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol issues and terms. While the material below attempts to answer common questions in this area, State and local laws may significantly modify the facts set forth. Because all legal problems are unique, nothing provided here is a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. We strongly urge you to consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your state about any particular legal problem you may have.

WHAT IS DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE?

Drinking alcohol and taking certain drugs affects your ability to safely operate dangerous equipment such as automobiles, motorboats and industrial equipment. In every state it is against the law to operate an automobile if you are so under the influence of drugs or alcohol that you can not safely operate the motor vehicle.

WHAT IS A BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL?

When you drink, alcohol from the drink is absorbed into your blood stream. Various tests have been designed to measure the level of alcohol in your blood. In many states, if your blood alcohol level is greater than .08, you are presumed to be too intoxicated to safely operate an automobile. However, you can still be found by a court to be drunk even if your blood alcohol level is less than .08. Further, there is a big push nationwide to have the laws changed in the individual states, making this .08 limit the level in all states as being considered legally too intoxicated to drive a vehicle.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM STOPPED FOR DRUNK DRIVING?

If you are stopped by the police and suspected of drunk driving, you will probably be asked to take some type of test to determine your blood alcohol level, such as a blood test or a breathalyzer test. In most states, if you refuse to submit to the test as requested by the police officer, your license will be suspended for failure to take the test, regardless of whether you are ultimately found guilty of drunk driving. In Pennsylvania, for example, refusal to submit to any type of blood alcohol test automatically results in a one year suspension of your driver's license. You can still be prosecuted for drunk driving even if you refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test. While it is important that you do not make any incriminating statements to the police when you are suspected of drunk driving, you should always act in a courteous and respectful manner to the investigating police officer. The police officer's testimony could have a direct bearing on your sentencing in a drunk driving case at a later time.

IS DUI AND DWI THE SAME THING?

Yes. Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") or Driving While Intoxicated ("DWI") are two of the terms used by various states to mean drunk driving.

WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM PUNISHMENT GRANTED BY THE COURT TO A FIRST-TIME OFFENDER CHARGED WITH DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE?

Drunk driving is considered a serious offense in all states. The DUI statute in the state where the violation occurred will determine the extent of the punishment for a first-time offender. Generally, a first-time offender convicted of the offense (which is usually considered a misdemeanor) is ordered to pay a fine and may be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment. A suspension of his or her driver's license will usually occur as well. There are certain "programs" available to first-time offenders, which allow the defendant's punishment to be decreased under certain circumstances. Further, there are a number of defenses to a charge of drunk driving that an experienced attorney can raise on your behalf. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney for you free of charge.

WHAT KIND OF STATISTICS ARE AVAILABLE FOR INCIDENTS INVOLVING IMPAIRED DRIVING?

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, "MADD,"in the years from 2000 - 2005:

         In 2002, an estimated 17,419 people DIED in alcohol-related traffic crashes-an average of one every 30 minutes. These deaths constituted 41 percent of the 42, 815 total traffic fatalities ;

         About 1,058,990 were INJURED in alcohol-related crashes - an average of one person injured approximately every 30 seconds. About 30,000.00 people each year will suffer permanent work-related disabilities;

         Every weekday night from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., 1 in 13 drivers is drunk (with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more). Between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on weekend mornings, 1 in 7 drivers is drunk;

         Approximately 18 million Americans - 8.5 percent of the population - meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism ;

         About three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives;

         Alcohol-related crashes cost an estimated $45 billion yearly. An additional $70.5 billion is lost in quality of life due to these crashes;

         The rate of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes is three and one-third times as high at night than as during the day. For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate is nearly five times as high at night;

         Thirty-two percent of drivers 21 - 24 years old involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated, followed by ages 25 - 34 (27 percent) and 35 - 44 (24 percent) ;

         In the past decade, four times as many Americans died in drunk driving crashes as were killed in the Vietnam War;

         Drunk driving is the nation's worst frequently committed violent crime.

ARE THERE LONG TERM HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH ALCOHOL ABUSE?

As with any addiction, alcohol addiction presents many health risks. For more information, and help with alcohol abuse, contact your local Alcoholics Anonymous center. The phone number and location of the center nearest you can be found in the Blue Pages of your local telephone Yellow Pages.


DESSEN, MOSES & ROSSITTO is happy to assist you in any legal matter that involves either Pennsylvania or New Jersey, the two states in which our attorneys routinely practice. If you have other questions or comments about Driving Under the Influence, or any other area in which we practice, please send us an E-mail message with your questions or comments and we will be happy to try to assist you.



LINKS TO OTHER INTERESTING INFO

Alcohol and the Human Body
DUI California
Drink Wheel
Drunk Driving Law Center
Drunk Driving Penalties by State
Drunk Driving Resources on the Internet
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

 

 

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