What Does Driving Under the Influence Mean?
Driving under the influence (DUI) means operating a vehicle while your blood alcohol content (BAC) is higher than the legal limit for your jurisdiction. Also known as drunk driving, this offense implies that the accused is too inebriated to safely operate your automobile. Each state sets its own BAC level in terms of what is legal, but anywhere from 0.08 to 0.10 is typical. DUI does not apply only to alcohol though. The charge can also be used against someone who is impaired due to other substances such as legal medications or illegal drugs.
Which Laws Address DUI Offenses?
While statutes do vary, you can expect to see terms such as driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), or driving while impaired (also DWI) used to charge allegedly impaired drivers. Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI) is also common. If your DUI case goes to trial, the prosecutor must prove two, possibly three, elements.
- The prosecution must demonstrate that you were driving. You may be surprised to learn that you don’t have to be in motion to be charged with DUI. Most states expand the definition to include being in control of an automobile in any way while impaired, whether it is in motion or not. For example, you may be arrested for DUI if you have been drinking and pass out behind the wheel of your car, even if you never started the engine. In order to determine whether the prosecutor has met the burden of proof, the court can consider factors such as whether or not the accused was conscious when approached by police, the BAC, and whether or not the keys to the car were in the ignition.
- The prosecution must prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This can happen as a “per se” DUI or as an “impairment” DUI. With a per se DUI, the prosecutor shows that the person was operating a vehicle with an illegal level of alcohol or drugs in the body, regardless of the impact on functioning. With an impairment DUI, the prosecutor demonstrates that the accused was operating with an impaired ability to function, regardless of the amount of substance consumed.
- In some states, a third element must be proven to gain a DUI conviction. Known as the public roadway element, this requires the prosecution to show that the defendant was stopped by police in an area open to the general public, such as a state highway.
If you are charged with DUI, the penalties can range from AA meetings to jail time. You could lose your license, your insurance, and even your freedom, not to mention thousands of dollars and hours of your time. If you need help with a DUI charge, contact an attorney with experience handling these cases to preserve your rights right away.