It is a crime to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. This offense is known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) but is more commonly known as drunk driving. However, this name is a bit of a misnomer because you don’t need to be intoxicated or driving for that matter to receive a DUI. Impairment is based on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and has to be above the national standard of 0.08 percent to be considered intoxicated. If you’re under 21, however, there is zero tolerance for driving while under the influence. Any trace of alcohol will result in a DUI charge.
Nowadays, DUI charges are much more common than before. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2015. Many people assume only alcoholics or avid drug users get DUIs, but that is far from the truth. As DUI fatalities kept happening, more and more organizations, such a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), pressure the federal and local governments to do something about it. That has led to our current system that evokes incredibly harsh penalties, even for those who have never been charged with a crime in the past.
With the creation of these organizations and stricter enforcement from the government comes greater awareness of DUI consequences. This, in turn, creates cruel social stigmas when someone is charged with a DUI. Before such concerns surfaced, theses stigmas didn’t exist. People could drink and drive without any issues, similar to how people treated cigarettes and smoking. But now, it is seen as a moral and ethic problem and with good reason. But people charged with DUIs don’t deserve the level of persecution they receive because of one mistake. They are still individuals with rights and freedoms.
How DUIs are Enforced
The state is also motivated for enforcing DUI arrests on its own accord. A person charged with a DUI is looking at a considerable amount of monetary loss because of it, and the State mostly profits off of these charges. Because a DUI is a criminal offense, the State is prosecuting the person charged, so any court penalties and fines go straight to them. Not only that, but the government highly regulates alcohol and motor vehicles and therefore profits from any fees collected from the DMV-required alcohol class or an ignition interlock. All of this incentivizes the State government to aggressively enforce harsh DUI penalties and strict rules.
Police can usually stop people who are driving if they have reasonable suspicion that they are under the influence. However, most DUI charges occur when a police officer pulls you over for an entirely different reason. When an officer has reasonable suspicion, they may briefly hold the individual. During this period, the officer will question the person to further their investigation to determine whether or not the person is driving while under the influence. After this, if the officer still believes their suspicion, they will conduct a field sobriety test.
What is Reasonable Suspicion?
What exactly constitutes reasonable suspicion has been a bit of a controversy. Being able to prove that the officer had no reason to pull the person over is ground for dismissal. A few examples of actions that might constitute reasonable suspicion include:
- An illegal turn
- Drifting from lane to lane
- Extremely slow or fast driving
- Braking often or coming to a complete stop without a reason
- Hitting objects with their car
This is only an illustrative and not exhaustive list of what actions can encompass reasonable suspicion. It is important to note that an individual does not need to be driving at all. If an officer sees someone asleep behind the wheel, even if their car is parked, the officer can detain the individual to determine whether or not they had been driving under the influence. To reiterate, an officer does not need to see someone driving to have reasonable suspicion.
What Rights Do I Have?
There are certain unalienable rights that a person possesses even when charged with a DUI. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments from the United States Constitution grant you your rights in a DUI defense.
- The Fourth Amendment: This amendment prevents unreasonable searches and seizures. When an officer pulls you over because of reasonable suspicion, it may be in violation of this amendment. However, when the cop has stopped you, it is best to cooperate, and in most cases, the violation will be used in the defense to mitigate or drop the charge.
- The Fifth Amendment: There are certain restrictions on the government when prosecuting someone charged with a crime. Most commonly, this means you can remain silent to prevent yourself from being incriminated. After being arrested, you can plead the Fifth and not say a word. The less said means less evidence the prosecution has to prove a conviction.
A DUI conviction will have severe consequences on every aspect of your life beyond just suspension of a license, fines, and injuries. With a DUI, there is potential that you may lose your job, have a much more difficult time in obtaining a job, lose respect and integrity in the eyes of friends and family, and much more. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
At first blush, it may seem like the facts of DUI cases are fairly straightforward and an attorney would just be a waste of money. But, DUI charges are serious and one of the most complex misdemeanor cases. With a skilled attorney, even with evidence of blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit, you can get the charges reduced or dismissed.
It is crucial for your benefit to consult with an experienced attorney to help if you’ve been charged with a DUI. The DUI lawyers at Truslow & Truslow will guide you through the meticulous and challenging process of dealing with a DUI charge. DUI’s are taken very seriously by the court. Our attorneys understand your situation and know the stakes at risk. To us, you’re more than our client. We will always be as honest and straightforward as we can when going over the details of your case. Contact us today at (803) 256-6276 and let us aggressively fight for your rights.