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Driving Under The Incluence
 
 
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 cannot 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. Do not make any incriminating statements to the police when you are suspected of drunk driving. But 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,"
    • On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes. In 2007, an estimated 12,998 people died in drunk driving related crashes;
    • About three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives;
    • Fifty to 75 percent of drunk drivers whose licenses are suspended continue to drive;
    • Approximately 40% of all motor-vehicle fatalities are alcohol-relate;
    • Over 1.46 million drivers were arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers in the United States;
    • In 2007, drivers between the ages of 16-20 were involved in 1,719 drunk driving accidents;
    • Frequent drunk drivers are responsible for almost 60% of alcohol-related fatalities;
    • In the United States, drunk driving is the leading criminal cause of death;
    • In 2007, 31.6 percent of the 41,059 traffic fatalities occurred in crashes in which at least one driver or nonoccupant had a Blood Alcohol Level of 0.08 g/dl or greater.
    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.
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