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DUI Laws


Legislators and law enforcement officials use different types of laws to keep drunk driving to a minimum. DUI laws are determined by state legislatures rather than the federal government and punishments vary considerably among states.

Laws related to driving while under the influence fall into one of several categories. Some of the laws are meant to define precisely what constitutes drunk driving. Other laws attempt to hold third parties accountable if their actions contribute to DUI cases or accidents. Finally, DUI laws are used to establish punishments for those found guilty of driving while intoxicated.

Types of DUI Laws

Illegal or Administrative Per Se Laws

These laws set a limit as to how high a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC, also commonly referred to as blood alcohol content) can be while driving. A blood alcohol concentration over the 0.08 or 0.10 limit established in most states can lead to DUI punishments, including fines, license suspension, and even jail time.

Implied Consent

The notion of implied consent means that people arrested on DUI charges must submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine their BAC. Persons who refuse may be subject to license suspension, revocation, and harsher penalties if convicted.

Minimum Drinking Age

All states have laws against people under the age of 21 consuming or buying alcoholic beverages.

Zero Tolerance

All states also have zero tolerance laws. These laws make it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to have any alcohol in their blood while driving. Some states set a BAC of 0.01 or 0.02 as the limit so that arrestees cannot argue that cold medicine or another legal source of alcohol put them over the limit.

Third Party Responsibility

Open Container Laws

Most states have implemented laws that make it illegal to have an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle, even if it belongs to a passenger. Open containers must be kept in the trunk or somewhere else where they are inaccessible to the driver and passengers. The federal government has encouraged all states to enact these laws.

Dram Shop Laws

Bars, liquor stores, and other businesses are not allowed to sell alcohol to people who are already intoxicated. Businesses that sell alcohol to a drunken individual who is then involved in a DUI accident may be legally liable for any damages under Dram Shop laws.

Happy Hour Laws

Some states have made it illegal to discount the price of alcoholic beverages.

Penalties for DUI

Mandatory Sanctions

In some cases, a court or agency (such as the Department of Motor Vehicles) automatically issues a specific penalty for a given violation. For example, in some states a person's refusal to take a blood alcohol test results in a one year license revocation.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Laws

Most states have ALR laws in addition used to revoke or suspend a person's license if they are convicted of a DUI. The length of the suspension or revocation depends on the state, whether there are prior convictions, whether or not the BAC test was refused, and other factors.

Vehicle Sanctions

Legislators use vehicle sanctions to keep a DUI convict from using his or her vehicle for a set amount of time or to make changes to the vehicle in order to discourage repeat offenses. Vehicle sanctions may include impoundment, registration suspension, and confiscation and sale of the vehicle. Some states require convicts (especially repeat offenders) to attach an interlock device to their steering wheel. This device prevents the car from starting unless the driver can pass a breath test.

These types of DUI laws are used to discourage people from driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Most states use combinations and variations of such DUI laws in conjunction with educational programs aimed at warning people about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Contact an Attorney

If you have been charged with DUI or DWI, please contact an experienced defense attorney in your area.

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