Everyone knows that drinking alcohol can affect a person physically, mentally, and socially. But most people are not aware of what happens if you get behind the wheel while being drunk?
Drunk driving is a criminal offense in all the US states with zero tolerance level towards the offense. According to the legal definition of the impaired driving, if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 grams per deciliter or more, then he/she will be charged with DUI if caught by the officer.
Despite strong laws against DUI, 10.9% of Americans have admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol or any drug. According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), 10,874 people died in 2017 due to cases of drunk driving, which means one fatality every 48 minutes.
DUI crime has one of the most arrest rates among all the other serious crimes. According to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), there were around 1,017,808 arrests due to DUI in 2016. According to these states, one driver among 215 licensed drivers was arrested in a DUI case.
Looking at all these staggering figures, it means DUI is quite a common practice, and along with educating people about the consequences of DUI charges, they should also be trained on how to handle the situation if they are called out by an officer in DUI case.
Impact of Alcohol on Driving Ability:
Alcohol contains components that affect the brain and its nervous system due to which the person feels difficulty in thinking, movement, and muscle coordination. Alcohol gets absorbed in the bloodstream and is circulated in the whole body — greater the amount of alcohol consumed, more will be the effect on the brain.
Driving needs attention, concentration, comprehension, coordination, active conscious, precise judgment, and careful decisions, and alcohol affects all these factors. That is why driving and alcohol drinking can’t go hand in hand. You always need to be attentive to any unexpected situation while being behind the wheel. And to handle any such situation you need well-coordinated hands, feet, eyes, and brain to make quick and alert moves. It is impossible while being drunk as your reflexes slow down, and you can’t react accordingly.
What Happens When You Get a DUI?
It can be very frightening and confusing if you are pulled over for a DUI. And if it is your first experience, then you might feel totally lost as you don’t know what you should do, how you should respond to the situation, and what will happen to you?
Once you park your car at the side of the road, the police officer will approach you for the investigation. He might approach you attentively because he will be vary of your reaction. Don’t worry if his gun is directed towards you, it is just defensive mode.
After approaching you, the officer will ask you several questions, some basic and some specific. You have to tell your name, age, contact details, security number, license, and car insurance information. Other than that, the officer will ask you some specific questions like your drinking habits, what is the level of your alcohol consumption, etc. Avoid giving answers to such questions as later they might be used against you in the court.
If you have only drunk one or two glasses, then you might not fall in the category of DUI. However, it is better not to answer any of the officer’s question related to drinking to avoid incriminating yourself.
The officer might also ask you to take the field sobriety test, which is comprised of three tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests. Politely refuse to take it because it is not a reliable and scientific method to measure intoxication and depends solely on the officer’s subjective observation.
The on-site investigation is just the beginning of a lengthy investigation process. You will immediately be arrested on suspicion of DUI and will be taken to the nearest police station in a police vehicle.
Your photographs and fingerprints will be taken. After that, you will be asked to take a chemical test to analyze the blood alcohol level, and you have to take it. You are obliged to take it by law and can be punished if refused to take it.
In some states, you will be released after all the essential procedure if someone will come for the bail. Some other states hold you in custody till you sober up.
Contact an Attorney:
Before releasing on bail, you will be given a summon that tells when you have to appear in court for the hearing. After getting released, immediately contact an expert dui defense lawyer who has the experience to handle such cases. Never go for a general lawyer because DUI cases are special and need particular knowledge and understanding to handle the case.
It is better to hire a qualified lawyer if you don’t want to go to jail and have a criminal record. Precisely tell him everything from the beginning till the end. It is better only to tell the truth to your lawyer so that he is aware of the whole situation and prepare the defense accordingly.
It would be even better if before contacting a lawyer, you write down everything. You might forget details later, so it is better to take notes when everything is fresh. This will also help you to tell everything to the lawyer without missing out any detail.
If you have hired an expert and reliable lawyer, then it is better to deny the charges and plead not guilty. Try to fight the case! Multiple factors determine the chances of your victory: your responses to the investigation, your behavior to the investigation officer, report of the officer, and expertise of your lawyer.
If you are lucky enough to win the case, then you will be cleared from all the charges. However, if you lose the case, then you will be charged with penalties.
Penalties in DUI Case
Below are given the possible penalties you have to face in case you are convicted in the DUI case:
Lose Driving License:
In all states, the first penalty in DUI case is the suspension of the driving license for a particular period. You can’t drive any vehicle during that period, and in case you attempt to drive any vehicle and get caught, then you will have to face more severe charges.
So it is better to spend your license suspension time with patience without taking any further risk.
Along with license suspension, you also have to pay the fine. The amount of fine can vary from minimum to maximum depending on the situation of your case, damage due to DUI and other circumstances. Along with penalty fine, most states also ask you to pay court costs.
If it is your first time DUI case and the damage is not massive, then you might be sentenced for only one or two days. However, if you are a repeat offender or damage is enormous, then jail time will be longer accordingly.
If you are not sentenced to jail, then judge mostly give a probation penalty. There can be different terms and conditions of probation and failure to comply with these terms can end you up in jail.
How to get back Driving Privileges?
If you are a DUI convict and your driving license has been suspended, then you need to follow certain steps to get back your driving license.
Drunk Driving School:
First, you need to go to a drunk driving school where you will complete alcohol and drug education program. This program is designed to educate drunk drivers to prevent further DUI cases and assess drinking habits.
Well, these classes are not free, and you have to pay for these classes on your own expense.
Besides drunk driving school, you also have to undergo alcohol evaluation where your alcohol consumption patterns will be evaluated to figure out are you suffering from alcohol abuse?
The evaluation process will involve questions regarding your drinking habits, the effect of drinking on your life patterns, etc.
In case, if evaluator identifies you as a sufferer of an alcohol use disorder, then you also have to undergo an alcohol treatment program to get back your license.
Never go for drunk driving! However, if you end up committing DUI and the officer call you to pull out the vehicle, then know that it is the test of your patience and presence of mind. Don’t lose your cool and let your expert DUI lawyer handle the situation. That is the best you can do for yourself!