Driving Under the Influence (DUI), commonly referred to as drunk driving, is the act of using a transportation device, such as a car, motorcycle, boat, plane, or bicycle, while under the effects of alcohol or any other drug that impairs mental ability or motor skills. The most common drug cited in examples of DUIs is alcohol, but other common drugs include tranquilizers, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine. In most countries, it is a serious criminal offence.
In the United States, a federal law prohibits driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is considered driving under the influence, and is punishable with DUI charges. Some states have a lesser charge sometimes called ‘driving while impaired’ (DWI) for people with a BAC in the 0.05-0.08 range. In many European countries the legal limit is 0.05 BAC, some countries don’t allow any amount of alcohol in the blood of vehicle operators, and some counties don’t have any laws about driving under the influence at all. In most countries, the drivers of commercial vehicles, such as planes, trains and buses, have stricter limitations on alcohol usage while driving and harsher penalties for violating them.
In the United States, driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol is referred to as DUID, and carries similar penalties as a DUI. However, because there is often difficulty in determining if a driver is impaired by the drugs found in his or her blood, current laws state that ANY amount of an illegal substance found in a drivers system makes them subject to DUID charges.
The fines and punishments for a DUI usually vary depending on the circumstances of the crime, and whether or not there is a history of prior offences. A first time offender stopped by a police officer for swerving slightly will receive a much lighter penalty than a repeat offender who drove erratically and crashed.
The penalties vary from state to state across the United States, but usually involve a steep fine, temporary suspension of your driver’s license, and possibly some amount of jail time. First offences rarely involve jail time unless the DUI incident involved injury or death. Deaths caused by someone under the influence usually carry the additional charge of vehicular manslaughter, and are much more serious crimes.
Because DUIs are such a common criminal charge, there are many defense lawyers that specialize solely in representing people with such charges. These lawyers are often called ‘DUI attorneys’. Since a DUI is a serious charge, it is highly recommended that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after receiving a DUI.