Drivers who are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also commonly charged with reckless driving, speeding, and controlled substance abuse. In every state, the minimum punishment for convicted drunk drivers includes the automatic loss of their licenses for a period of time determined by each state. Additionally, some states impose short jail sentences for first time convicts, and most of them require offenders to complete some type of treatment program. Convicted drivers also face increased insurance rates and a criminal record.
It is estimated that the minimum cost to a driver for his or her first DUI conviction in the state of New York is $9,500, which is comparable to other states. Roughly 33% of Americans are involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. In 2006, the number of people who died in traffic crashes involving alcohol accounted for 41% of the total number of traffic fatalities. That same year, 1.46 million arrests were made concerning people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Drunk driving is obviously a legal violation. Nevertheless, it is estimated that in 2002, Americans took over 159 million driving trips while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In the United States, a person is not supposed to be driving when his or her blood alcohol content level reaches 0.08%. At this blood alcohol content level, a driver has enough alcohol in his or her system to affect their ability to drive properly. By the time an individual’s blood alcohol content reaches between 0.03% and 0.059%, the brain’s ability to handle tasks required for safe driving is impaired and becomes more severely hindered as the BAC level increases.
Alcohol-impaired drivers pose a considerable risk not only to themselves, but to other drivers. When charged with driving under the influence or any crime related to it, impairment due to alcohol or other drugs is never accepted as a defense, but it can sometimes be used as a partial defense. This tends to be the case when a driver is charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter. In the event a driver’s impairment level is so severe that his or her intent to kill is affected, then alcohol impairment can be used as a way to lessen the crime to involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. However, this defense is rarely successful.