Legal Guide

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or behavior-altering drugs is against the law in every state. Although laws, terms, and approaches vary from state to state, the consequences are always similar in their severity.

Alcohol and drugs are known to alter a person’s behavior, coordination, and thinking. Therefore, it is illegal to drive under such influence, as you greatly risk your own health and safety in addition to that of others.

Although the crime is viewed differently among states, in every state it is considered a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent. Known as a “”per se”” law and most commonly called DUI, the crime also goes by Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Operating Under the Influence (OUI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII), among a long list of other variations.

In all 50 states, it is illegal to drink under the age of 21. The consequences are comparable across the country for drunk driving incidents involving intoxicated underage drivers, although sentences and punishments vary.

In every state, field sobriety tests and chemical tests are used in determining the presence and level of alcohol involved. A police officer is responsible, in all cases, for determining the statutory offense (DUI, DWI, OWI, etc.) based on his or her observations and the test results.

The procedure and validity of field sobriety tests and chemical tests varies from state to state. The standardized field sobriety test, as set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), involves three brief tests: horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and one-leg stand. Standard chemical tests include urine analysis, blood analysis, and breath analysis.

In all but five states, multiple DUI offenders are forced to equip their vehicles with ignition interlock devices. These high-tech devices measure the alcohol content of the driver’s breath before starting the car. If alcohol is found on their breath above the preset level, the vehicle will not start. The majority of states may also require multiple DUI offenders to forfeit their vehicles.

Over 40 states have passed the same law, which states that no open containers of alcohol can be present in an operated vehicle.

Although there are many similarities in DUI laws and penalties from state to state, there are even more variances. It is very important to understand your state’s laws when attempting to get behind the wheel of a vehicle with any alcohol in your system. It is also important to understand your rights as a legal driver and how they pertain to submission to field sobriety tests and chemical tests.