Anti-drunk-driving advertising campaigns are raising the awareness of the legal situations and the dangers of driving while intoxicated with both alcohol and/or drugs. Driving under the influence is responsible for a large number of injuries, damage and accidents every year, and deaths.
The specific criminal offense may be called driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving while impaired (also DWI), operating while intoxicated (OWI), operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI), driving under the influence [of alcohol or other drugs] (DUI), driving under the combined influence of alcohol and/or other drugs, driving under the influence per se or drunk in charge [of a vehicle] depending on the jurisdiction. These laws can also apply to boating, piloting aircraft, and even bicycling in some states such as California.
TESTS ESTABLISHING DUI
In the past, guilt was established by observed driving symptoms, such as weaving. If an officer suspects impairment a field sobriety test, such as walking a straight-line heel-to-toe or standing on one leg for 30 seconds may be given at which time the officer can give a subjective opinion of one’s impairment.
Today’s statues commonly provide for two separate and distinct criminal offenses. The first is the traditional “drunk driving” offense, consisting of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Evidence to support this crime generally comes from the officer’s observations (such as erratic driving, slurred speech, unsteady gait), performance on field sobriety tests, and a legal (and generally rebuttable) presumption of intoxication from a blood alcohol test result over the legal limit.
The second offense is the more recent so-called “per se” offense: rather than focusing on impairment the crime consists entirely of having a given blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of driving, regardless of the individual’s tolerance to alcohol. Since 2002 it has been illegal in all 50 US states to drive with a BAC that is 0.08% or higher. Both offenses may be charged, and the defendant may be convicted of both; if a blood alcohol test result was not obtained, only the traditional “DUI” offense will be charged.