What is Drunk driving?

Drunk Driving Laws
DUI, DWI, Drunk driving laws?

The DUI and DWI drinking and driving laws vary from state to
state. However the following DUI legal information should be
helpful. Most states in the U.S. Designate a "per se" blood or
breath alcohol level as the threshold point where a person is
presumed to be impaired. The most common blood alcohol
content (BAC) "legal limit" in the United States is 0.08 (i.e., 80
mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood). Some states include a
lesser charge — often known as driving while impaired — at
a BAC of, say, 0.05 or above but less than the legal limit for
the more serious charge (only Delaware still uses a more lax
limit: 0.10). Prior to wider emphasis on drinking and driving in
the 1980s, standards of 0.12 were also in place in some
states. The legal limit for aircraft pilots in the U.S. is set at
0.04. Many states observe a much stricter standard — known
in some of them as "TCP," standing for "Trace Constitutes
Positive" — for drivers under the age of 21, which, since
1989, has been the uniform minimum purchase age for
alcoholic beverages throughout the nation (prior to that year
about half of all U.S. states formerly observed a lower
drinking age, most commonly 18; the trend toward raising the
age commenced in the late 1970s, with much of the impetus
for doing so provided by a federal law passed in the mid-
1980s mandating a reduced allocation of federal highway
funds to any state which refused to raise the age to 21).

Unlike DUI cases that involve alcohol, there is no "per se" or
legal limit that is employed for persons accused of driving
under the influence of prescription medication or illicit
drugs. Instead, the key inquiry focuses on whether the
driver's faculties were impaired by the substance that was
consumed. The detection and successful prosecution of
drivers impaired by prescription medication or illegal drugs
is therefore quite difficult. Similarly, although urinalysis
toxicology screens can detect the presence of such
substances in the driver's bloodstream, these analyses are
unable to demonstrate that the substance was actually
causing impairment at the time of driving. In response to
these problems, several jurisdictions are currently
considering legislation that would establish "zero tolerance"
laws for those drivers arrested for DUI and found to have
drugs or medication in their system. Additionally, technology
is being developed for the purpose of administering
roadside or laboratory tests that can detect the actual level
of a controlled substance in an individual's body.

Many jurisdictions require more serious penalties (i.e., jail
time, larger fines, longer DUI program, the installation of
ignition interlock devices) in cases where the driver's BAC is
over 0.20, or even 0.15 in some places. These additional
sanctions are an attempt to deter and punish the operation
of a vehicle at extremely high BAC levels and the
concomitant danger posed to the safety of persons and
property by heavily impaired drivers. In many cases, the
reason given for these additional sanctions is because an
average person would have passed out from that much
alcohol. To be able to drive at that level, a person has to
have gotten drunk regularly for years, to increase his/her
alcohol tolerance, and therefore is likely to have driven
drunk repeatedly. However, since there is currently no
standard test to measure alcohol tolerance, proponents of
high-BAC additional penalties point to some studies that
indicate that high-BAC offenders are more likely to be
involved in a crash and more likely to recidivate. Critics of
such laws point out that, due to the wide variation of alcohol
tolerance, people with a high tolerance will suffer the
additional penalties, even though they may be much less
impaired than people with a low tolerance that were driving
with a much lower BAC.

Some U.S. states also increase the penalties for drunk
driving (even to the point of making it a felony) if certain
other aggravating circumstances besides a very high BAC
are present, such as if the drunk driver caused an accident
requiring the hospitalization of another person lasting
greater than a specified period of time (often 72 hours), in
cases where an accident resulted in property damage
exceeding a certain amount (often $500), or where the driver
has a prior (and relatively recent) conviction for drunk
driving. In addition, most states observe administrative laws
that further penalize people convicted of DUI, typically
enforced by the department that issues driver's licenses,
usually titled Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or
Department of Licensing. Also, in many states, persons under
21 who purchase, or even attempt or conspire to purchase,
alcohol can have their driving privileges suspended (if they
already are licensed drivers) or delayed (if not) even if they
were not caught actually driving while intoxicated
.
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