A drunk-driving arrest is serious business. Even if you never drink and drive, it pays to understand the DUI lingo because perfectly sober people get pulled over for DUI too. That's when knowing what the police and lawyers are saying is very helpful.
DUI Legal terms
An acronym for "driving under the influence," a DUI is a term that refers to the crime of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
An acronym for "driving while intoxicated," in many states a DWI is the same as a DUI. However, in some states, they're separate charges, and DWI is a more serious crime.
An acronym for "blood alcohol concentration," a BAC of 0.8 percent or higher is considered over the legal limit. The BAC is determined by taking a breathalyzer, blood test or urine test. In many states, you have the right to refuse to take a test, but in other states, like Florida, you're required to submit and not doing so is a separate crime. In Florida you are not required to take a breathalyzer, refusal will result in suspension of your driver’s license. A second refusal will lead to a separate crime.
In states like Florida, implied consent refers to a law that states that anyone who accepts the privilege of driving is consenting to a chemical BAC test when they operate a motor vehicle. Refusing can result in the suspension of your driver's license, jail time and fines. The severity of the penalty depends on what state you live in and whether or not you have previous convictions for refusing. The refusal is also admissible in court at trial.
Enhanced penalty (Aggravated) BAC
If a driver's BAC is over .15 percent (almost double the legal limit), a driver may face elevated penalties.
Refers to a law that states those under the legal drinking age of 21 can automatically be charged with DUI because any alcohol puts them over the legal limit. The actual zero-tolerance threshold varies by state, but is between 0.0 percent and 0.2 percent BAC.
Per se intoxication
Per se intoxication means if your BAC is 0.8 percent, you're automatically (per se) intoxicated regardless of your personal tolerance and no further evidence is required. This does not indicate an open-and-shut case, however.
Standardized field sobriety test (SFST)
A roadside test police officers use to indicate whether or not you're intoxicated. The results of non-chemical SFSTs are not empirical proof of intoxication, only a guide, and can be negatively impacted by other factors (such as disability). The three SFSTs are:
Walk & Turn: The most common of the tests, the officer asks a suspect to walk nine steps (usually along a painted road line) heel to toe, turn and come back. The officer is looking for signs of impaired coordination and thinking, such as lack of balance, failure to perform the test according to the demonstration, inability to touch heel to toe, stepping off the line, overuse of arms to balance, difficulty turning as instructed or difficulty counting the correct number of steps.
One-Leg Stand: The suspect is asked to stand on one leg with the other foot elevated 6 inches for at least 30 seconds. The officer is looking for a lack of balance, flailing arms, hopping and other indications of impaired coordination.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): Usually inadmissible in court because a failure can be the result of other factors and because officers are not medical professionals. In states where it is admissible, it's often challenged by attorneys. The suspect is asked to follow an object's path (usually a finger) until they're looking to the side. The officer will look for a jerkiness (nystagmus) beginning too quickly, which is a possible indication of impairment.
Punishments & penalties if convicted
If convicted of a DUI, you can face criminal punishments like jail time, fines and community service. Repeat offenders are generally treated more harshly, but otherwise, the exact penalties will be determined by the facts of the case. Additionally, there are other potential penalties a DUI conviction can cause.
Suspended driver's license
A suspended license is the temporary revocation of your ability to drive. It will usually be reinstated automatically after a certain period of time providing you complete the required classes or other requirements.
Revoked driver's license
A revoked license is much worse than a suspended one. It pretty much reverts you back to before you ever got one and there are often mounds of paperwork and hearings required to get it back. If you can prove need, you may be able to apply for a hardship or restricted license.
Hardship/restricted driver's licenses
If theirs is taken away, a driver may be able to get a hardship license, a special license that allows them to drive only in certain necessary circumstances (like to and from work, taking the kids to school, church and other activities deemed worthy by the court).
Mandatory in most states, DUI school is a series of classes someone convicted of a DUI has to complete, even if they're first-time offenders. They're often in conjunction with a temporary suspension of your driver's license.
Ignition interlock device
Requires the vehicle's operator to blow into a Breathalyzer prior to starting the vehicle. If alcohol is detected, they'll be unable to turn the ignition.
An attorney with specific experience defending people accused of DUI with extensive knowledge of the subtleties of the DUI process in their state. They can often make a significant impact on the severity of the punishment and may be able to prevent a conviction.
If you've been accused of drunk driving in the Orlando, Florida, area, call the experienced Kissimmee DUI lawyers at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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