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Drunk Driving, The Law And Knowing Your Rights

May 26, 2008
In the last few decades significant steps have been taken to criminalize the act of drink driving. The traffic laws have become more stringent to ensure that the punishments related to drink driving suitably match the crime and to encourage a deterrent. Consequently, drink driving in American society has developed a social stigma on the same level as homicide and rape.

This article will help you to understand the law in relation to drink driving by explaining on what basis a police officer can stop a vehicle, what the procedure is if you are suspected of drink driving and most importantly what your rights are during this process.

The act of drink driving is defined in law as attempting to control a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. The severity of the act is determined by the person's ability to speak and walk. These actions are referred to in law as either driving whilst intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs (DUI). Under both offenses you will be charged if the level of alcohol exceeds 0.08. Many states have introduced variations on these two offenses to make it illegal to drive whilst deprived of sleep or taking certain drugs.

If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI offense, the basic penalty can be incarceration up to one year. If the incident resulted in a third party receiving severe injuries or death occurred, then in some cases a DUI/DWI charge can lead to a much longer sentence.

If a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs then they must observe certain behavior before they have a right to pull the vehicle over. Some of the more obvious displays of drunkenness such as swerving, driving at slow speed or weaving across the road are sufficient enough evidence for the police officer to suspect that the driver is intoxicated.

On some occasions it may not become noticeable that the driver is drunk until they have been stopped for an unrelated incident. In these circumstances, if it is apparent during this process that the driver is intoxicated then the officer can initiate a DUI/DWI investigation immediately.

Once a driver has been stopped on suspicion of drink drinking the officer will question them to try to ascertain the level of impairment. If at any point they conclude that the driver is intoxicated they will ask for them to get out of the vehicle and to undergo a sobriety test. Generally these are now conducted using small testing devices that help the officer to build a case for arrest. In most cases, these devices are not admissible in court.

If the test gives a reading of 0.8 or higher the driver will be arrested and taken to the nearest police station to be charged.

Should you be stopped and subsequently charged with a DUI/DWI offense it is important that you are aware of your rights. Under the constitution you have a right to refuse the test to determine your alcohol level. You also have a right to silence should the officer at the scene try to determine what your recent alcohol consumption has been. Finally, if you are charged you have the right to make a phone call to your lawyer.
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