Drunk Driving Lawyers

Driving Under the Influence, Driving While Intoxicated, and Operating Under the Influence are closely related crimes, but they can all mean the same thing: loss of license, stiff fines, embarrassment, and possible jail time.  Although DUI, DWI, and OUI are relatively common crimes, few people are familiar with their rights and how to protect themselves in such a situation.

What is Considered “Drunk Driving?”

Driving under the influence, referred to as, “drunk driving,” describes operating a motor vehicle while one’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit set by each States statutes, which supposedly is the level at which a person cannot drive safely. State statutes vary as to what that levelis, but it ranges from .08 to .10 for adults, which means a 8/100ths to one-tenth of one percent by weight of alcohol to the weight of blood. This is translated into grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood in tests of blood or urine sample, or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of air in a “breathalyzer” test. A combination of the use of alcohol and narcotics can also be considered “under the influence” based on erratic driving. Driving on private property such as a parking lot is no drunk driving defense, but sitting in a non-moving vehicle without the ignition on probably is (sometimes resulting in a charge of “drunk in and about a vehicle”). This is a misdemeanor and is variously referred to as DUI, driving while intoxicated (DWI), drunk driving, or a “deuce”.

Blood Alcohol Chart

This chart is based on widely-publicized research data. It is for informational purposes only.

There are many variables to take into consideration, such as an individual’s metabolism, food consumption, and the time period over which alcohol is consumed.

This chart should not be used for determining how much alcohol one can consume before safely engaging in such activities as operating a motor vehicle

Number of Drinks
Body weight 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
100 lb. .038 .075 .113 .150 .188 .225 .263 .300 .338 .375 .413 .450
110 lb. .034 .066 .103 .137 .172 .207 .241 .275 .309 .344 .379 .412
120 lb. .031 .063 .094 .125 .156 .188 .219 .250 .281 .313 .344 .375
130 lb. .029 .058 .087 .116 .145 .174 .203 .232 .261 .290 .320 .348
140 lb. .027 .054 .080 .107 .134 .161 .188 .214 .241 .268 .295 .321
150 lb. .025 .050 .075 .100 .125 .151 .176 .201 .226 .251 .276 .301
160 lb. .023 .047 .070 .094 .117 .141 .164 .188 .211 .234 .258 .281
170 lb. .022 .045 .066 .088 .110 .132 .155 .178 .200 .221 .244 .265
180 lb. .021 .042 .063 .083 .104 .125 .146 .167 .188 .208 .229 .250
190 lb. .020 .040 .059 .079 .099 .119 .138 .158 .179 .198 .217 .237
200 lb. .019 .038 .056 .075 .094 .113 .131 .150 .169 .188 .206 .225
210 lb. .018 .036 .053 .071 .090 .107 .125 .143 .161 .179 .197 .215
220 lb. .017 .034 .051 .068 .085 .102 .119 .136 .153 .170 .188 .205
230 lb. .016 .032 .049 .065 .081 .098 .115 .130 .147 .163 .180 .196
240 lb. .016 .031 .047 .063 .078 .094 .109 .125 .141 .156 .172 .188

The key factor in almost all cases of drunken driving is what a person’s blood-alcohol level was and whether it was over the legal limit. In most states that level has been set at .08 of a percent. The chart above provides a general oversight into how the number of drinks, factoring in a person’s body weight, affects this blood-alcohol level. The formula is more complicated, of course, because an individual’s metabolism and the time-period during which the alcohol is consumer are also major factors but for most people the chart is fairly accurate.

The test is a measurement of the amount of alcohol that is found to be in your blood, but it is a computation made at the time the test is administered. The tests that will be used against you include the field sobriety test and, in most cases, blood or breath tests that are undertaken in a time period after an arrest when the blood-alcohol level may actually be higher than it was at the time of the arrest. It is not uncommon for these tests to be improperly applied or for them to produce findings that are not accurate.

Criminal defense lawyers, investigators and DUI experts will typically review all of these factors and others to ensure that the tests were legally, professionally and accurately administered and analyze whether the results are accurate and substantiate the charges that have been filed against you. In many cases when there have been flaws in how tests were administered and results interpreted we have been able to have charges reduced or dismissed before cases even are taken to trial.

The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer

There are thousands of factors that must be considered if you are charged with a DUI.  The legality of your arrest, field sobriety tests, proper functioning test equipment, correct handling of your evidence, and the conduct of the arresting officers are frequently contentious issues during legal proceedings.  Many people who believed themselves guilty discovered they could avoid serious penalties when any number of these variables failed to withstand legal scrutiny. If you were charged with drunk driving, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you through the legal process.

Things Your Attorney Will Investigate

  • Was there probable cause? There must be evidence provided that the officer had probable or a reasonable suspicion to stop, detain and arrest.
  • Were you read your Miranda Rights? If the arresting office did not timely give a Miranda rights warning to the defendant, the defendant’s incriminating statements may be excluded from the evidence in court.
  • Were you given implied consent warnings? In some states, if a chemical test was refused or given incorrectly, and you were not advised of the consequences of this, it may be a reason to invalidate a DMV license suspension based upon your refusal to provide a breath/blood sample.
  • Were you assumed to be under the influence? The officer’s observations and opinions that you failed the test can be questioned. The circumstances under which the field sobriety tests were given can be disputed, and witnesses can be called to testify that you appeared to be sober.
  • Were you tested during the absorptive phase? The blood, breath or urine test will be unreliable if done while you are still actively absorbing alcohol. Food in the stomach slows alcohol absorption and may delay it from reaching the brain, so the blood alcohol test results will not accurately show how sober you were.
  • Was the protocol followed during the blood-alcohol testing? The prosecution must prove that the blood, breath or urine test complied with state requirements.
  • Did faulty tests create a skewed blood-alcohol concentration? There exists a wide range of potential problems with blood, breath or urine testing. Many different defects in analysis can be brought out in cross-examination of the state’s expert witness.

FAQs You May Have About Drunk Driving

Q: If I am asked to take a chemical test what happens if I refuse?
A: If you refuse to take either a blood, breath or urine test there can be several penalties, based on what state you are arrested in. Most likely our driver’s license will be suspended even if you are not convicted of the charge. Some states count it as a separate crime and it can add jail time if you are convicted. A refusal also can be used by prosecutors as a consciousness of guilt in court. One factor that may be considered in deciding whether or not to refuse the test is whether the driver expects a very high blood-alcohol level to be found.

Q: If I do take a chemical test which one should I take?
A: Many states,  no longer offer the urinalysis test. By choosing a breath test many states allow you to have a second test of either blood or urine because breath samples cannot be saved and tested by the defense. The blood sample is in most cases the most accurate so the more confident you are that you are not drunk this would be the best choice. Breath machines can have measurement problems and urinalysis is the least accurate. So, if you live in a state in which urinalysis tests are given and believe that you have a high-alcohol level that would probably be the best choice.

Q: What happens if I get a DUI in another state?
A: The likelihood is that the other state will contact your state and you could face charges in both states as part of the Driver’s License Compact. It is never a good idea to ignore criminal charges, even if they occur in another jurisdiction. In this case you face losing your driver’s license and having additional penalties imposed. The best way to avoid trouble is to contact your attorney as soon as possible for experienced and accurate legal advice rather than trusting what your friends might tell you.

Q: If I’ve been drinking and I’m pulled over by a police officer do I have to answer the officer’s questions?
A: The law protects citizens from making incriminating questions. If you wish, you may answer “Before I answer any questions I would like to speak to an attorney.” The circumstances of your drinking certainly come into play. If you have had only a glass of wine or a beer that would explain why your breath might smell of alcohol and is not an incriminating statement. Remember that the more information that you provide an officer the more that can be used against you. Under all circumstances, however, you should also respect the officer.

Q: What are police officers on the lookout for when they are patrolling for drunken drivers?
A: This list of warning signs to police is taken from National Highway Traffic Administration statistics:

  • Making a wide-radius turn
  • Driving over the center of a lane marker
  • “Appearing to be drunk”
  • Almost striking object or vehicle
  • Weaving
  • Driving on other than designated highway
  • Swerving
  • Driving at a speed more than 10 mph below limit
  • Stopping without cause in traffic lane
  • Following too closely
  • Drifting
  • Driving on the center or lane marker
  • Braking erratically
  • Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
  • Making signals inconsistent with driving actions
  • Responding slowly to traffic signals
  • Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane)
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
  • Driving at night with headlights off

Q:What are the most common symptoms that officers find in drunken drivers?
A: This list of symptoms is taken from National Highway Traffic Administration statistics:

  • Disoriented
  • Alcohol odor on breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Flushed face
  • Red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes
  • Inability to understand the officer’s questions
  • Staggering while getting out of the vehicle
  • Leaning against the vehicle for support
  • Inability to stand straight
  • Inability to walk straight
  • Inability to easily remove license from wallet
  • Defensive or argumentative attitude
  • Silly or laughing attitude
  • Fumbling with wallet trying to get license
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