November 10, 2010

DUI Laws Across Country Changing

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DUI laws seem to be constantly changing. At any given point, multiple state legislatures may be debating new laws that change how drunk driving is charged, how evidence is collected and what penalties are handed down for convictions.

Consider, in the first three months of 2009:
  • Two states passed new DUI laws (Utah and New Mexico)
  • New DUI laws went into effect in two other states (Illinois and South Caroilna)
  • Eight states are currently debating changes to their existing DUI laws (Oregon, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Maryland, West Virginia)
  • With drunk driving laws changing so rapidly in so many states, what can you expect if you get pulled over?
  • During your traffic stop

A police officer must have “probable cause” in order to pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving. Reasons for a traffic stop may include:
  • Erratic driving, such as swerving in and out of lanes
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign or red light
  • Illegal turn
  • Driving with headlights off
  • Stopping in the road for no reason
Once you have been pulled over, a police officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests (such as the one-leg stand test). The officer may also ask you to submit to a breath test. Using a small machine, such as a breathalyzer, you breath into a tube and the machine uses the breath sample to gauge blood alcohol content, or BAC.
Some of the new DUI laws being considered are making it easier for police officers to get the search warrants needed for a blood sample, used to determine blood alcohol content. Some states are also increasing the penalties for anyone who refuses a breath test.

DUI Penalties
The penalties for drunk driving vary widely from state-to-state. In general, drunk driving sentences for first-time offenders will include:
  • Jail time
  • Fines
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Some states DUI punishments may also include:
  • Ignition interlock device use
  • Community service
  • Alcohol rehabilitation program
  • Vehicle seizure
The penalties for a DUI conviction increase, sometimes dramatically, for multiple DUI arrests. There may also be additional penalties for anyone that refuses a breathalyzer during a DUI traffic stop and is later convicted.
Most of the new state DUI laws increase the punishments for DUI convictions, whether it’s a first-offender or someone with a history of drunk driving.
The most common changes include increasing fines and jail time, but the use of ignition interlock devices is also on the rise.
Ignition interlock devices must be rented, installed and monitored at the driver’s expense. Once installed, the devices require the driver of the car to pass a breath test or the car will not stop. Typically, the driver must also pass additional tests while driving.
The devices also have built-in features, such as digital cameras, to prevent tricking the machine or altering test results.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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