DUI

What is a DUI?

In the United States, DUI is an acronym for "Driving Under the Influence." It is the criminal offense of driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other intoxicating substance. While the term DUI is most frequently used across most states of the U.S., selected jurisdictions use different terms to define the same offense. Words used as an alternative to 'DUI' include DWI (driving while intoxicated), OUI (operating under the influence), OWI (operating while impaired), and DWVII (driving while visibly impaired).

A DUI is deemed a severe offense in the U.S. However, the severity and consequent penalties of the offense may vary depending on the judicial district where the crime occurred. Ultimately, persons charged with a DUI are advised to consult a qualified criminal defense attorney for legal representation. Following a conviction, the crime may be featured in the offender's US criminal record, especially if the offense is deemed a felony per state or federal driving laws.

Candace Lightner and Senator Michael Barnes

Candace Lightner and Senator D- MD Michael Barnes. Candace Lightner worked with Michael Barnes and other legislators to change drunk driving laws countrywide. Lightner lost her daughter, Cari, to a drunk driver that had just been released from his 4th offense, and hit Cari as she was walking to a church event.

What is a DWI?

DWI is an acronym for "Driving While Impaired." In some quarters, it is known as "Driving While Intoxicated." It is the criminal offense of driving or operating a vehicle while under the impairment of drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance.

DWI offenders are charged irrespective of whether the drugs in question are recreational or prescribed by a physician. In New York, Texas, Missouri, Minnesota, Alaska, New Jersey, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alaska, the term DWI is used as an alternative to DUI.

What Does OUI Mean?

OUI is an acronym for "Operating Under the Influence." The term is used as an alternative for "Driving Under the Influence" (DUI) or "Driving While Intoxicated" (DWI) in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. However, an OUI offense is deemed more severe than similar driving offenses in selected cases and some jurisdictions.

What is an OWI?

OWI is an acronym for "Operating While Intoxicated." A driver is guilty of an OWI if they are found driving or operating a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs, alcohol, or other inebriating substances. Indiana and Iowa use the term 'OWI' as an alternative to DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

What is an OVI?

OVI is an acronym for "Operating a Vehicle Impaired." It is the criminal offense of being impaired or intoxicated while operating a bicycle, car, motorcycle, or another vehicle.

The offender must be apprehended while driving with a "Blood Alcohol Content" (BAC) of more than 0.07% to be charged with an OVI. Persons found in the driver's seat while impaired after ingesting an inebriating substance are also deemed guilty of an OVI.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?

DUI refers to the legal charge of "Driving Under the Influence," while DWI is an acronym for "Driving While Intoxicated." However, both terms refer to the crime of operating a vehicle while under the influence of any other intoxicating substance. DUI and DWI are used as an alternative to each other in most states, but in selected states, a DWI is seen to be a lesser offense to a DUI.

The terms DUI, OVI, DWI, OUI, and OWI are used synonymously, depending on the judicial district and nature of the offender or motorist. However, these terms are used synonymously to refer to the same legal charge in many cases.

What is the Difference Between an OUI and an OWI?

While OUI is an acronym for "Operating Under the Influence," OWI is an acronym for "Operating While Intoxicated." They refer to the same criminal offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. Hence, they are sometimes used interchangeably.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and an OVI?

The term DUI is an acronym for "Driving Under the Influence," while OVI is an acronym for "Operating a Vehicle Impaired." Both terms are standard drunk driving terms often used synonymously to refer to the same legal charge of driving or operating a vehicle while impaired or under the influence of any intoxicating substance.

U.S. DUI Laws

In the United States, driving while inebriated by alcohol, drugs, or any other intoxicating substance or having a BAC of 0.08% and above is a severe crime. According to judicial orders established by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal laws that guide vehicle operation within the country are as follows:

  • It is illegal for a driver below 21 years to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.02% and above. Drivers 21 years and above should also not be found operating a vehicle with a 0.08% BAC.
  • According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it is illegal for a commercial driver to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% and above.
  • A commercial driver found driving with a BAC of more than 0.02% or less than 0.04% shall be suspended from work for 24 hours.
  • According to the Supreme Court of the United States, if a driver is suspected to be driving under a form of impairment, it is constitutional for a police officer to require such a driver to go through a breath and blood test, even without a search warrant.

If a driver is suspected to be under the influence, the arresting officer must first establish the driver's guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. This is done by subjecting the offender to a chemical test to obtain proof of intoxication. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) policy recommends three phases through which police officers conduct DUI investigations.

Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson launch a drunk driving campaign in 1984

U.S. DUI Penalties

In the U.S., a DUI charge can have severe penalties. This includes both criminal and administrative penalties, and they are meted out differently across the different states.

Since DUI penalties are often declared following a prosecutionary hearing, they usually vary from state to state and one judicial district to another.

The following are common DUI penalties in the U.S.:

  • Payment of fines up to $1,000
  • Up to 72 hours of jail time
  • Up to 30 days of community service
  • Driver license suspension for up to 90 days and up to 18 months in a case of a subsequent conviction
  • Undergoing an alcohol treatment program, especially in a case where addiction is established
  • Up to 5 years imprisonment in a case of injury or death
  • Installation of Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) to monitor driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
  • Impoundment of vehicles
  • Frequent and mandatory blood alcohol testing

While the penalties for drunk driving are generally stiff, some offense categories are considered worse than the others and attract additional penalties. These include:

  • Drivers found driving under the influence while transporting a minor (a child of 16 or less)
  • Commercial drivers, including drivers of school buses, taxis, and pedicabs
  • Underage drivers (drivers who are 21 or younger)
  • Drivers found drinking while driving.
  • Drivers who are found either in custody or impaired by prohibited drugs such as Morphine, Cocaine, PCP, Methadone, and the likes
  • Drivers found with false driver's license.

However, these penalties differ depending on the severity of the incident and whether it is the offender's first DUI conviction.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in the U.S.?

Being charged with a DWI is considered the same as being charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in the United States. A DWI is the crime of being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of inebriating or intoxicating substances. They attract the same penalties as a DUI. However, in some states, a DWI is seen to be a lesser offense than a DUI.

When an offender is suspected to be Driving While Impaired (DWI), they are apprehended and taken to the police station, where they may await bail depending on the nature and severity of the offense and the jurisdiction it occurred. The offender will be required to undergo a series of tests to ascertain alcohol/drug content ingested and then summoned to court to face DWI/DUI charges based on the crime. If found guilty, the offenders driving license may be revoked or suspended depending on the court's final declaration. Furthermore, offenders may be fined a particular amount depending on the state and the circumstances surrounding their arrest.

When a motorist is convicted of a DWI, they can expect to serve a jail term for a while, or at least a probation sentence. This is usually determined by the sentencing judge in charge of their case.

After a DWI conviction, the offender's driving license is not likely to be restored until they have paid for and completed an alcohol and drug education program and, in some cases, an alcohol treatment program. They may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their vehicles to ensure that their breath is always alcohol-free before their vehicle starts.

President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to change the national drinking age from 18 to 21

President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to change the national drinking age from 18 to 21.

What Happens When You Get A DUI For The First Time In the U.S.?

A DUI charge has severe consequences on the offender, even when it is a first-time offense. According to the provisions of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a first time DUI in the U.S. would generally attract the following consequences:

  • Jail time of up to a year in county jail
  • Stipulated time of community service
  • Suspension of driving license
  • Fines of up to $2,000
  • Increased insurance rates
  • Mandatory participation in alcohol/drug treatment program
  • Installation and maintenance of Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

The penalties for a first DUI offense vary between states. While a first-time DUI offender may not be required to face jail time in Alabama, a first-time DUI can face up to one year of jail time in Illinois.

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in the U.S.?

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) become much more severe if the offender has records of previous DUI convictions within the past five years. A DUI offender will be considered a second time offender if they are convicted of impaired driving for the second time in five years. The penalties for a second DUI charge include the following:

  • Increased driver's license revocation period
  • Increased fines
  • Up to 12 months waiting period to reinstate driving license
  • Increased minimum jail time
  • Mandatory participation in alcohol/drug treatment program
  • Increased period of participation in the Ignition Interlock program
  • Increased insurance rates

The consequences of a second DUI vary between states so that the level of increment of the various fines and levies differ from one state to the other.

What Happens After a Third DUI in the U.S.?

The consequences of a DUI charge increase with the number of convictions increase within five years. The penalties for a third DUI are more severe than those for a first or second offense. Essentially, even if the offender escaped jail time on their first and second charges, their chances of dodging jail on a third DUI are very slim.

When convicted for a third DUI in the United States, the offender may expect the following:

  • Driver's license suspension or revocation
  • A 2-year waiting period before their driving license is reinstated
  • Payment of fines and levies
  • The requirement to install an Ignition Interlock for a while
  • Participation in a drug abuse or alcohol assessment program
  • Jail time

Are DUI Records Public?

In the U.S., DUI records are typically public records. This means that anyone can access them, although there may be some restrictions depending on the state you live in. Some states will allow the general public to view DUI records, while others will only permit law enforcement and government officials to have access. Furthermore, the amount of information contained in a DUI record can vary from state to state. Some states will include the defendant's name, address, and date of conviction, while others will only list the charge and disposition. Interested persons may contact the state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent agency to obtain DUI records.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in the U.S.?

In the U.S., a DUI charge may remain on the offender's driving record for a period of 5 to 15 years, depending on the state in which you were convicted. However, a DUI conviction may remain on your criminal record for life.

It is impossible to give a central verdict on all DUIs since each state handles its records differently. Most states have DUI charges expunged from driving records after a period of 10 years or more, depending on the severity of the offense and the state's governing law.

A DUI charge can have a long-term effect on the offender's life long after completing their sentence and probation requirements. A DUI conviction on an offender's record can make it difficult for them to get a job, obtain a loan, rent an apartment, or even purchase a gun.

Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson launch a drunk driving campaign in 1984

DUI Expungement in the U.S.

DUI expungement is the sealing or erasing drunk driving records using a court order or any other office/officer with such statutory authority.

The requirements for expungement varies from state to state; while some states allow for DUI records to be expunged, others don't. Generally, offenders are likely to get an expungement if:

  • They don't have other convictions on their record
  • If they have only one DUI conviction on their record
  • If their DUI conviction was not a felony; that is, if no one was severely hurt or killed as a result within the process

Once eligible for record expungement, the offender may file their petition with a court of competent jurisdiction. The expungement process is dependent on the jurisdiction of the offender. Petitioners may be given a hearing session to explain their need for the expungement. The judge may decide to grant them an expungement based on the information contained in the reports submitted and a background check carried out on the offender.

It is important to note that DUI records are never really deleted; once on paper, they are always available to be accessed by law enforcement and court officials. An expungement keeps the record from the public so that the offenders do not face any difficulty getting a job, obtaining a loan, renting an apartment, or obtaining insurance.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in the U.S.?

Offenders are likely to serve jail time in the United States even if it is their first DUI conviction. However, this is dependent on the state and the circumstances surrounding their arrest.

While jail time is not part of the penalties for a first-time DUI charge in most states, offenders are most likely to serve jail time on their first DUI charge in selected states. In some states, it is possible to avoid a jail term for a first time DUI conviction, especially when the incident did not involve any sort of aggravating circumstance; That is the driver wasn't transporting an underage, an accident didn't occur, the offender wasn't found resisting arrest, and so on.

What is the Average Cost of DUI in the U.S.?

The average amount an offender is likely to spend on getting a DUI charge in the United States is $10,000. This may be higher or less depending on the state and severity of the incident.

When charged for a DUI in the United States, the offender's driving license is first revoked for a period of time, and they are usually reinstated with a few hundred dollars. Offenders will also be required to pay for installing and maintaining a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID).

The cost of a DUI charge in the United States varies across the different states and also depends on the severity of the incident.

Getting a DWI can be very expensive, requiring much finance to manage. From the bail fee to the fine, the probation fees, the cost of installing and maintaining your Ignition Interlock Device, then the cost of undergoing an alcohol and drug education and assessment program, and in states where auto insurance (SR-22) is adopted after a conviction, the high cost of premium also adds up to the financial load.

How Much is Bail For a DUI in the U.S.?

The cost of bail for a DUI charge in the U.S. varies across the different states. There is usually no fixed amount. The cost of bail is often determined by the severity of the accident and the number of previous charges on your record.

Generally, bail for felonies could cost up to $10,000 and far lesser for misdemeanors. But like said earlier, the amount for bail is dependent on the state and severity of the accident.

How to Get My License Back After a DUI in the U.S.

Interested and eligible DUI offenders may get their licenses to hack after their DUI charge in the U.S. However, the processes involved in reinstating one's driving license after a DUI charge vary from one state to the other. Interested persons must:

  • Make sure to attend the court hearing and present their case
  • Clear all fees and fines
  • Observe the full duration for which their license was suspended
  • Pay and go through all recommended programs
  • Apply for reinstatement afterward

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in the U.S.?

Having a drunk driving conviction on your record can bring about negative consequences for a U.S. resident. This is true even after you have completed your sentence and probation requirements. Some of these negative consequences would include;

  • Difficulty in getting jobs, especially those that have to do with driving
  • Difficulty in getting insurance as car insurance companies identify the car to be a high-risk investment
  • High cost of mobility, especially during the period of suspension
  • Difficulty in obtaining loans, renting apartments, and even purchasing a gun

Can You Get Fired For a DUI in the U.S.?

Yes, offenders are likely to get fired or lose their job during or after a DUI charge in the United States.

When facing a DUI charge, offenders are likely to spend so much time away from work, either in carrying out a community service serving jail time or sorting out the issue in court. This may leave their employer with no other choice than to find a replacement to carry out their duty at work. It is even riskier for a commercial driver who requires a license to operate; a DUI would mean an end to their career as they have their license revoked.

How do I Find DUI Checkpoints in the U.S.?

DUI checkpoints are also known as sobriety checkpoints in the U.S. In these checkpoints, law enforcement officials mount roadblocks on roads and randomly stop vehicles, especially those suspected to be impaired.

Sobriety checkpoints are usually set up late at night or in the very early morning hours, as most people are always impaired at these times.

Checkpoints are also usually set up on weekends and holidays such as Easter, Christmas, and new year, which are often associated with partying and drinking.

Being stopped at a DUI checkpoint may mean more than just being convicted for driving under the influence. Law enforcement officers at sobriety checkpoints also check for driver's licenses, so an arrest may also occur for the absence of a valid license, possession of illegal or contraband items, or on account of outstanding warrants.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

In the United States, both DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Impaired) are generally used interchangeably in describing the crime of driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicating substances. However, in some states, a DWI is seen to be a lesser offense than a DUI.

In states that distinguish DUIs from DWIs, a DUI refers to the offense of driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% and above and even less for underage drivers. While a DWI refers to the offense of driving while impaired by drugs, even if a qualified physician-prescribed such drugs, the offense is that they endangered their own lives and that of others.

Summarily, what is deemed worse between a DUI and a DWI is dependent on the state. In some states, a DUI is seen to be a lesser offense to a DWI, while in other state's there's even a possibility of reducing a DUI to a DWI.