WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2016 – Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a choice. Do not try to sugarcoat it.
Deciding to drink before going out, or once out, and knowing that driving is coming later, is not an accident, nor a situation that “just happened.”
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicates that nearly 1.5 million people are arrested each year for driving while under the influence of alcohol.
How is this possible in today’s world with all of the press, and all of negative publicity surrounding this intolerable behavior? Perhaps it is simply ignorance.
Perhaps in teens it is a sense of invincibility. Perhaps for others it is a belief that the liquor can be handled. Perhaps the punishment is not enough.
Besides the obvious potential for injury or death or injuring or killing others, there are costs to this behavior that often are either not known or not appreciated.
Studies have been conducted that estimate the monetary costs involved in being charged with and convicted of a DUI offense.
The Automobile Club of Southern California this year placed the expense at almost $16,000 for adults, and just under $22,500 for underage DUIs, both for a first time offense, and included the following summary breakdown:
Booking and bail, including cost of missed time at work;
Trial and court costs, attorney’s fees, again, cost of missed time at work;
Lost wages if jail time is ordered;
DUI classes and alcohol treatment programs – in order to avoid more severe punishment;
Ignition interlock devices;
Insurance – certainly rates will be increased;
Restitution to the victim if an accident occurred.
It is a crime in every state to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.
The offense is alternatively called DUI (driving under the influence), or DWI (driving while intoxicated) and refers to alcohol. Alcohol, however, is just one of countless substances that can impair one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Driving under the influence of drugs, whether obtained illegally or by prescription, can also bring DUI charges. Doctor’s orders are not a defense to drugged driving charges.
This offense is not limited to driving cars. Other vehicles are motorcycles, ATVs, mini-bikes, golf carts and vehicles that are not designed or intended for use on public roads and highways.
Evidence of intoxication is typically proven by blood tests, breath or urine tests.
All states have “implied consent” laws that require drivers to submit to some form of chemical test, such as those mentioned above. The privilege of driving, again, the PRIVILEGE carries with it this consent to allow a police officer, who reasonably believes a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to conduct the testing.
If a driver refuses this testing, he or she may face penalties such as mandatory suspension of his or her driver’s license.
If a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or higher, driving is illegal in every state.
In addition to chemical tests, and even without such tests if they were refused, police can testify to allow a court to determine if someone was driving under the influence. Police can testify about the following:
- The driver’s unusual behavior in traffic;
- The driver’s conduct and physical appearance;
- The driver’s performance during a field sobriety test;
- The driver’s eyes – if they appeared red, glassy or bloodshot;
- The driver’s face – if it appeared flushed;
- The driver’s breath – if it smelled of alcohol;
- The driver’s speech – if it was slow, thick or slurred;
- Any incriminating statements made by the driver; and
- If photographs, tapes or film was taken at the scene where the driver was arrested;
- Aggravating circumstances can add to penalties if the driver is found guilty of DUI. These circumstances include:
- A history of DUI violations;
- If the driver was operating a commercial vehicle;
- If the offense occurred while there was a child in the vehicle;
- If the offense was coupled with another dangerous driving offense, such as reckless driving or speeding;
- If an accident occurred;
- If someone else was injured or killed; and
- If the driver was under the legal drinking age.
First DUI offenses in most states generally provide for punishments that do not involve going to jail. State laws and practices vary, but most allow that in exchange for a plea of guilty, a guilty drunk driver can pay a fine, go to a class that provides alcohol education of some sort, avoid having the license suspended or revoked (but possibly having it restricted to go to and from work and to and from DUI classes), and get a suspended jail sentence (meaning if the alcohol class is successfully completed there will not be a requirement to go to jail).
An individual convicted of a second or third offense is almost always dealt with much more severely.
These ignorant, stupid people deserve to go to jail, and they deserve to have their licenses pulled; often both are the case, the length of the jail time and the length of the license suspension varying from state to state.
Most state laws provide for automatic installation of “ignition interlock” devices that require breath-testing measures before the vehicle can be operated.
The organization MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in its continuing effort to eradicate this highly illegal and dangerous behavior, provides some eye-opening statistics:
- Fiflty to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.
- Time is needed for someone to become sober after drinking alcohol. Drinking strong coffee, exercising or taking a cold shower will not help.
- Every two minutes, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash.
- In 2013, 28.7 million people admitted to DUI – this is more than the population of Texas.
- The rate of drunk driving is highest among 26-29 year olds (20.7 percent).
- The average drunk driver has driven drunk over 80 times before first arrest.
- In 2014, 9,967 people died in drunk driving crashes – one every 53 minutes — and 290,000 people were injured in DUI crashes that year.
- Most (four times more) DUI fatalities occur at night.
- Men are arrested for DUI more than women (491,904 vs. 130,480).
Was all of this information sobering?
Drinking, knowing you are soon thereafter getting into a car to drive, is a choice.
Aside from the damage that can be done (and often is), there is nothing worse than drinking and driving than later not admitting that what was done was both illegal, and stupid.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His book “The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You” can be instantly downloaded, for free, on his website: http://www.samakowlaw.com/book.
Samakow has now also started a small business-consulting firm. His new book “Step By Step, Achieve Small Business Success” is available at: http://www.thebusinessanswer.com.