Many drivers in the US are arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs every day. The negative consequences of drunk driving have recently increased, largely in response to public outcry and the influence of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). If you find yourself arrested for illegal drunk driving, an attorney with experience defending drunk-driving cases can help protect your rights.
Drunk Driving Resource Links
Impaired Driving – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Information and resources on drunk driving from a legal and social viewpoint and with a goal of prevention.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Link to informational chart about the drunk-driving laws of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) – Impaired Driving
Facts, data, publications and other helpful information involving impaired drivers.
The Century Council
A not-for-profit organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking.
American Council on Alcoholism and Treatment
A national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and those with alcohol dependence about the effects of alcohol, alcoholism, alcohol abuse and options for recovery. Extensive information about drunk driving.
Learn More About DUI and DWI Offenses
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI offense in New York or New Jersey, you need experienced representation to help you protect your rights in municipal court. At the Law Offices of Herbert I. Ellis, P.C., in Freehold, New Jersey, our attorneys have defended individuals charged with DUI and DWI offenses for more than two decades. We know how daunting your charges can seem and we will work hard to put your mind at ease.
Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by e-mail or by calling us at 888-ELLIS-LAW. Schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer and get the representation that you deserve. We speak Spanish, Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew.
Overview of Drunk Driving
If you have been stopped for, arrested for or charged with drunk driving, contact Law Offices of Herbert I. Ellis, P.C. in Freehold, New Jersey, as soon as possible to discuss your options and rights with an attorney who has experience handling drunk-driving cases. Drunk-driving law is complex and the guidance of a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer can make a significant difference in a defendant’s experience and in the outcome of his or her case.
Each US state has its own set of drunk-driving laws, and in some states drunk driving is a crime, while in others it is classified as a traffic offense. While drunk-driving laws do differ among the states, there are certain concepts and features common to most states’ drunk-driving jurisprudence. As we all know, operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol and/or drugs to a degree that impairs a person’s judgment and ability to drive safely is a serious offense. Both criminal and civil penalties for drunk driving can be harsh and often include:
- Loss or suspension of license
- Large fines
- Substance-abuse treatment
- Jail or prison time
- Community service
- Criminal record
- Restrictive probationary license programs, including ignition interlock devices and Cinderella licenses
In addition, the social stigma and effect on your career may have lifelong negative consequences.
Terminology and Elements of Drunk Driving
The offense of drunk driving goes by a variety of names among the states, including:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- Operating under the influence (OUI)
- Operating while intoxicated (OWI)
- Driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII)
- Driving while under the influence (DWUI)
- Driving while ability impaired (DWAI)
- Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)
In the language of the various state statutes, a drunk-driving conviction requires driving or operating a vehicle or motor vehicle. While that sounds straightforward, a review of drunk-driving cases shows otherwise.
The requirement of driving or operating implies that the driver must have some sort of control or command of the vehicle. Guilt or innocence may hang on whether the defendant was actually “driving” in a particular circumstance. What if he or she was just sitting behind the wheel of a car but it was turned off? What if the defendant was sleeping there? What if the keys were in the defendant’s pocket and not in the ignition? What if that car was out of gas and could not be started? What if it was idling? What if it was being towed? Courts nationwide have considered various scenarios to determine whether the necessary control over the vehicle was present and the outcomes vary by state and by the individual circumstances.
Cars, trucks and vans are obviously considered to be vehicles for drunk-driving law purposes. However, people have been convicted of drunk driving while operating motorboats, mopeds, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, electric wheelchairs, golf carts, bicycles and ATVs, although the types of vehicles contemplated differ by state.
One way prosecutors prove driver intoxication is through scientific testing of the amount of alcohol in the body, usually by analyzing the breath or blood. These tests are usually administered by machines, such as the Breathalyzer® or Intoxilyzer 5000. In every state, a person with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08 is considered legally intoxicated. However, even a BAC over .05 is enough to convict for a DUI in some states.
If a person takes advantage of the privilege of driving, he or she automatically consents to state-administered chemical testing to determine his or her BAC. If a driver refuses to take a chemical-alcohol test, his or her driver’s license may be revoked or suspended.
BAC test results over the legal limit are usually presumed to be proof of intoxication. However, defendants may challenge the conclusiveness of the results by showing irregularities in the test administration procedure or problems with the test equipment. For example, your lawyer may advise retesting of your blood sample tubes. He or she may be able to obtain exclusion of the original blood test results from the case or even dismissal of the case entirely.
Other types of evidence used by prosecuting attorneys to show intoxication include drivers’ statements, witness and police observations of behavior and driving patterns and circumstantial evidence. An example of possibly relevant circumstantial evidence is that a defendant, before driving, spent the afternoon at a party where drinking games were played.
Police also gather important evidence of intoxication by administering standard field sobriety tests (FSTs) at the scenes of traffic stops. Common field sobriety tests include:
- Finger-to-nose test
- One-legged stand
- Walk-and-turn test
- Horizontal-gaze-nystagmus test
- Picking up coins
- Counting backwards
- Reciting the alphabet
- Throwing and/or catching a ball
Defendants may challenge the validity of FST results by showing irregularities in the test administration procedure or other problems with the test.
Driving is the basis of the American lifestyle, permeating every activity we do. We rely on driving to get to work, to socialize, to run errands and to vacation. Licensed drivers transport children, people with disabilities and senior citizens to important appointments and activities. A drunk-driving conviction can bring a screeching halt to your life. If you face a potential problem with drunk driving, a lawyer at Law Offices of Herbert I. Ellis, P.C. in Freehold, New Jersey, can fight for you and help protect your interests and those of your family and loved ones.
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