DUI / DWI Information Center
About Arrests and Criminal Charges for Drunk Driving
Thank you for visiting our DUI / DWI Information Center. You can find a good deal of helpful information in this area of our website, all of which has been tailored to provide you with a basic idea of how drunk driving arrests and criminal charges work, what to expect, what penalties you may face and how these charges can be challenged.
DUI defense is a highly technical area of criminal defense. These charges involve a specific type of evidence and procedures, and it is best to gain a basic understanding of these key topics so you can make informed choices about your case. We have highlighted several fundamental DUI-related subjects below:
DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
Each state has its own laws and procedures that relate to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. In some states, this criminal offense is called DUI (driving under the influence), while in others it is called DWI (driving while intoxicated/impaired) or
OUI (operating under the influence). No matter what it's called, the basic idea remains the same. This is a crime that involves operating a motor vehicle while one's abilities are impaired by alcohol or drugs or while one has a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit. Read more
about DUI (driving under the influence).
Though the term "DMV hearing" is used here, it is actually used to refer to a type of administrative hearing that is held in regard to the suspension of a driver's license in conjunction with a DUI arrest and failed or refused breath or blood test. Different states have different departments that handle these hearings, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), hence the name DMV hearing. Read more about DMV hearings.
Driving under the influence is somewhat of a specialized criminal offense in that it involves a specific set of tests that are used to determine whether a driver has an unlawful blood alcohol level and/or abilities that are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Breath, blood or urine testing may be used to detect the presence and amount of alcohol or a controlled substance in a driver who has been arrested for DUI. Field sobriety tests are used to determine whether a driver's natural abilities are impaired. Read more about DUI testing.
DUI and Drugs
Though DUI, DWI and OUI are most often associated with alcohol, a driver may face criminal charges for driving under the influence of a controlled substance, whether a prescription drug or illegal narcotic. In some cases, a driver whose abilities are impaired by an over-the-counter medication may even face DUI charges. Read more about DUI and drugs.
In most cases, DUI is charged as a misdemeanor offense. There are particular circumstances, however, where a driver may face more serious felony charges. This generally applies in cases where a driver has multiple prior DUI convictions or stands accused of causing an auto accident that has injured another person. When faced with felony charges for DUI, a driver may face time in state prison, possibly for a year or more. Read more about felony DUI.
DUI Auto Accidents
In itself, DUI is a serious offense. When a driver is also accused of causing an auto accident, he or she may face enhanced penalties. Causing serious injury to another person or causing the death of another person while DUI is generally a felony offense that may be punishable by years in state prison, depending on the jurisdiction. Read more about DUI auto accidents.
Multiple DUI Offenses
For a driver who already has one or more prior DUI convictions on his or her record, the threat of a new DUI conviction is particularly serious. A driver will face increased penalties for a second, third or subsequent drunk driving conviction, depending on the laws of the state in which the offense occurred. This may include a longer term of driver's license suspension or possibly the permanent revocation of his or her license. It may also include heavier fines and a longer jail or prison sentence. The driver may also face felony DUI charges. Read more about multiple DUI offenses.
Under 21 DUI
A driver under the age of 21 will face slightly different laws regarding DUI. In some states, a driver who is under 21 may not operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system. Each state will have its own specific implementation of underage drinking and driving laws and penalties. Read more about under 21 DUI.
For a commercial driver, a drunk driving arrest will have particularly serious consequences. Depending on the jurisdiction, a commercial driver may be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or greater (half the legal limit for non-commercial drivers). A commercial driver may also be unable to work and provide for his or her family after a DUI arrest and conviction. Read more about commercial DUI.
Out of State DUI
A driver who is arrested and charged with DUI in another state may face particularly complicated legal proceedings. He or she may face criminal proceedings in the state in which the offense occurred and may also experience consequences that will affect his or her home state driver's license. Read more about out of state drivers and DUI.
BUI (Boating Under the Influence)
Just as a driver may face criminal charges for operating a motor vehicle on a roadway while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the operator of a boat may face criminal charges for boating under the influence, or BUI. Similar penalties and procedures apply in BUI cases as in DUI cases, depending on the jurisdiction. Read more about BUI (boating under the influence).
State Bar Associations
If you are interested in reviewing the background of a DUI attorney you are interested in hiring, a good resource will be the State Bar Association website. Click here to view a list of State Bar Association websites.
In addition to reviewing the information we have included in this area of our website, we welcome you to use our directory to find and compare DUI defense attorneys in your area. This is your chance to find a local lawyer who has the skill and experience to properly handle your case.
Click here to find a DUI lawyer near you.