Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances can lead to serious car accident injuries. There is no safe amount of alcohol in the bloodstream, and “buzzed” driving is just as dangerous as drugged, drowsy, or drunk driving.
When it comes to the legalities of being a DUI victim, there are some important things to keep in mind, such as what a DUI is, DUI laws, and how an attorney can help after a DUI accident. Our legal team at The Paul Powell Law Firm are experienced at handling all kinds of DUI victim cases, so here’s a brief synopsis from us to you.
What Is a DUI?
There isn’t a single definition for DUI. Some states differentiate between a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offense and a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense, distinguishing that driving under the influence of alcohol is a DUI, while driving under the impairment of drugs or other substances is a DWI.
Regardless of the semantics, the essence is this: A DUI/DWI occurs when someone drives under the influence and impairment of drugs, alcohol, medications, or some other substance, whether legal or illegal. If a police officer pulls over an impaired person, that person could face DUI charges, DWI charges, or both.
States do not differentiate between “buzzed” and “drunk” driving; all that really matters is a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Even if a person appears sober, the BAC doesn’t lie. A police officer may use a variety of tests to determine how inebriated a person is. One such test is being able to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line.
Even if a person passes that test, though, a breathalyzer or blood test will reveal the accurate BAC, which is deemed to be the most precise measurement of a person’s inebriation. All other tests are overridden if a person’s BAC is at or above the legal limit.
What Are the DUI Laws?
When talking about alcohol specifically, the federal BAC limit is 0.08%. If a person has a BAC at or above the legal limit, they will likely be immediately arrested. Also, all states have an “implied consent” law, which means that as a condition of getting a driver’s license, the recipient agrees to cooperate with police stops and BAC tests. Refusal to take the test will result in license suspension.
However, a person doesn’t need to be under the influence of alcohol, specifically, to be charged with a DUI. If a person is impaired by any substance, e.g. illicit drugs or even certain medications, they may be charged with a DUI. It’s also important to note that whether the driver has a prescription for any medications they’re impaired by often doesn’t matter. The fact is, driving while impaired by any substance leaves a person open to a DUI charge.
Some states differ in how they define “impairment.” For instance, some states are very strict, and being impaired by medication to the slightest degree is enough for a DUI charge. However, other states operate in that they will only charge a person with a DUI if a drug or medication had a substantial negative effect on the person’s driving ability. Regardless, make sure you speak with a medical professional before you start or stop taking any medications, and ask how the medications will affect your driving ability.
What Are the Penalties?
Driving under the influence is no trivial matter, and there are serious consequences, some of which are:
- Fines—A person facing a DUI charge will likely have to pay large and continuous fines.
- Jail or Prison Time—Depending on the circumstances, a DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Regardless, the defendant will likely face jail or prison time.
- Probation—If a defendant is free on probation, there will likely be frequent follow-ups and strict supervision.
- Education Courses—Someone facing a DUI charge may need to participate in alcohol/drug education courses as a condition of a more lenient sentence.
- Substance Abuse Treatment—Abuse treatment is another facet of facing a DUI charge.
- Community Service—A judge may require mandatory community service to reform the offender’s behavior.
- Ignition Interlock Device (IID)—Quite often, those released back on the street will have an IID installed in their vehicles. An IID is a device that requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece that will detect the person’s BAC. The car will not start if the BAC is above a certain amount, usually 0.02%.
What Are the Damages?
One of the most important legalities of being a DUI victim is to understand the damages involved in a DUI accident. If you’re the victim of a DUI accident, you know just how severe the damages can be. Someone driving under the influence can hurt themselves and others in the following ways:
- Property Damage—Damage to vehicles, buildings, and other property are all plausible when someone drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Emotional/Mental Damage—For victims of a DUI accident, they may experience lasting emotional trauma and permanent mental scarring.
- Permanent Physical Injury—The best case scenario is that everyone walks away fine after a DUI collision. However, this is not always the case. In fact, DUI accidents can result in debilitating, life-changing injuries.
What Are the Statistics?
Driving under the influence is a huge problem, one that cannot be overstated. According to the CDC, nearly 10,500 people died in alcohol-related accidents in 2016. This adds up to 28% of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States. But drugged driving is a problem, too; drugs other than alcohol were a factor in 16% of vehicle crashes.
For instance, use of marijuana is on the rise, and 13% of weekend, nighttime drivers had detectable marijuana in their systems. And, of all motorcycle drivers that died in fatal crashes in 2016, one-quarter of them had a BAC at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.
How Can a DUI Injury Attorney Help Me?
If you’ve been the victim of a DUI accident, you need all the help and support you can get, especially when it comes to the legalities. Hiring an experienced attorney from The Paul Powell Law Firm can help in a myriad of ways:
- Gather Evidence—Our team will investigate and collect evidence for your personal injury case so you don’t have to. We will build your solid legal foundation from the ground up.
- Represent You—Whether in or out of the courtroom, The Paul Powell Law Firm is here to help you. We have an array of resources, including well-versed litigators and an extensive network of medical professionals who are ready to treat you.
- Relieve Stress—The last thing on your mind should be how you’re going to get compensation. Don’t worry about it. The Paul Powell Law Firm will take care of everything for you. Just concentrate your energy and time on recovering from your injuries.
Need Help from a DUI Victim Attorney?
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