Drunk driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle with the operator's ability to do so impaired as a result of alcohol consumption, or with a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit. For drivers 21 years or older, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is illegal. For drivers under 21 years old, the legal limit is lower, with state limits ranging from 0.00 to 0.02. Lower BAC limits apply when operating boats, airplanes, or commercial vehicles. Among other names, the criminal offense of drunk driving may be called driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI), operating [a] vehicle under the influence of alcohol (OVI), or operating while impaired (OWI).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 1.5 million drunk driving arrests were made nationwide in 1996. In 2012, 29.1 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. In 1997 an estimated 513,200 DUI offenders were under correctional supervision, down from 593,000 in 1990 and up from 270,100 in 1986.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that in 1996 local law enforcement agencies made 1,467,300 arrests nationwide for driving under the influence of alcohol, 1 out of every 10 arrests for all crimes in the U.S., compared to 1.9 million such arrests during the peak year in 1983, accounting for 1 out of every 80 licensed drivers in the U.S. This represented a 220% increase in DUI arrests from 1970 to 1986, while the number of licensed drivers increased by just 42% in the same period.
The arrest rate for alcohol-related offenses among Native Americans was more than double that for the total population during 1996, and almost 4 in 10 Native Americans held in local jails had been charged with a public order offense, most commonly driving while intoxicated. In 2012, 29.1 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol.
Recent analysis have shown cities in which ride sharing services operate show mixed results as to whether the availability of those services affects rates of impaired driving.
The NHTSA estimates that about 18,000 people died in 2006 from alcohol-related collisions, representing 40% of total traffic deaths in the US. Over the decade 2001-2010, this rate showed only a 3% variation, and no trend.
Drivers with a BAC of 0.10% are 6 to 12 times more likely to get into a fatal collision or injury than drivers without positive blood alcohol. The NHTSA states 275,000 were injured in alcohol-related collisions in 2003. Approximately 60% of the BAC values for motor vehicle collisions are missing or unknown. To analyze what they believe is the complete data, statisticians estimate BAC information.
The NHTSA defines fatal collisions as "alcohol-related" if they believe the driver, a passenger, or non-motorist (such as a pedestrian or pedal cyclist) had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01% or greater. The NHTSA defines nonfatal collisions as alcohol-related if the accident report indicates evidence of alcohol present, even if no driver or occupant was tested for alcohol. The NHTSA specifically notes that alcohol-related does not necessarily mean a driver or non-occupant was tested for alcohol and that the term does not indicate a collision or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol. If anyone involved in the crash (even a passenger) has a BAC of 0.01% of greater, then the NTHSA classifies the crash as alcohol-related. Alcohol-related injuries were estimated at 275,000 in 2003.
For the most part, DUI or DWI are synonymous terms that represent the criminal offense of operating (or in some jurisdictions merely being in physical control of) a motor vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination of both. The key inquiry focuses on whether the driver's faculties were impaired by the substance that was consumed. The detection and successful prosecution of drivers impaired by prescription medication or illegal drugs can therefore be difficult. Breathalyzers have been developed for the purpose of administering roadside or laboratory tests that can detect the actual level of a controlled substance in an individual's body.
New Jersey enacted the first law that specifically criminalized driving an automobile while intoxicated, in 1906. The New Jersey statute provided that "[n]o intoxicated person shall drive a motor vehicle." Violation of this provision was punishable by a fine of up to $500, or a term of up to 60 days in county jail.
Early laws, such as that enacted in New Jersey, required proof of a state of intoxication with no specific definition of what level of inebriation qualified. The first generally accepted legal BAC limit was 0.15%. New York, for example, which had enacted a prohibition on driving while intoxicated in 1910, amended this law in 1941 to provide that it would constitute prima facie evidence of intoxication when an arrested person was found to have a BAC of .15 percent or higher, as ascertained through a test administered within two hours of arrest.
In 1938, the American Medical Association created a "Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents". At the same time, the National Safety Council set up a "Committee on Tests for Intoxication".
In the US, most of the laws and penalties were greatly enhanced starting in the late 1970s, and through the 1990s, largely due to pressure from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and leaders like Candy Lightner whose 13-year old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver. Significantly, zero tolerance laws were enacted which criminalized driving a vehicle with 0.01% or 0.02% BAC for drivers under 21. This is true even in Puerto Rico, despite maintaining a legal drinking age of 18. Recent research in the American Economic Review suggests that sanctions imposed at BAC thresholds are effective in reducing repeat drunk driving.
On May 14, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states lower the benchmark for determining when a driver is legally drunk from 0.08 blood-alcohol content to 0.05. The idea is part of an initiative to eliminate drunk driving, which accounts for about a third of all road deaths. In light of this push by the NTSB, and in addition to numerous media reports, many bloggers/authors have posted content addressing the Debate Surrounding Lowering the Legal Limit from 0.08% to 0.05%.
After the passage of federal legislation, the legal limit for commercial drivers is now set at 0.04%. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulation prohibits those who hold a commercial driver's license from driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. A commercial driver with an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or greater, but less than 0.04, must be removed from duty for 24 hours.
In construing the terms DUI, DWI, OWI and OVI, some states make it illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence or driving while intoxicated while others indicate that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle. There is a split of authority across the country regarding this issue. Some states permit enforcement of DUI, DWI, and OWI/OVI statutes based on "operation and control" of a vehicle, while others require actual "driving". "The distinction between these terms is material, for it is generally held that the word 'drive,' as used in statutes of this kind, usually denotes movement of the vehicle in some direction, whereas the word 'operate' has a broader meaning so as to include not only the motion of the vehicle, but also acts which engage the machinery of the vehicle that, alone or in sequence, will set in motion the motive power of the vehicle." (State v. Graves (1977) 269 S.C. 356 [237 S.E.2d 584, 586-588, 586. fn. 8]
All states in the U.S. designate a "per se" blood or breath alcohol level as the threshold point for an independent criminal offense. This is often referred to as the "legal limit". It is a permissive presumption of guilt where the person's BAC is 0.08% or greater (units of milligrams per deciliter, representing 8 g of alcohol in 10 liters of blood). Some states (e.g., Colorado) include a lesser charge, sometimes referred to as "driving while ability impaired" that may apply to individuals with a 0.05% or above, but less than the 0.08% per se limit for the more serious charge.
All states have a "catch-all" provision designed to cover those circumstances where the person is below 0.08%, but the person still appears impaired by definition of law. These types of "catch-all" statutes cover situations involving a person under the influence of drugs or under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. With the advent of the legalization of marijuana, these catch-all provisions cover those prosecutions pursuing those charged with driving under the influence of drugs or even drugs and alcohol.
All US states have implied consent laws which state that a licensed driver has given their consent to an evidential Breathalyzer or similar manner of determining blood alcohol concentration; however, in order to sustain a conviction based on evidence from a chemical test, probable cause for arrest must be demonstrated.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States in Birchfield v. North Dakota held that both breath tests and blood tests constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment, concluding that requiring breath tests is constitutional without a search warrant; however, requiring more intrusive blood tests involving piercing the skin is not, as the goal of traffic safety can be obtained by less invasive means.
Every state has enhanced penalties for refusing to submit to an Implied Consent Test pursuant to the State's Implied Consent Laws. In California, refusing to submit to a test of one's breath or blood upon being arrested for driving under the influence carries an additional punishment of a one-year license suspension pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 13558(c)(1).
Arizona has a 0.08% BAC limit for standard DUI, but drivers can also face more severe DUI charges like an Extreme DUI (§ 28-1382(A)(1)) for having a BAC over 0.15% or Super Extreme DUI (§ 28-1382(A)(2)) for a BAC over 0.20%.
Like every other state, California has a "per se" BAC limit of 0.08% pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b), amended 1-01-1990; and based on the aforementioned federal legislation, a lower limit of 0.04% for drivers holding commercial drivers licenses (CDL), along with rideshare drivers having a limit of 0.04%. California also has a limit of 0.01% for drivers who are under 21 or on probation for previous DUI offenses pursuant to California Vehicle Code Sections 23136 and 23140. California also makes it illegal for persons who are on probation for a DUI conviction to drive with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 23154. While the existence of a BAC of 0.01% or greater may not always result in prosecution for driving under the influence, it will expose such drivers to a one or two-year suspension through an administrative action by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. If that same person has a BAC of 0.08% or greater, it will prompt what is referred to as a "dual action", meaning a suspension for driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater and a suspension for driving with a BAC of 0.01% or greater while on DUI Probation.
In California, in Mercer v. DMV (1991) 53 Cal.3d 753, the California State Supreme Court contrasted the term "drive," commonly understood to require volitional movement of the vehicle, with the term "driver," defined in California Vehicle Code § 305 as one who is either driving or in actual physical control. The court pointed out that the phrase "actual physical control" does not appear anywhere in the drunk driving offense statutes. Further, the court noted that since "driver" is defined as one who drives or is in actual physical control, the two terms (drive vs. actual physical control) must have different meanings. Construing these penal statutes strictly, rather than broadly, as is required by Keeler v. Superior Court of Amador County (1970) 2 Cal.3d 619, 631, the court held that mere actual physical control is not enough to constitute driving. Therefore, the term: "drive", at least for purposes of the drunk driving statutes, requires volitional movement of the vehicle. In coming to this conclusion, the California Supreme Court held that in everyday usage the phrase, "to drive a vehicle," is understood as requiring evidence of volitional movement of a vehicle. Numerous dictionary definitions-including Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1981), cited by the Court of Appeal in the case that led to the California Supreme Court's review of this case, support a definition of "drive" that includes movement. (See, e.g., Id., at p. 692.) fn. 5. The Mercer Court held that it believed that these definitions are consistent with the usual and ordinary understanding of that term, and suggest the sense in which the word was intended by the Legislature in the present context.
California's "catch-all" provision was previously found in California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a); however new statutes that were made effective on January 1, 2014, two new sections were created to make sections specifically addressing those charged with driving under the influence of drugs, (which includes prescription medications if it can be shown that those medications impaired the driver), and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Nevada has an implied consent law, an agreement every operator of a motor vehicle accepts by operating on state roads, that makes breath or blood testing mandatory if an officer has reasonable suspicion of impairment. Refusal is grounds for arrest and law enforcement may use reasonable force to obtain blood samples. Nevada has a per se impaired driving offense, triggered by chemical tests that show a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more or, for drivers under the age of 21, 0.02% or greater. If a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired as a result of the consumption of alcohol, the driver may be convicted of impaired driving without regard to their measured blood alcohol level.
North Carolina has a general 0.08% BAC limit, a lower limit of 0.04% for drivers holding commercial drivers licenses (CDL) while operating a commercial vehicle. Additionally, it is illegal for anyone under the age of twenty-one (21) to possess or consume alcohol.
First offenders in Ohio have their driver's licenses suspended for one year. They may begin driving again only halfway through this period if they use an ignition interlock device that tests their blood alcohol before it will allow the car to start. Judges may look at up to ten years of driving records during sentencing. These enhancements took effect in April 2017.
Wisconsin regards first offense drunk driving as a municipal offense, and New Jersey treats all drunk driving cases without serious injury or death as traffic violations. The amount of alcohol intake to reach a BAC of 0.08% may vary with the individual's body composition and state of health. Prior to increased emphasis on drinking and driving in the 1980s, standards of 0.10%-0.15% were in place.
Approximately 20-30 states criminalized impaired riding a bicycle, whereas others have no sanctions relevant to cycling. Most such laws extend driving laws to all vehicles ("all vehicles" as opposed to "motor vehicles"), but a few address impaired bike riding separately. In some states, enhanced penalties are automobile-specific. Some states, notably Oregon, do not extend the implied consent law to cyclists. While police activities targeting impaired cyclists are rare, a cyclist could encounter police in a circumstance where the cyclist would otherwise be ticketed. [nb 1]
Six states require physicians to report patients who drive while impaired. Another 25 states permit physicians to violate doctor-patient confidentiality to report impaired drivers, if they so choose. The American Medical Association endorsed physician reporting in 1999, but deferred to the states on whether such notification should be mandatory or permissive. Medical bioethicist Jacob Appel of New York University says physician reporting may deter some patients from seeking care, writing "Reporting may remove some dangerous drivers from the roads, but if in doing so it actually creates other dangerous drivers, by scaring them away from treatment, then society has sacrificed confidentiality for no tangible return in lives saved."
The consequences of an impaired driving charge include both criminal and administrative penalties. Criminal penalties are imposed as a result of criminal prosecution. Administrative penalties are imposed by a state agency, and in some cases may apply even if a person stopped for impaired driving is not convicted of the offense.
The penalties for drunk driving vary among states and jurisdictions. It is not uncommon for the penalties to be different from county to county within any given state depending on the practices of the individual jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions require jail time and larger fines, even on a first offense. For instance, Ohio requires a mandatory 72-hour jail sentence for a first offense conviction; however, the jail time component is satisfied by attendance of the Ohio A.W.A.R.E. Program, which is a 72-hour alcohol-education program. Compared to many other countries, such as Sweden, penalties for drunk driving in the United States are considered less severe unless alcohol is involved in an incident causing injury or death of another, such DUI, DWI or OWI with Great Bodily Injury (GBI) or Vehicular Manslaughter.
The State of Washington used to permit those charged with a first offense drunk driving to complete a diversion program that resulted in the charges being dismissed upon the completion of a Diversion Program. In 1975, under the revised code of Washington or RCW Section 10.05, the Washington State Legislature established a deferred prosecution option for offenders arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or impairing drugs (DUI). It was intended to encourage individuals to seek appropriate treatment and, under this option, defendants with a significant alcohol or drug dependence problem could petition a court to defer disposition of their charge until they have completed intensive substance dependence treatment and met other conditions required by the court. If the defendant successfully completed the terms of the program, the charge was dismissed; for those who failed, the deferred status was revoked and the defendant was prosecuted for the original DUI charge. (RCW 10.05.010 and 10.05.020) In 1992, the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute evaluated DUI deferred prosecution and concluded the program reduced DUI recidivism. In 1998, the legislature modified the DUI statutes. Among other things, the length of deferred prosecution supervision was increased from two to five years and defendants were restricted to one deferred prosecution per lifetime.
These innovative courts use substance abuse intervention with repeat offenders who plead guilty to driving while intoxicated. Those accepted into the diversionary program are required to abstain from alcohol. Some are required to wear a device that monitors and records any levels of alcohol detected in their bloodstreams.
The federal Assimilative Crimes Act, which makes state law applicable on lands reserved or acquired by the Federal government when the act or omission is not made punishable by an enactment of Congress, recognizes collateral actions related to DUI convictions as punishments. According to 18 U.S.C. § 13:
… that which may or shall be imposed through judicial or administrative action under the law of a State, territory, possession, or district, for a conviction for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug or alcohol, shall be considered to be a punishment provided by that law …
An SR-22 is an addendum to an insurance policy. It is an administrative form that attests to an insurance company's coverage, or the posting of a personal public bond in the amount of the state's minimum liability coverage for the licensed driver or vehicle registration. The SR in SR-22 stands for Safety Responsibility, and it is needed to reinstate a suspended driver's license after a DUI conviction in 49 states and the District of Columbia. It is submitted to the State's DMV by an auto insurance company to serve as proof that a driver has the minimum liability insurance that the states requires. They are essentially an agreement between a driver's insurance company and the respective State's DMV that requires the driver's insurance company to notify the respective State's DMV that the driver's insurance has either been terminated or lapsed; thus instituting a suspension of the driver's driving privileges until proof of insurance is re-filed with the State's DMV.
While SR-22s are typically filed with the respective State's DMV, some States require the driver to carry proof of the SR-22 or to carry it in the registered vehicle, (particularly if the driver has been cited for coverage lapses or other administrative infractions). SR-22s may attest coverage for a vehicle regardless of operator (owner liability coverage), or cover a specific person regardless of the specific vehicle operated (operator liability coverage).
As stated, the form is required in 49 states and the US District of Columbia in order to register a vehicle for usage on public roads. It is also required to redeem a license which has been suspended due to coverage lapse in these required states. These states also, generally, require that the issuing insurance company provide the relevant state's DMV with timely updates as to the status of such coverage. If the policy with the SR22 cancels, a form called an SR26 is issued and sent to the state DMV. Upon notice that there has been a lapse in coverage, the state will suspend the driver's license again. Another SR-22 filing will need to be submitted to regain driving privileges.
Every jurisdiction imposes the completion of alcohol education programs, commonly known as DUI programs, subsequent to a DUI/DWI/OWI conviction. Additionally, some states impose an additional requirement that a person attend a Victim Impact Panel (VIP) administered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which was established in 1982. Both DUI classes and Victim Impact Panels are available in some states for first offense DUIs dependent on the judge's decision.
In 1967, Ohio began to issue special license plates to DUI offenders who are granted limited driving privileges such as work-related driving until a court can rule that they can have full privileges back. In 2004, the plates became mandated by state law to all DUI offenders. Unlike Ohio's standard-issue plates (which as of 2008 have a picture of the Ohio country side), the DUI plates are yellow with red writing with no registration stickers or graphics. They are commonly referred to as "party plates".
Minnesota has a similar program, where the plates are white with either blue or black text. The plate number is a "W", followed by a letter and four numbers. These plates may be issued to drivers with at least 2 offenses in a five-year period; three offenses in a ten-year period; having a BAC twice the legal limit; or having a child in the car at the time of arrest. In Minnesota, DUI plates are referred to as "whiskey plates", whiskey being the name of the letter W in the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Most states impose the installation of ignition interlock devices (IID), with varying thresholds for installation requirements. Criminal process thresholds for installation requirements vary between minimum BAC levels (e.g., 0.20%, or 0.15%) or repeat offense, with about half of the states requiring installation on first offense.
These ignition interlock sanctions are meant as punishment, but also as a deterrence. When required under a high BAC level or multiple offense threshold, ignition interlock requirements address a strong tendency of repeat offense by drivers with alcoholic use disorder (AUD or alcoholism).
Ignition interlock requirements are also imposed in some instances after positive chemical blood alcohol tests, as a physical deterrent for drivers with alcoholic use disorder, or as a pseudo-civil punishment. Ignition interlock requirements are also imposed in some instances after an implied consent refusal under similar forensic procedures.
In most US implementations, IIDs are set to a "zero tolerance" level (set to either levels consistent with culinary alcohol or measurement errors). Violations can occur from a driver exceeding the "zero tolerance" level, but can also occur from use by other drivers within legal limits, or from test anomalies. In some states, anomalies are routinely discounted, for example as not consistent with patterns of BAC levels or at levels incompatible with life (e.g., significant mouth alcohol - which as BAC would be fatal). In some states, "fail" readings not consistent with actual alcohol use can be cleared by a routine process, but other states automatically deem these "fail" readings as violations.
In operation, the driver blows into the IIDs to enable the car's starter. After a variable time period of approximately 20–40 minutes, the driver is required to re-certify (blow again) within a time period consistent with safely pulling off the roadway. If the driver fails to re-certify within the time period, the car will alarm in a manner similar to setting off the car's immobilzer (but mechanically independent of the immobilizer).
Various US states have different penalties for disabling IIDs. In some cases, the driver may be penalized if a family member or mechanic disables the IID when not in use by the sanctioned individual, or temporarily for servicing the vehicle. In some implementations, disabling by mechanics and others is either permitted or authorisation easily obtained, but some jurisdictions restrict or deny authorisation. (Such restrictions on mechanics can be problematic, for example, if limited to designated "licensed mechanics" or as applied to routine repair procedures requiring operation of the ignition and starter systems.) Some jurisdictions criminalize such temporary bypass of IIDs.
Proposals (none official) have been made to install IIDs on all new vehicles, set to the legal limit for the driver. Issues to be solved, besides consumer and voter acceptance, include difficulty in obtaining accurate measurements without inconvenience, and a need to achieve Six Sigma (6σ) reliability, in order to not interfere with vehicle usability.
There are no present plans to introduce universal IID installation in the US.
A drunk driving charge is a type of police arrest process, so a basic understanding of the process of police engagement is essential to understanding how that process applies to that process as applied to a drunk driving charge.
Following are common procedures when a law enforcement officer has reason to suspect a driver is intoxicated. While local procedures vary under the 10s of thousands of courts in the US having traffic jurisdiction, the basic procedure is:
The legal stages are relevant because of the degree of evidence required at each stage. (For example, the police need not demonstrate guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" in order to execute a traffic stop.)
The investigation and NHTSA "phases" are distinct from the legal stages of the police arrest process. Instead, the investigation has, as its purpose, to take the process from initial contact through all of the evidence stages, through to prosecution. The primary goals are to:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, police officers should conduct DUI Investigations according to a specific protocol called phases. According to the NHTSA training, DUI Investigations are categorized by these phases:
The "Vehicle in Motion" Phase deals with the law enforcement officers observations of the suspect's driving maneuvers. The "Personal Contact" Phase is where the officer actually comes into contact with the DUI suspect. The "Pre-Arrest Screening" Phase is portion of the DUI Investigation that encompasses the Pre-Field Sobriety Test Questioning and the Field Sobriety Testing, including a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test where applicable. This Phase also includes the post-arrest evidentiary chemical test despite that it occurs subsequent to a DUI arrest, not prior to a DUI arrest.
The officer will typically approach the driver's window and ask some preliminary questions. During this phase of the stop the officer will note if they detect any of the following indicators of intoxication:
If the officer observes enough to have a reasonable suspicion to legally justify a further detention and investigation, they will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle, and request that the driver submit to voluntary field sobriety tests.
Note: Local terminology will vary, but these general classifications fall under US Supreme Court guidelines.
Each stage has different requirements for establishing a basis for police or prosecutorial action. Without establishing that basis, the process is illegal and can cause a prosecution to fail under the exclusionary rule.
The police must have a reason to engage in a traffic stop. This typically involves either observing a traffic violation or observing behavior, such as weaving or lane departure, that would raise a "reasonable suspicion" of driving while impaired. The police must have an articulable reason for the stop, but does not need probable cause for an arrest.
One exception is a roadblock (where legal). Roadblocks do not involve reasonable suspicion but must meet particular legal standards to avoid arbitrariness but still assure randomness.
During the traffic stop, the police will attempt to obtain sufficient evidence to support "probable cause". This includes asking questions, and requesting further evidence or confession.
There are several situations in which the officer will come into contact with a driver, some examples are:
The following list of DUI symptoms, from a publication issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT HS-805-711), is widely used in training officers to detect drunk drivers. After each symptom is a percentage figure which, according to NHTSA, indicates the statistical chances through research that a driver is over the legal limit.
|Turning with wide radius||over 50%|
|Straddling center or lane marker||65%|
|Appearing to be drunk||60%|
|Almost striking object or vehicle||60%|
|Driving on other than designated roadway||55%|
|Slow speed (more than 10 mph below limit)||50%|
|Stopping (without cause) in traffic lane||50%|
|Following too closely||45%|
|Tires on center or land marker||45%|
|Driving into opposing or crossing traffic||45%|
|Signaling inconsistent with driving actions||40%|
|Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane)||35%|
|Turning abruptly or illegally||35%|
|Accelerating or decelerating rapidly||30%|
If the officer observes enough evidence to have a "Reasonable Suspicion" to legally justify a further detention and investigation, they will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle.
"Probable cause" is established by obtaining evidence from the police encounter sufficient to meet the "probable cause" standard for arrest. "Probable cause" is not necessarily sufficient to obtain a conviction, but is a prerequisite for arrest. Examples of "probable cause" for a drunk driving arrest includes:
One of the most controversial aspects of a DUI stop is the field sobriety test (FSTs). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a model system for managing Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) training.
They have published numerous training manuals associated with FSTs. As a result of the NHTSA studies, the walk-and-turn test was determined to be 68% accurate, and the one-leg stand test is only 65% accurate when administered to people within the study parameters. The tests were not validated for people with medical conditions, injuries, 65 years or older, and 50 pounds or greater overweight. The officer will administer one or more field sobriety tests. FSTs are considered "divided attention tests" that test the suspect's ability to perform the type of mental and physical multitasking that is required to operate an automobile. However, these tests can be problematic for people with non-obvious disabilities affecting proprioception, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
The three validated tests by NHTSA are:
According to NHTSA, these tests were not designed to measure impairment, but rather to give a probability that a driver is at or above a 0.08% BAC. However, studies have shown that there are reasons to doubt the tests' usefulness in helping an officer to make such a determination. In 1991, Dr. Spurgeon Cole of Clemson University conducted a study of the accuracy of FSTs. His staff videotaped people performing six common field sobriety tests, then showed the tapes to 14 police officers and asked them to decide whether the suspects had "had too much to drink and drive" (sic). The blood-alcohol concentration of each of the 21 DUI subjects was 0.00, unknown to the officers. The result: the officers gave their opinion that 46% of these innocent people were too drunk to be able to drive. This study showed the possible inaccuracy of FSTs.
Alternative tests, which have not been scientifically validated, include:
FSTs and SFSTs are promoted as, "used to determine whether a subject is impaired", but FST tests are widely regarded having, as their primary purpose, establishing tangible evidence of "probable cause for arrest". Probable cause is necessary under US law (4th Amendment) to sustain an arrest and (significantly) to invoke the implied consent law.
A secondary purpose is to provide supporting corroborative tangible evidence for use against the suspect for use at trial in jurisdictions that permit such evidence.
In all US jurisdictions, participation in a Field Sobriety Test is voluntary, and not required under implied consent laws. (Police are not obliged to advise the suspect that participation in a FST or other pre-arrest procedures is voluntary. In contrast, formal evidentiary tests given under implied consent requirements are considered mandatory.)
A suspect requested to participate in a Field Sobriety Test is likely to be told that the purpose is to determine whether the suspect is impaired; however, FST tests are widely regarded having, as their primary purpose, gaining tangible evidence for use against the suspect in the establishment of probable cause for arrest.
An increasingly used field sobriety test involves having the suspect breathe into a small, handheld breath testing device. These are often referred to as PAS Tests, or "Preliminary Alcohol Screening" Tests", or a PBT, "Preliminary Breath Test" and precede the actual arrest and subsequent requirement to submit to an evidentiary chemical test of the suspect's breath or blood. These breath testing devices used are smaller, inexpensive versions of the larger, more sophisticated instruments at the police stations, commonly known as an Evidentiary Breath Test using an EBT device, or Evidentiary Breath Test device. An increasing number jurisdictions began using Portable Evidentiary Breath Test devices, or PEBT devices, that are more sophisticated versions of the smaller, inexpensive versions of the larger, larger instruments at the police stations. Another distinction is that, while the larger EBTs usually employ infrared spectroscopy, the PEBT and PAS devices use a relatively simple electrochemical (fuel cell) technology. When used for purposes of a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test, or PAS Test, their purpose, along with the other FSTs, is to assist the officer in determining whether he/she has probable cause for arrest.
The Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) or Preliminary Alcohol Screening test (PAS) is sometimes categorised as part of field sobriety testing, although it is not part of the series of performance tests. The PBT (or PAS) uses a portable breath tester. While the tester provides numerical blood alcohol content (BAC) readings, its primary use is for screening and establishing probable cause for arrest, to invoke the implied consent requirements. In US law, this is necessary to sustain a conviction based on evidential testing (or implied consent refusal). Regardless of the terminology, in order to sustain a conviction based on evidential tests, probable cause must be shown (or the suspect must volunteer to take the evidential test without implied consent requirements being invoked).
Police are not obliged to advise the suspect that participation in a FST or other pre-arrest procedures is voluntary. In contrast, formal evidentiary tests given under implied consent requirements are considered mandatory.
Refusal to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) in Michigan subjects a non-commercial driver to a "civil infraction" penalty, with no violation "points", but is not considered to be a refusal under the general "implied consent" law. In some states, the state may present evidence of refusal to take a field sobriety test in court, although this is of questionable probative value in a drunk driving prosecution.
Different requirements apply in many states to drivers under DUI probation, in which case participation in a preliminary breath test (PBT) may be a condition of probation, and for commercial drivers under "drug screening" requirements. Some US states, notably California, have statutes on the books penalizing PBT refusal for drivers under 21; however the Constitutionality of those statutes has not been tested. (As a practical matter, most criminal lawyers advise not engaging in discussion or "justifying" a refusal with the police.)
If the officer has sufficient probable cause that the suspect has been driving under the influence of alcohol, they will make the arrest, handcuff the suspect and transport them to the police station. En route, the officer may advise them of their legal implied consent obligation to submit to an evidentiary chemical test of blood, breath or possibly urine depending on the jurisdiction.
Laws relating to what exactly constitutes probable cause vary from state to state. In California it is a refutable presumption that a person with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is driving under the influence. However, section 23610(a)(2) of the California Vehicle Code states that driving with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08% "shall not give rise to any presumption that the person was or was not under the influence of an alcoholic beverage".
An arrestee will be offered a chemical test of breath, blood or, much less frequently, urine. Breath test results are usually available immediately; urine and blood samples are sent to a lab for later analysis to determine the BAC or possible presence of drugs. Some states sought to impose criminal punishment for a refusal to submit to a chemical test of his/her breath or blood; however, in Birchfield v. North Dakota, the United States Supreme Court visited the issue of whether states can criminalize a refusal to submit to a chemical test. The United States Supreme Court decided that states may criminalize a refusal to submit to a breath test; but not a refusal to submit to a blood test absent a McNeely warrant, named after Missouri v. McNeely (2013), which was a case decided by United States Supreme Court, on appeal from the Supreme Court of Missouri, regarding exceptions to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution under exigent circumstances. The United States Supreme Court ruled that police must generally obtain a warrant before subjecting a drunken-driving suspect to a blood test, and that the natural metabolism of blood alcohol does not establish a per se exigency that would justify a blood draw without consent.
Regarding blood tests, some commentators, such as Brown University's Jacob Appel, have criticized the role of medical personnel in this process. According to Appel, "If physicians acquiesce today in the removal of a resistant patient's blood, soon they may be called upon to pump the contents of an unwilling patient's stomach or even to perform involuntary surgery to retrieve an evidential bullet".
While chemical tests are used to determine the driver's BAC, they do not determine the driver's level of impairment. However, state laws usually provide for a rebuttable legal presumption of intoxication at a BAC of 0.08% or higher (see blood alcohol test assumptions).
If it is determined after arrest that the person's BAC is not at or above the legal limit of 0.08%, they will probably be released without any charges. One may, however, still be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol on the basis of driving symptoms, observed impairment, admissions or performance on the field sobriety tests. And if there is suspicion of drug usage, a blood or urine test is likely, or at least the testimony of a specially trained officer called a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Assuming sufficient evidence of impaired driving from drugs, the arrested may face charges of driving under the influence of drugs or the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.
Most of the time, the driver will either be kept in a holding cell (sometimes referred to as the "drunk tank") until they are deemed sober enough to be released on bail or on his "own recognizance" (OR). A date to appear in court for an arraignment will be given to them. If they cannot make bail or is not granted OR, they will be kept in jail to wait for the arraignment on remand.
In the United States, paying the DUI ticket, court costs, and attorney fees is just the start of a person's financial obligations after a DUI conviction. Additional costs of a DUI conviction will often involve the installation and maintenance fees of a vehicle Ignition Interlock Device, which serves the same function as a Breathalyzer to enable the vehicle to start. A person convicted of a driving under the influence charge, can also expect to pay higher insurance rates and premiums. In addition, DUI records prevent entry into Canada without proper documentation.
Drunk driving is a public health concern in the United States, and reducing its frequency may require an integrated community-based approach utilizing sanctions and treatments. Several intervention programs have been developed, such as the Paradigm Developmental Model of Treatment (PDMT), a program encouraging a paradigm shift in the offender's view of oneself and the world.
The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests environmental interventions to help eliminate drinking and driving all together.
Federal Aviation Regulation 91.17 (14 C.F.R. 91.17) prohibits pilots from flying aircraft with an alcohol level of 0.04% or more, or within eight hours of consuming alcohol ("eight hours, bottle to throttle"), or while under the impairing influence of any drug. The same prohibition applies to any other crew members on duty aboard the aircraft (flight attendants, etc.). Some airlines impose additional restrictions, and many pilots also impose stricter standards upon themselves. Commercial pilots found to be in violation of regulations are typically fired or resign voluntarily, and they may lose their pilot certificates and be subject to criminal prosecution under Federal or State laws, effectively ending their careers.
Similar laws apply to other activities involving transportation; Michigan prohibits intoxicated use of motorized farm implements, or boating, the latter whether a pilot or passenger, with much the same threshold of intoxication. In the case of boating, the laws extend to include kayaks, canoes, sailboats—any flotation device that needs to be steered in water. Different states have different laws and classifications on the level of transgression attached to a citation for boating under the influence. For example, Virginia has very similar penalties for a BUI as it does for a DUI. Those convicted of boating while intoxicated face penalties including, fines of up to $2,500, jail time of up to one year, loss of one's operator's license for up to three years and mandatory enrollment and completion of a Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.
Alcohol use was the number one contributing factor in U.S. recreational boating deaths between 2003 and 2012, accounting for 15 percent of the fatalities in 2003, and 17 percent in 2012. A Canadian study published in 2011 examined 18 years of data on recreational boating, and concluded that a "true figure" of alcohol-related deaths in that country "may lie between 46% and 56%".:15
In countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia drunk driving and deaths caused by drunk driving are considerably lower than in the USA. Drunk driving deaths in the UK (population 61 million, 31 million cars) were 380 in 2010 (21% of all fatal accidents). In California (population 36 million, 32 million cars) there were 950 deaths from traffic accidents involving drivers with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or greater) in 2009 (31% of all fatal accidents). Alcohol consumption per capita in the UK and Australia is higher than in the USA and the legal age for drinking lower.
Research in the United Kingdom has shown that the danger group for drunk driving is young men in their early 20s rather than teenagers. It is not uncommon for police forces in Australia to randomly stop motorists and submit them to a random breath test. This test involves speaking or blowing into a hand held device to give a reading. Refusing a roadside test is an offense, and is subject to the same penalty as high range drunk driving. This detection method is not employed in the UK, and it is not an offence in England or Wales for a fully licensed driver to drive with a BAC of less than 0.08% (Australia and Scotland have limits of 0.05%). Also in Australia it is an offence for any person driving on Learner or probationary ('P1 or P2') plates (aged under 20 years) to drive with any alcohol at all in their system. The BAC must be 0.00% and still remains under 0.05% for an "instructing a learner".
Unlike the USA, these countries do not see restricting access to alcohol as having any useful role to play in reducing drunk driving. Their experience is that random breath tests, severe penalties, including imprisonment for a first offense (in UK), combined with blanket public service broadcasting are a more effective strategy.
Also, Australian and British law do not recognize the crime of DUI manslaughter, and sentences for causing death by drunk driving are much lower than the USA. In the UK, a judge makes a sentencing decision based on the amount of alcohol present. This can lead to imprisonment for a first offence.
In Germany, a legal limit of 0.05% lowers to 0.03% if a driver is found to be at fault in a traffic accident. 0.00% is the standard for those who are under 21 years of age.
Drivers in New Jersey are guilty of driving while intoxicated if their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or more, but people can also be convicted of drunk while under the influence of alcohol even when the BAC is under that limit, the township said.
Alcohol-related traffic crashes are defined by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as alcohol-related if either a driver or a non-motorist had a measurable or estimated BAC of 0.01 g/dl or above.This statistic includes any and all vehicular (including bicycle and motorcycle) accidents in which any alcohol has been consumed, or believed to have been consumed, by the driver, a passenger or a pedestrian associated with the accident. Thus, if a person who has consumed alcohol and has stopped for a red light is rear-ended by a completely sober but inattentive driver, the accident is listed as alcohol-related, although alcohol had nothing to do with causing the accident. Furthermore, if a sober motorist hits a drunk pedestrian, the accident is also listed as alcohol-related. Alcohol-related accidents are often mistakenly confused with alcohol-caused accidents. Some have criticized the NHTSA for compiling this statistic since it may give the impression that drunk drivers cause a much higher percentage of accidents and does not accurately reflect the problem of drunk driving in the United States.
Nationally, 12.8% of all drivers involved in fatal accidents during 2013 are known to have been intoxicated according to the blood alcohol concentration (BAC laws) of their state. This number is based on a systematic examination of the official records of each and every accident involving a fatality during that year in the US. However, a majority of fatalities resulting from car accidents involving alcohol are from sober drivers who are hit by drunk drivers.
The higher number (about 40%) commonly reported refers to accidents defined as alcohol-related as estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Each year, The Century Council, a national non-profit organization funded by a group of alcohol manufacturers, compiles a document of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Between 1991 and 2013, the rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities (ARTF) per 100,000 population has decreased 52% nationally, and 79% among youth under 21.Cannabis and impaired driving
Cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant and its derived drugs are known to cause impaired driving in users, with effects on a driver similar to those of alcohol. Many jurisdictions have laws forbidding cannabis-impaired driving, and some have per se impairment levels determined by metabolites detected in body fluids.DUI laws in California
Driving under the influence (DUI) occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when the driver has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater. Minors can be charged with impaired driving based on blood alcohol levels of 0.01 or higher, and CDL license holders can be charged based upon blood alcohol levels of 0.04 or higher.David Kirk (sociologist)
David S. Kirk is an American sociologist and associate professor of sociology at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he is also director of research for the department of sociology. Before joining the Oxford faculty in 2015, he was an associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests have included the effects of high concentrations of former prisoners in a neighborhood on their probability of reoffending, and the effects of Uber on rates of drunk driving in the United States.Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility
Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, formerly known as the Century Council, is a Virginia-based American not-for-profit organization founded in 1991 and funded by a group of distillers that aims to fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision-making regarding alcohol use.
The Arlington, Virginia-based organization is an independent national advisory board with members in the realm of education, medicine, government, business, and other relevant disciplines assists in the development of programs and policies. Member companies include Bacardi, Beam Suntory, Brown-Forman, Constellation Brands, DIAGEO, Edrington, Hood River Distillers, and Pernod Ricard.List of alcohol laws of the United States
The following table of alcohol laws of the United States provides an overview of alcohol-related laws by first level jurisdictions throughout the US. This list is not intended to provide a breakdown of such laws by local jurisdiction within a state; see that state's alcohol laws page for more detailed information.
On July 17, 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. The bill would force all states to raise their drinking age from 18, 19, or 20 to 21. States that did not choose to raise their drinking age to 21 would risk losing 10% (Changed to 8% in 2012) of federal highway funding as a penalty. As of July 1988, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had a minimum purchase age of 21, with some grandfather clauses, and with the exception of Louisiana's complicated legal situation that was not resolved until July 2, 1996. Prior to 1988, the minimum purchase age varied by jurisdiction. After Congress passed the Act, states not in compliance had a portion of their federal highway budget withheld. South Dakota and Wyoming were the final two states to comply, in mid-1988. However, most states continue to allow those under 21 to drink in certain circumstances. Examples are some states like Tennessee and Washington, which allow those under 21 to drink for religious purposes. States including Oregon and New York allow those under 21 to drink on private non-alcohol selling premises.
Unlike on the mainland, the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a minimum purchase and drinking age of 18. The minimum purchase age is 21 in the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and US Minor Outlying Islands.
U.S. military reservations are exempt under federal law from state, county, and locally enacted alcohol beverage laws. Class Six stores in a base exchange facility, officers' or NCO clubs, as well as other military commissaries which are located on a military reservation, may sell and serve alcohol beverages at any time during their prescribed hours of operation to authorized patrons. While the installation commander is free to set the drinking age, with some exceptions, most stateside military bases have a drinking age that mirrors the local community.
Individual states remain free to restrict or prohibit the manufacture of beer, mead, hard cider, wine, and other fermented alcoholic beverages at home. Homebrewing beer became legal in all 50 states in 2013 as the governor of Mississippi signed a bill legalizing homebrewing on March 19, 2013 and as the governor of Alabama signed a bill legalizing homebrewing of beer and wine which came into effect on May 9, 2013. The Mississippi bill went into effect July 1, 2013. Most states allow brewing 100 US gallons (380 L) of beer per adult per year and up to a maximum of 200 US gallons (760 L) per household annually when there are two or more adults residing in the household. Because alcohol is taxed by the federal government via excise taxes, homebrewers are prohibited from selling any beer they brew. This similarly applies in most Western countries. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a bill allowing home beers, which was at the time not permitted without paying the excise taxes as a holdover from the prohibition of alcoholic beverages (repealed in 1933). This change also exempted home brewers from posting a "penal bond" (which is currently $1000.00).
Production of distilled alcohols is regulated at the National level under USC Title 26 subtitle E Ch51. Numerous requirements must be met to do so and production carries an excise tax. Owning or operating a distillation apparatus without filing the proper paperwork and paying the taxes carries federal criminal penalties.In land or property that is being rented or owned by the federal government, state, federal district, and territory alcohol laws do not apply. Instead, only laws made by the federal government apply.Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a nonprofit organization in the United States and Canada that seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and strive for stricter impaired driving policy, whether that impairment is caused by alcohol or any other drug. The Irving, Texas–based organization was founded on September 5, 1980, in California by Candace Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver. There is at least one MADD office in every state of the United States and at least one in each province of Canada. These offices offer victim services and many resources involving alcohol safety. MADD has claimed that drunk driving has been reduced by half since its founding.
|Rules of the road|
|Road user guides|
|Traffic violations reciprocity|