Attorney at Law

Know the Law: DUI FAQ

James Parker
June 9, 2021

To many people arrested for driving while under the influence (DUI), there are a lot of questions. In order to better inform people about how DUI works, Attorney at Law has compiled and answered some frequently asked questions. While the best option when facing a DUI is to consult an experienced attorney, these questions may provide a broad baseline for information about what DUI is. 

What are the requirements to be charged with DUI?

You can be charged with driving under the influence if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above .08. Acting with noticeable impairment can also be grounds for a DUI, even if your level of intoxication is below the legal limit. Acting under the influence of any drugs can also lead to DUI charges.

Can I get a DUI if I take medication that my doctor has prescribed to me?

Yes. if the officer feels that your prescription drugs alter your ability to think and act in a safe manner when behind the wheel of a car, they will issue a citation for DUI.

Can police officers tell if someone is under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol?

Law enforcement agencies have dedicated units for detecting drug influence. DUID charges can be issued with nothing but the officer’s discretion or an admission of guilt to a question like “have you taken anything tonight?”

What signs do police officers look for when conducting a DUI investigation?

People charged with DUIs are typically pulled over for another traffic violation such as speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, etc. Driving from a city with a popular nightlife could also be an indication to police that the driver may be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Some physical signs may include:

  • Flushed face
  • Bloodshot/watery eyes
  • Odor of alcohol on breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Poor display of motor skills
  • Difficulty maintaining balance

Many of these symptoms are subjective and can be disputed in court. 

What kinds of tests will I be asked to perform for a field-sobriety test?

Common tests include the Heel-to-Toe test in which you will be instructed to walk in a straight line touching your heel to your toe with each step, counting 30 seconds aloud, or standing on one leg.

Does performing well on field-sobriety tests help my case?

While performing well in a sobriety test may seem like a good thing, these tests are designed to be failed. Many of the testing criteria are subjective. Officers will use any deficiency, real or imagined, to prove their case against you. If the officer charged you with a DUI, they have decided that your performance warranted failure. Officers can also report that during the tests there was a strong odor of alcohol on the breath or other sign of intoxication.

What is “implied consent?”

One condition of being issued a driver’s license in some states is the requirement of submitting to breath, blood or urine tests if a police officer suspects a driver of driving under the influence. By being given the privilege of driving, you are consenting and agreeing to the rules set by the legislature, including the requirement to submit to field sobriety and chemical tests to determine whether or not the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving. Failure to comply with implied consent requirements will result in immediate license suspension.

The officer said I can get my case dismissed and not to worry about it. Is that true?

It is possible that an officer may tell you that your charges are likely to get dismissed or reduced if you have been cooperative, but the fact of the matter is that they will also be filing a police report in which they charge you with a DUI. If you have been charged with a DUI, an attorney is your best hope for a reduction of charges or dismissal.

What should I do if I am being investigated for DUI?

Attorney At Law emphatically discourages drinking while driving or operating any motor vehicle in an altered state. This is not legal advice and should not be taken as such.

If you find yourself being stopped under the influence, your best course of action is to be polite and cooperate with the officer. You have the constitutional right against self-incrimination, so if you are asked an incriminating question, you can respectfully decline to answer.

During a DUI investigation, is it better to refuse to take a breath test than to blow?

In submitting a breath test, the police will gain hard, quantified, indisputable evidence of exactly how much alcohol is in your system. You have the right to refuse a breath test in a DUI investigation. However, a refusal can be used as evidence against you in court and your license will be automatically suspended. By refusing to blow, you do not give law enforcement any hard evidence for a conviction, which may help you in court.

It is possible to refuse all tests only to have the officers get a warrant to take a “forced blood draw.” The officers can literally hold you down while a nurse draws your blood. In these cases, even if your BAC level is below the legal limit of .08%, you will still be charged with a DUI with refusal and will lose your license for one full year on a first DUI.

I took the breathalyzer test in the field and the police cited me for refusal. Why?

Some drivers refuse to take a breathalyzer at the police station because they blew into the field breathalyzer. Drivers are still required to blow into the chemical breath machine or give a blood sample even after giving a breath sample if the officers demand it.

I have acid reflux/GERD. Does that invalidate the breath results?

Acid reflux and GERD can impact the BAC results, but officers are trained to take multiple breath samples to detect if one result appears abnormal. 

What is the first thing I need to be concerned with?

When charged with a DUI, you should immediately contact and retain an attorney. Attorneys can preserve a record of events and cross examine officers to make sure that the stories are not confused or misremembered on the day of court and have the experience to paint your case in the best light possible. 

How can a lawyer help me?

Hiring a lawyer is the best way to respond to DUI charges. Your DUI attorney will explain your legal rights and review your case to provide you with details on the best course of action for avoiding the serious consequences of a DUI.

Without a lawyer, you open yourself up to incarceration, heavy fines, a criminal record, loss of driving privileges, and potential employment loss. An attorney could help you earn a reduced fine, replace incarceration with community service, or have the charges dropped.

What are the penalties for a DUI?

Fines can range from $500 to $7,000 depending on the number of DUIs and the BAC. 

The prosecutor may ask for you to take an alcohol class ranging from 3 to 9 months of weekly classes depending on the BAC level and other factors. The DMV also requires the same class to have your driver’s license reinstated.

If convicted of a DUI in court, the DMV can require the installation of an ignition interlock device for several months.  The driver would have full driving privileges during this period.  

The court also has the power to require additional measures including a vehicle impound, AA meetings, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) meeting, Hospital and Morgue program, community service, labor, probation and fines.

Additionally, the more DUIs you have received, the more likely you are to spend time in jail or even prison. 

Who will pay for my IIG?

If you are required to have a device installed, you will need to pay for the costs of installation and ongoing reporting/maintenance.

Will I have a criminal record?

DUI is a crime. The misdemeanor or felony conviction will show up on your criminal record, just like any other criminal conviction.

First time DUI offenses are typically treated as a misdemeanor, while repeat offenses can often escalate to felony status quickly. Additionally, if someone was injured or killed as the result of your intoxication, the DUI is usually escalated to a felony along with any other charges filed against you.

There are, however, some opportunities in certain cases to plead the charges down or to enter first time offender programs that will allow you to avoid having a permanent criminal record if you comply with certain requirements. To fully explore and execute these options, an attorney should be retained.

Can my DUI be expunged?

Yes. Once the probation period of a guilty DUI verdict has expired, the charge can be expunged through a petition of the courts. This does not remove the DUI from DMV records, which can keep the DUI for up to a decade, and any future DUIs will still be seen as an additional offense. 

Will I get jail time for a first time DUI?

Typically, judges and prosecutors seek jail time on a first DUI if there was a car accident, damage to personal property or injury, high alcohol level, driving on suspended license, or a “refusal” to cooperate with authorities.  

Will I lose my job?

If your job requires you to drive constantly, such as a CDL, Uber, or Lyft driver, then the answer may very well be yes. For more stationary jobs, it can depend on the employer’s discretion. Some employers may feel that a DUI is a simple mistake, while others may consider it emblematic of a greater lack of responsibility. 

If your employer requires you to report arrests, it is advised to disclose it as soon as possible. Some employers have an agreement with the justice department and will be automatically notified when an employee has been arrested. 

In most cases, first time offenders will be treated more mercifully than multiple offenders.

Will I be able to drive?

If you are convicted of a DUI in court, your license can be suspended for up to 10 months or longer depending on the severity of the infraction. Drivers can typically drive during this period on a restricted license or with the ignition interlock device installed.

What are the parameters placed on "business purposes only" licenses?

BPO licenses are granted, at the discretion of the judge, on the basis of need. A “business purposes only” license is an allowance to drive to maintain your livelihood and covers trips to work, on-the-job driving, driving to school, driving to church, and driving for medical purposes.

Will I have to appear in court?

You will not usually have to appear in court if it is a misdemeanor DUI. You will be required to appear for a felony DUI. 

I was charged with DUI outside the state I live in. Do I have to come back and go to court?

If you have hired an attorney, they can appear on your behalf without your presence unless you were charged with a felony. 

How can I find the best attorney for me?

At AAL, we have a nationwide network of attorneys and law firms and can pair you with an experienced DUI attorney familiar with your local laws. At AAL, our partners are screened not only for legal expertise and a winning track record, but for empathy and care in their treatment of clients. 

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no obligation consultation and begin your journey to freedom today.

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