What is considered drunk driving in the USA?

By | September 16, 2013

Drunk driving is illegal in all states, but each legislature has the power to establish penalties such as suspension of license for a first offense or severe penalties for repeat offenders. Alcohol does not affect everyone in the same way, but everyone does experience its effects. People can reach a comparable level of intoxication by drinking different amounts of alcohol, depending on body weight, time spent in consuming it, the presence of food and other factors.

Scientific technology can make an accurate assessment of a person’s level of intoxication by breath testing, using sophisticated equipment that records the percent of alcohol in the blood. A concentration of 0.08 percent of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream is accepted as evidence of intoxication in all states, according to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, and it is illegal for anyone to drive when intoxicated. Alcohol impairs a person’s judgment, vision, perception and motor skills, essential elements required in driving a vehicle.

Calculating Alcohol’s Influence
Reaching a level of eight percent blood alcohol content (BAC) requires the consumption of more alcohol than the body can process. The human liver metabolizes alcohol at varying rates among different people, but it is always a slow procedure. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard drink as one 12 ounce bottle of beer, an ounce and a half of 80 proof liquor or five ounces of wine. A healthy liver can metabolize one drink in about an hour, but the processing time can require many hours as the rate of intake exceeds the liver’s ability to handle it.

By understanding the ability of alcohol to alter a driver’s mental and physical state, a drinker can learn the impact that it has on driving ability. Some forms of alcohol are more potent than others, with 80 proof liquor containing 40 percent by volume and 100 proof containing 50 percent by volume. Wine has 12 percent, and beer or malt beverages contain seven percent. A 21 ounce cup of ballpark beer is the equivalent of almost two and a half standard drinks, more than a liver can process in two hours if no other drinks are consumed.

Understanding How Alcohol Affects a Driver
With the first drink, most people start to feel some effect of alcohol. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence cites these effects at specific blood alcohol levels:

BAC at 0.02
Relaxation, a loss of judgment and an altered mood result in a decline in the ability to see properly and an inability to do two tasks simultaneously.

BAC at 0.05
Producing conditions that are similar to driving too fast, a BAC of five percent reduces the ability to react in time to avoid traffic hazards or emergency situations. Eye movements are slower than normal, reducing the ability to track the motion of moving objects.

BAC at 0.08
At a level that all states consider legally intoxicated, a driver who has a BAC of eight percent has very poor muscle coordination in addition to reduced vision and hearing, lack of balance and slurred speech. The loss of judgment, reasoning, memory and self control makes it difficult for a drunk driver to control a vehicle, adding to the likelihood of having an accident.

BAC Greater than Eight Percent
Reports of accidents that involve drivers with a BAC of .20 or even .30 appear in the newspaper with the dire consequences that are expected. The ability to understand what happened in an accident is often beyond the ability of a drunk driver.

Understanding Consequences of Drunk Driving
Driving while intoxicated is a crime, and it is punishable by law. A driver who is convicted faces stern penalties that can include a hefty fine, license revocation and possible incarceration along with higher premiums for vehicle insurance. A drunk driver suffers expense and punishment as well as injuries in some cases, but innocent victims often suffer more. In view of the serious consequences of a conviction, a driver who faces a criminal charge needs to seek legal representation by a drunk driving attorney.

Entering the Criminal Justice System
An arrest for DUI is an extremely serious situation that requires a defendant to fully understand what is at stake. Repercussions that result from a conviction can prevent a person from working in some fields, especially if an employer requests a criminal background check. A DUI attorney works with defendants to find a way to get charges reduced or dropped and to prevent lasting damage that can remain on a criminal record for life. An attorney can question the proper administration of procedures used in an arrest or breath testing, and every avenue that offers relief from a DUI conviction is investigated.

For defendants who are found guilty, a drunk driving attorney can present arguments to the court for a lenient sentence. Successful experience in representing clients in the criminal justice system enables a DUI attorney to negotiate the best terms possible, but there are no guarantees. Avoiding the negative impact that a conviction has on a person’s good reputation and the ability to obtain future employment and vehicle insurance requires the services of a highly competent criminal defense attorney.

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