DWI /DUI

These cases are criminal in nature, although they can involve civil penalties, such as a suspension of driving privileges. DUI laws often include prohibitions against driving under the influence of controlled substances as well.

Most states prosecute drunk driving in three ways. First, a conviction can be based on the amount of alcohol in the defendant's blood, as measured immediately following the arrest. The legal limit in all states is currently .08%, with lower limits for commercial drivers and minors. This type of prosecution is called a "per se" DUI. It requires only that the state prove that a blood alcohol content test was administered, and that the result exceeded the legal limit.

The second type of DUI prosecution occurs when the defendant's blood alcohol content is not available, or does not exceed the legal limit. In such cases the state must prove that the driver consumed alcohol to a degree that rendered him or her unsafe behind the wheel. This is a more difficult burden for the state to meet. At trial, the state will try to prove its case using officer testimony, witness statements, field sobriety test results, and audio/video recordings.

A third, less common method of prosecution requires the state to show the defendant was in "actual physical control" of the vehicle. This can be proven with blood alcohol readings or other evidence, but unlike other prosecutions, the defendant need not have driven. A conviction can result based only on the fact that the defendant exercised control over the vehicle. Usually, this means sitting in the driver's seat with possession of the keys.

In addition to jail time, fines, alcohol classes, and other penalties, those arrested for DUI or DWI also face suspension of their driver's license. In most jurisdictions, a suspension will result either from a conviction, or for failing a blood alcohol test (even if the defendant is acquitted or charges are reduced). The same constitutional protections that exist in criminal court do not apply here, making it especially important to hire an attorney to handle the matter.