Driving Under the Influence Laws

When most people think of a DUI, they think of one thing: driving under the influence of alcohol. In the majority of cases, this is exactly what it means, but it is also important to note that you can get a DUI for smoking marijuana. This law loosely applies to drugs outside of merely alcohol. Operating a motor vehicle of any kind while under the influence is not permitted.

Most DUI laws and the sentences that can be handed down are left up to the discretion of the individual states. You could face very different repercussions if you live in California than you would if you lived in New Mexico or Florida or Vermont. All people need to be very aware of what the specific laws and regulations are in their states.

A BAC of 0.08

There is one law that, though it is set on the state level, is the same in each state. This is the law regarding your Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. This is a number that determines how much alcohol is in your bloodstream at any given time. There are multiple ways to measure this, but breath tests are used most often.

In every state, the limit for drivers who are legally old enough to drink -— 21 or older -— is 0.08. If you hit this or blow a higher number during a traffic stop, you will be arrested.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For one thing, drivers who are under the legal limit can be arrested if any alcohol is detected. Since they were not legally allowed to drink in the first place, they can get a DUI even if they have a BAC of 0.02, 0.07 or anything else below the limit, even though an older driver would not have been charged.

Another exception is for commercial drivers and professional drivers. In all states, the limit for these drivers is just 0.04.

Fines and Sentences: State-by-State

Where the states differ on this issue is when it comes to fines and sentences that can be passed down. For example, if you get a DUI in Colorado, you lose your license for nine months on your first offense. You will also get a fine that is between $600 and $1,000, you could be given -— though this is not mandatory -— as much as a year in jail, and you may have to take alcohol education classes.

For your first offense in Florida, however, your fine could be between $500 and $1,000. You have to either do up to 50 hours of community service, or you can pay a larger fine, which costs $10 for each hour. You could get probation for up to a year or jail time for up to six months. Your car could be impounded for 10 days after you get out, and you could lose your license for up to a year.

Florida also alters the punishments based on your BAC. The above is for a BAC of 0.08 to 0.15. If you are at or above 0.15, though, the fine could jump up to $1,000 to $2,000, and the jail time could increase to nine months.

Know Your State's Laws

As you can see, there are little intricacies in the laws that really make a difference. In some states, you can even be made to use a mandatory ignition interlock system. Be sure that you fully understand the specifics in your state, along with the basics listed above.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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