When someone is charged with driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, commonly referred to as a DUI, they face two different sets of consequences. First, they face criminal prosecution. If convicted of a DUI in criminal court, a person may receive jail time or prison time as well as a fine. Additionally, DUI charges may trigger a civil action wherein the person's driving privileges are revoked or suspended for a period of time. In both criminal and civil cases, having an experienced DUI lawyer on your side can help.
Under the Influence – Defined
In any DUI case, the state must show that the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of a drug, alcohol, inhalant, or other intoxicants of some kind. There are a number of ways the government may attempt to prove a driver was “under the influence."
Having a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 Grams of Alcohol or More
Regardless of whether one can feel the effects of alcohol, it is against the law to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams of alcohol or more. This determination is made by simply measuring the amount of alcohol present in blood, breath, or urine. However, these test results should not be accepted without a careful analysis of the facts at hand. There may be errors in the interpretation of the test results, the instruments may not have been calibrated properly, or the sample may have been collected improperly. Any one of these errors may impact the strength of the state's case.
Driving with Marijuana or Other Controlled Substances in the Blood
As with the 0.08 analysis for DUI cases, any time a person is found to have any amount of marijuana in their blood or urine, including metabolites or derivatives of marijuana, they can be charged with a DUI. This is true even if the person does not appear to otherwise be under the influence of marijuana. Similarly, if there is evidence of the presence of a controlled substance, including metabolites or derivatives of a controlled substance in a driver's blood or urine, this, too, can result in a DUI charge. However, sometimes a person has a valid prescription for a controlled substance. In this case, the mere presence of a controlled substance in the blood is insufficient for a criminal conviction. Instead, the state must prove that the person was “incapable of driving safely” as a result of using the drug in question.
Driving While it is “Less Safe” to Do So
In some case, the use of intoxicants impacts one's ability to think, reason, and respond in a safe manner. When someone is rendered “less safe” due to the consumption of drugs, inhalants, or alcohol, they can be charged with a DUI. The following is a list of the most common intoxicants which can result in someone being “less safe” to operate a motor vehicle.
- Illegal drugs
- Prescription drugs
- Over the counter drugs
- Inhalants such as glue, aerosols, or vapors
Whether used alone or in combination, if they affect a person's judgment, they may be “less safe” to drive.
It is important to understand the distinction between legally over the limit at 0.08 or more for alcohol or any amount for marijuana and controlled substances where the person doesn't have a valid prescription and being less safe to drive. Consider people you know who consume alcohol. You may have one friend who gets positively loopy after two glasses of wine. Another friend may be able to consume an entire bottle of wine without any obvious effects. However, both may get a DUI, your first friend for driving while less safe, and the second for driving with a blood alcohol concentration greater than the legal limit. Both would face the same consequences for their DUI charges.
Physical Control and Driving
The two ways to get a DUI, in addition to meeting the legal requirements for “under the influence” are either being in physical control of a vehicle or driving the vehicle. One is said to be in physical control of the car if they have the ability to begin driving or it is apparent they drove quite recently. For example, if someone is in their car with the keys in the ignition, the car turned on and in drive, even if the car hasn't yet moved from the parking space, the driver is said to be in physical control. Contrast that with the person who is under the influence and approaching their car with their car keys in hand, which is not physical control. The line starts to blur when examining the conduct of people beyond simply approaching the car, but not yet with the car in drive.
Every case must be individually examined to determine physical control. If the person crawls in the back seat and gives the keys to their friend who is not in the car, they are likely not in physical control. IF they climb in the front seat of the car and pass out with their keys in their hand, they may be in physical control. Additionally, if the police encounter a car with a warm hood or other indicia that it has just been driven, a person may be charged with DUI under the theory of physical control.
Driving the car--actually putting it in drive and moving the car--even if just across the parking lot, is the other way to satisfy the driving portion of the DUI statute.
Are You or a Friend Dealing with DUI Charges?
If you or a friend is facing DUI charges, don't go it alone. Contact our experienced Hall County DUI lawyers today. We focus on DUI cases, so we are familiar with winning DUI strategies. Let us review your case and offer you a consultation for free. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call today at 404.816.4440.