The holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes the unfortunate possibility of being stopped for the offenses of driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). Driving (or “operating” a vehicle) while over the legal limit is considered “intoxicated”, while operating under that limit is considered “under the influence.”
These criminal cases are among the most commonly encountered, and it is important that people have an adequate grasp of what they entail. The following are some observations we’ve made over the years that are worth considering:
1. People charged with DUI or DWI often don’t appreciate that they are dealing with criminal charges. Unfortunately, DUI and DWI are crimes. Depending on the circumstances, they can be ordinance violations, misdemeanors, or possibly even felonies (with enough prior convictions). They are charged as criminal offenses, so you should view them that way. Failure to take this into consideration can cause people to underestimate the seriousness of what is happening.
2. DUI/DWI cases are complicated. There is a lot going on with a alcohol-related driving offense. To begin with, there are both civil and criminal proceedings happening simultaneously, each proceeding on its own separate track. On the criminal “track”, you have a criminal charge that has its own court dates in the city or country where the charge originates from. Most often, it will be a misdemeanor violation from a city or from the county court. The criminal side of the DUI/DWI has its own range of punishments (possible jail times, fines, etc.).
3. In addition to the criminal side, there is also an administrative hearing process that involves a person’s driving privileges. When a person is charged with a alcohol related driving offense, they are either given or sent paperwork that notifies them of possible license suspension implications. This is a very important document. Do not lose it. The issues are very complicated, and will vary depending on whether someone gave a chemical breath sample (failure) or did not (refusal).
4. Other relevant issues will be whether the person was a minor, whether they had a commercial driver license (CDL), and what the BAC (blood alcohol content) was. Most important is the reminder that you must file your request for an administrative hearing within certain very strict time limits. If this is not done, you will be faced with certain suspensions and/or restrictions on your ability to drive. This is why it is so critical to contact an attorney as soon as you are accused of a DUI/DWI charge. Waiting too long can hurt your ability to recover your license on favorable terms.
We hope you never find yourself having to deal with a DUI or DWI charge. But if you do, we hope you will remember the points discussed above to have a general idea of what is happening. As always, calling your attorney at the earliest possible time is the best strategy.
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