What You Need To Know About Court-Mandated DUI Treatment

When a court hands down a sentence against a DUI offender, you can expect it to include fines, suspension of driving privileges, probation, and jail time as sanctions. In some cases, a court may decide to order the DUI offender to undergo DUI treatment as well.

More often than not, court-ordered treatment for DUI intends to give DUI offenders the chance to avoid some of the penalties of their conviction, that is, if they complete the program. It is also designed to determine if the offender has an underlying alcohol abuse problem that needs addressing. More importantly, DUI treatment online, particularly its alcohol education component, also aims to prevent convicted drunk drivers from becoming repeat offenders.

If you’re a convicted drunk driver ordered to undergo mandatory DUI treatment, here are some of the things that will happen.

Initial DUI Screening

DUI screening is the first step toward determining if you have an underlying alcohol problem that may have driven you to drink and drive.

Your initial DUI screening will have you answer questions indicated in the screening tool that will be used on you. Some of the instruments used for DUI screening may include:

  • The CAGE Test—This four-question test, all answerable by a yes or a no, is considered one of the oldest and most commonly used screening instruments for alcohol abuse.
  • The T-ACE Test—Three of the four yes or no questions in this test are from the CAGE test, but this test has a reputation for diagnosing alcohol issues in men and women more accurately.
  • The AUDIT Test—Short for Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, the AUDIT test comprises ten multiple-choice questions. It is reputed to be one of the most accurate alcohol screening tests.
  • The MAST Test—An acronym for Michigan Alcohol Screening Test, the MAST test carries 22 yes or no questions. It’s said to be effective in diagnosing alcohol problems among adults and adolescents.

If the initial drug screening fails to identify an underlying alcohol problem, there won’t be a need to make you undergo treatment, although your state may still require you to complete an online DUI class or an alcohol education course.

However, if the results indicate that an alcohol problem may be present, you can expect to undergo a more extensive alcohol assessment.

What To Expect From An Alcohol Assessment

To be performed by a mental health professional from a state-certified treatment provider, your alcohol assessment will delve deeper into your personal life with more probing questions.

The two forms commonly used for an alcohol assessment are the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) and the Addiction Severity Index (ASI).

The DIS-IV form is designed to determine if you have existing mental disorders contributing to an alcohol problem. On the other hand, the ASI is made up of more in-depth questions about your personal life. You can expect to be asked about your family, relationships, career, drug and alcohol use, and other questions that will help them establish the reasons for your drinking.

The treatment provider will use your alcohol assessment results to make a recommendation for an intervention and treatment plan, including its length and intensity.

Expected Alcohol Assessment Outcomes

After your alcohol assessment, the treatment provider will recommend that you to undergo an alcohol abuse treatment program, which may include any of the following:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings
  • Counseling sessions
  • Group meetings
  • Dual diagnosis if a co-existing mental disorder is present
  • Detoxification
  • DUI School
  • Inpatient treatment program
  • Outpatient treatment program

Why You Need To Complete Mandatory DUI Treatment

Completing a court-mandated DUI treatment brings a host of benefits for you. You may be able to avoid jail time and some of the other penalties that come with your conviction. You will also be able to regain your license to drive.

Fail to complete the program, and you will be hauled back to court and be made to serve your sentence in its entirety.

DUI treatment is not a walk in the park for the offender. Still, it offers you a way out, and you would do well to make the most of the opportunity given to you.

What To Do When Falsely Accused Of Domestic Violence

Society and the courts view domestic violence as one of the most serious crimes a person can commit. If accused of domestic violence, it is recommended that you speak with a skilled and experienced criminal attorney immediately.

Regardless if you are guilty or otherwise, even mere domestic violence allegations can have an adverse effect on both your life and future. While millions of individuals are abused by their significant others every year, it is sad to note that some people use false claims of emotional and physical abuse so they can:

  • Win a custody battle
  • Get even with a spouse who wants divorce
  • Get their spouses out of their lives
  • Gain possession of the alleged partner’s property

Domestic Violence in a Nutshell

There is a common misconception that domestic violence refers to physical action against a spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend alone. It also does not follow that the parties involved are involved in a romantic relationship to be guilty of a domestic violence offense. 

Case in point: under California law, domestic violence is defined as “Abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.”

Domestic violence can also extend to those living under the same roof or related by marriage or blood. Domestic violence also includes physical action and threats of physical action, regardless of whether they are carried out or not. Domestic violence can also include:

  • Mental and psychological abuse
  • Stalking
  • Cyberbullying
  • Sexual abuse
  • Destruction of personal property
  • Throwing things toward the victim

Whether charged as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on a few factors like the individual’s age, the allegations, and if there are weapons involved. 

False Domestic Violence Accusations: Here’s What You Should Do

When falsely accused of domestic violence, there are certain things you can do to ensure your freedom is secured and your rights are protected. 

Get lawyer representation

As soon as you are falsely accused of domestic violence, your first course of action should be to seek attorney representation. Your lawyer will prove to the court that you are merely a victim of a malicious plot for revenge.

It is also likely that your spouse or partner is angry because you’ve wronged them by having an affair. It will be up to you and your lawyer to prove that there is no truth to the allegations, and the accuser just wanted revenge.

Ensure that you do not breach any restraining orders against you

Make sure you do not breach the terms and conditions of any restraining order filed against you. The accuser can try to put you in a situation where you breach the restraining order so you’ll face additional legal consequences. 

Play it safe by not meeting the accuser or anyone else named in the order while the case is ongoing. It would also be wise to keep a record of their requests to meet so you can show the court that the other party does not see you as a threat.

Stick to your defense

Stick to the truth and don’t change your story or give a lot of contradicting accounts. If you are innocent, stand by your claims and follow the advice of your lawyer at all times. Also, it would be a good idea to show that you are a good parent. 

In some cases, false accusations can result in the loss of your rights to see your kids. Ask your lawyer what you can do to ensure you do not lose your parental rights.

Keep in mind who is in the wrong.

Remember that you are on the right, and your accuser is the one violating the law. Focus on proving that you are innocent. Once you have established your innocence, the other party will be facing perjury charges. 

Conclusion

When falsely accused of domestic violence, ensure you hire a seasoned and competent lawyer. Stick to your defense, focus on proving your innocence, and allow the legal system to do its job.

Can You Expunge A DUI Conviction?

Nothing good ever comes with a DUI conviction.

If you want to boost your chances of acquittal or dismissal, you will need to have a skilled and experienced extreme DUI attorney defending you in court.

Still, a conviction will always remain a possibility, and the pitfalls of being convicted for driving under the influence don’t stop with the sentence a judge hands down.

While jail time, probation, hefty fines, license suspension, and the other penalties that typically come with a DUI conviction can impact your life adversely, it’s the fact that you’ll have a criminal record that will haunt you in the long term.

A criminal record affects your future in more ways than one. You can clean up your act, quit drinking, and stay sober after your DUI conviction, but the mere existence of a criminal record will continue to follow you around for a long time.

Finding employment will be difficult, as employers wouldn’t want to hire people who have been proven in court to be irresponsible and reckless. If you were hoping to get into a good university, your DUI conviction could derail your plans. Maintaining or renewing your driver’s license could also prove to be hard. Your auto insurance premiums will also increase once insurers get wind of your DUI conviction.

If you want to shake this proverbial monkey off your back, you might want to apply for an expungement of your DUI conviction.

Expungement, In A Nutshell

Also known as expunction, expungement is the court-ordered process of “sealing” the legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction, or erasing it in the eyes of the law. In short, it is a way of cleaning up your record.

Once the DUI conviction on your record is expunged, employers, university admissions officials, lenders, landlords, and just about anyone who conducts a criminal background check will no longer see it in official public records.

However, expungement does not really mean complete erasure of your record. Law enforcement and court officials can still access the information since they need it to see you have had prior convictions.

Still, an expungement will be a welcome relief for you, as your DUI conviction will no longer get in the way of living a normal life.

Not All States Do Not Allow DUI Conviction Expungement 

Before anything else, you need to find out if the state where you were convicted of a DUI allows expungements of DUI convictions. After all, some states do not have DUI expungement available.

Among the states that do not allow expungement of a DUI conviction are:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont

The District of Columbia also does not offer DUI conviction expungements.

Determining Your Eligibility

If the state in which you were convicted of a DUI allows expungements, then the next thing you need to do is determine if you are eligible for one.

States may differ in their expungement eligibility requirements. Among the factors that states consider when you’re applying for expungement include the question of whether it’s your first DUI conviction or not, the amount of time since your conviction, and the severity of your DUI charge.

In all likelihood, a judge will consider you ineligible for DUI expungement if:

  • You have multiple DUI convictions.
  • You violated the terms of your probation.
  • You have a pending criminal case.
  • Your DUI conviction was classified as a felony.

The DUI Expungement Process

Once you determine that expungement is allowed in the state where you were convicted, and you are eligible for one, you can proceed to file a petition with the court or fill out an application.

The process may also differ from state to state. Some do it via a public hearing, where you will have the chance to state your reasons and justify your petition for expungement. Other jurisdictions leave the whole thing in the hands of a judge, who will review your petition and other paperwork related to your case before deciding on whether to grant you an expungement or not.

You need to be aware that the DUI expungement process may take time, involves plenty of paperwork, and could be complicated.

Expungement, however, will be all worth that hassle, especially if your DUI conviction was your first one, and you have cleaned up your act enough to ensure that there won’t be a second.

What Factors can Aggravate a DUI Charge?

DUI charges and their potential consequences can be tricky and quite confusing to understand. The severity of the penalties for a DUI conviction largely depends on the incidents and circumstances that surround it.

A number of factors can turn a DUI arrest into aggravated DUI. This is serious because a single aggravated DUI charge can easily lead to higher fines, longer jail time, and a permanent criminal record.

During the hearing for a DUI arrest, the prosecution may cite the following factors to aggravate a DUI charge:

Reckless driving

Proof of reckless driving can enhance the punishment of a DUI charge. If the driver was operating the vehicle with willful disregard to the safety of people or property, he or she may be required to pay additional fines or complete DUI school on top of other penalties.

Furthermore, a defendant who is found driving over the speed limit may also receive excessive speed charges in addition to a DUI. In some states, the sentence could vary depending on fast or over the speed limit you were driving.

Driving with a suspended or revoked license

Nobody should sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without a valid driver’s license. If you are not yet of legal driving age or if you had your driving privileges suspended/revoked for some reason, then you have no business operating a vehicle.

Driving under the influence already shows blatant disregard for traffic laws, and comes with severe penalties. For a DUI defendant caught driving on a suspended or revoked license, the consequences could be more dire.

Previous or multiple DUI convictions

If you have been convicted for DUI in the past, you may face enhanced sentences for your subsequent DUI convictions. For example, if the minimum jail time for a first-time DUI offense is 24 hours, it could increase to 10 days on your second offense and even longer on the third conviction.

States impose harsher punishments to repeat DUI offenders to deter them from driving under the influence again. The courts may also hand down elevated sentences even if the previous convictions occurred in other states.

High blood alcohol concentration

There is a set legal limit for the allowed blood alcohol concentration while driving in the United States. In most states, the limit is at 0.08%, which means that if you are caught driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you have committed a DUI offense.

If your BAC is 0.10% or higher, you may be charged with a high BAC DUI offense. A BAC of more than 0.159% qualifies as the highest BAC DUI offense. These higher-level offenses carry with them more severe penalties such as higher fines and longer jail time, among others.

Minor passengers

Another factor that can aggravate a DUI offense is the presence of minors in the vehicle at the time of the arrest. However, the minor has to be under a specific age range to trigger enhanced penalties for a DUI. In some states, the minor has to be 12 years old or younger, while other states have set the maximum age at 16.

The punishment for a DUI conviction may also increase if the offense takes place within a school zone, regardless of whether there are children on board the vehicle or not.

Causing an injury

If a DUI offender ends up seriously injuring someone, he or she is likely to face enhanced DUI penalties and may be charged with aggravated assault while driving under the influence. The latter is classified as a second-degree felony and carries with it plenty of serious consequences, among them is a maximum prison time of up to ten years.

Should you find yourself facing an aggravated DUI charge, the first and most important step is to consult and hire an experienced DUI attorney. Working with someone who is familiar with the ins and outs of DUI offenses can better navigate the intricacies of the case and help you avoid a slew of consequences.

Things That Give Cops Reasonable Suspicion For DUI

As a general rule, police officers cannot stop motorists on suspicion of driving under the influence just because they feel like it. To be able to do so legally, they must have reasonable suspicion for DUI.

Law enforcement officers look for signs that a motorist is driving impaired. Once they spot any indicator, they’ll have the reasonable suspicion they need to make a DUI stop.

When they start conversations with the driver, police will continue looking for signs that will give them enough reason to suspect that the person is either driving drunk or committing a DUI for drugged driving.

So, what are these things that give police officers reasonable suspicion for DUI?

Speeding

Driving above the speed limit will get the attention of any cop, whether you’re driving drunk or not. Police will give chase, stop you, and issue a ticket, as well as check if you are driving under the influence.

Aggressive Driving

Speeding is already a sign of aggressive driving. Merging in and out of lanes quickly without checking for other vehicles, tailgating, and yelling at other motorists while at full speed are also indicators that the person behind the wheel is driving aggressively.

Driving Slowly

At the other end of the spectrum are people who drive very slowly. Some drivers with alcohol in their systems may resort to driving at extremely low speeds in an effort to avoid getting involved in an accident. Unfortunately for them, police officers are likely to notice cars that drive so slowly that they’re holding up traffic.

Ignoring Traffic Rules

Police will also suspect a driver of DUI when they see a blatant disregard of traffic rules, like running through red lights, ignoring stop signs, making illegal U-turns, or refusing or failing to yield to other vehicles.

Erratic Driving

Drunk drivers typically swerve from time to time, step on the brakes repeatedly, get too close to other vehicles or objects by the roadside, and stop in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. Vigilant cops will likely interpret these as signs that the driver is drunk and will promptly pull the vehicle over.

Physical And Behavioral Signs

When police officers make a DUI stop, they will ask drivers to roll the window down and start interacting with them.

While doing so, law enforcement officers will observe whether the eyes of the driver are watery or bloodshot, the face is flush, and if he or she reeks of alcohol.

Police will also be on the lookout for any slurring in the driver’s speech, as it’s a clear indicator of drunkenness.

If the driver doesn’t appear or smell drunk, but is showing signs of impairment, police will likely check for physical signs of drug use. Excessive sweating, dilated pupils, and a coated tongue can give drug-impaired drivers away. Some may even have drug residue on their nostrils or skin.

The conversations police strike with suspected drunk drivers also yield results. Aside from slurred speech, drunk drivers also tend not to make much sense when talking. It’s also common for them to give delayed responses to queries. There are also cases where drivers are so drunk they readily admit that they are, indeed, drunk, and incriminate themselves in the process.

Once they have confirmed their suspicions, police will then proceed to find probable cause for a DUI arrest by administering breath and field sobriety tests. If they suspect a DUI for drugged driving, they can conduct swab tests that detect traces of substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

Many people end up getting arrested for DUI because of the things listed above. In any case, always seek the help of an experienced DUI attorney should you find yourself facing DUI charges. Your arresting officer may have fulfilled the reasonable suspicion and probable cause requirements to arrest you for DUI, but a skilled DUI lawyer can, among other things, question the legality of your arrest.

With their extensive experience in handling drunk driving cases, DUI attorneys are your best hope of getting the best possible result for your DUI case.

Drug Possession vs. Drug Distribution: Everything You Need to Know

Under state and federal laws, the willful possession of controlled substances is considered a crime. Those who get arrested for drug possession will need the help of first-rate drug lawyers to guide them on how to move forward.

Drug possession is a serious charge that carries heavy penalties like fines and jail time. However, if authorities find evidence there was an intent to sell or distribute the drugs found in someone’s possession, they will be liable to face drug distribution charges.

Unfortunately, consequences for the latter are more severe compared to mere drug possession. Regardless of the charges faced, the help of a seasoned and competent drug lawyer is required.

Drug Possession Vs. Drug Distribution: How is One Different from the Other?

If you are found with illicit substances, you could face any of the following charges, depending on the evidence against you:

  • Possession
  • Trafficking
  • Distribution
  • Manufacturing

Drug Possession

The most common charge among the four is possession, as more people are likely to purchase drugs rather than distribute or sell them. Possession is defined as intentionally and knowingly having the controlled substance without any valid prescription and quantity that’s enough for selling or personal use.

In some states like Ohio, if you are caught in possession of 100-200 grams of marijuana, you will be slapped with a 4th degree misdemeanor. You can pay as much as $250 in fines and can face 30 days in jail.

Any more and you will be charged with a felony, which carries a harsher consequence—$2,500-$15,000 in fines and 6 to 8 years in prison, depending on the amount. Possession of more dangerous substances can automatically result in a felony. The severity of the punishment can vary depending on the quantity and the type of drug.

The law provides for two types of drug possession. One is actual possession, also known as “possession in fact.” In this type of drug possession, the drug is either found on the individual’s person, or the individual was caught having immediate physical contact with the controlled substance.

The other type of drug possession is called constructive possession. It is also sometimes referred to as “possession in law.” When charged with constructive possession, it means the suspect had knowledge, access to, and the ability to control the controlled substances found, even if it was not on their person at the time of the arrest.

One or more can be charged with constructive possession, like in the case of controlled substances found in an apartment where multiple people have keys.

Drug Distribution

Possession with intent to distribute is considered a more serious offense. Drug distribution is defined as a person offering or selling a controlled substance. It is also defined as the preparation, shipping, delivery, transportation, and distribution of an illegal drug when the individual knows it will be sold or resold by someone else.

If the quantity is 20 grams or less, the crime is a misdemeanor. However, when the quantity is 21-200 grams, it will be a felony charge. Those who are convicted of distribution of more than 40,000 grams of marijuana can get a mandatory sentence of 8 years and a penalty of up to $20,000.

Punishment for selling more dangerous drugs often come with harsher penalties. For instance, possession of heroin with intent to sell carries a maximum term of 11 years.

Conclusion

If you are facing drug-related charges, ensure you hire a lawyer with a lot of experience handling similar cases. Drug lawyers often know more about state and federal drug laws. Therefore, they are better equipped to help you out and get you the best possible results for your case.

Zero Tolerance Laws For Underage DUI Offenses

To help curb underage drunk driving, all states have not only introduced stiff penalties for underage DUI, but they have also enacted “zero-tolerance” laws. Said laws apply to drivers under the age of 21. 

What Zero Tolerance Is

In all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, it is illegal for people under 21 to purchase and possess alcohol. And while driving under the influence (0.08 percent or higher BAC) is prohibited for all motorists, all states have zero-tolerance laws for underage DUI offenses.

Under the zero-tolerance laws, drivers under the age of 21 who drive with even the smallest amount of alcohol in their system (0.00 to 0.02 BAC depending on the states) will be slapped with a criminal DUI offense.

In light of such laws, an innocent glass of wine during dinner can subject an underage driver with a DUI charge. While considered harsh, it is crucial to remember that zero-tolerance laws exist to combat the real dangers of underage drinking.

The Importance of Zero Tolerance Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly a third of all deaths of 15- to 20-year-olds are attributed to motor vehicle crashes. At least 35 percent of the fatalities are, unfortunately, alcohol-related.

NHTSA further revealed that the involvement rate for young drivers is almost twice that of drivers over 21. Statistics also show that underage drinking at even low levels presents a higher risk of fatal crashes.

The National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 mandated that states should consider 0.02 percent BAC for drivers under 21 to be driving under the influence to qualify for Federal-Aid Highway Funds.

To comply, states have to set 0.02 percent BAC as “per se offense.” Police officers don’t have to prove intoxication as long as the underage driver is above the limit stated.

What to Do When Facing an Underage DUI Charge

Besides monetary fines, you can face license suspension (for a year or more) and sometimes vehicle impoundment when cited for DUI. It is also likely that you will be required to attend alcohol/drug classes and render community hours. If the offense is severe or a recurring one, it can result in jail time. 

When facing an underage DUI charge, keep in mind the following:

Get in touch with a DUI defense attorney.

While it would be tempting to call your family lawyer, it is in your best interest to pick a lawyer that deals specifically with impaired driving charges. Since a DUI is a high-stress situation, it is crucial to contact a DUI defense lawyer as soon as the potential for charges is evident. Your lawyer can give you the best advice on how to proceed.

Document your night.

When charged with a DUI, it would be beneficial to take notes and document what happened when you were arrested. Some of the things you need to remember when you were pulled over include:

  • Your speed before you were pulled over
  • How the officer interacted with you
  • Whether your Miranda rights were read to you
  • Whether your car was missing any essential parts (i.e., license plates, taillights, etc.)

Be mindful of the things you say.

If suspected of drinking and driving, it is likely that everything you say will be scrutinized. It is also expected that everything you do or say can be held against you in court. While you must be friendly and cooperative, it is also crucial that you check with your attorney when or when not to engage with the officers.

Conclusion

While some have challenged zero-tolerance laws based on their effectiveness, they have helped to significantly minimize the number of fatal crashes involving intoxicated and underage drivers. 

Also, if you are an underage driver, it is essential to always remember that DUI charges will have massive legal and monetary repercussions and can negatively affect your future education and career opportunities.

Alcohol Addiction May Result to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a knowing act of abusive behavior, which may be in the form of physical threats and violence, or emotional, financial, or psychological abuse. It often takes place during an attempt to gain power over a partner or intimate family member in a domestic setting. 

AFV or Assault Family Violence is a serious legal offense, with charges and sentences heavily depending on the nature of the accusation, the weight of the evidence, the degree of the damage, the severity of the situation, and other circumstantial elements. As domestic violence cases can fall anywhere between a misdemeanor to a felony charge, the accused will need a reliable domestic violence attorney to represent them in court and negotiate the terms of their indictment. 

Domestic violence cases come with high and possibly life-changing stakes upon conviction. Anybody who finds themselves at the receiving end of a domestic violence lawsuit will need the help of an experienced lawyer who specializes in playing defense.

Domestic Violence and Alcohol Abuse

Many people correlate domestic violence to alcohol abuse. In fact, in most of the statements of those who have been charged, you can hear the words “drunk” and “alcohol” repeatedly. The thing is, the people who have been exploring the dynamics of domestic abuse assert that there are no substantial scientific and medical grounds to back the notion that alcoholism causes violence. Just as alcoholism is a result of habitual heavy drinking, domestic violence is a socially learned behavior. It is not innate or natural to human beings. 

Studies, however, tell us that elevated levels of alcohol in the body can affect a person’s ability to perceive and interpret words and actions correctly. Heavy drinking can arouse cravings for control and power over another person. It can make the user highly volatile and easily agitated, which may lead to aggression.

People under the influence of alcohol have a higher tendency to lose control of their emotions and behavior.  Thus, they are more likely to shake off their inhibitions and act on their thoughts and urges. If a person already has abusive tendencies, his alcohol-dependency may play a part in triggering domestic violence. The risk further increases when both parties are intoxicated. Victims who are also under the influence may find it hard to gauge the actual danger they are in or make logical responses to the situation.

There has been much debate going on as to whether alcohol is to blame for domestic violence, but to this day, there is still no hard proof to justify that alcohol alone can be the root of such behavior. What most of the researches determined is that the relation of alcohol abuse and domestic violence is an intersection of two distinct social problems.

Yes, plenty of assault cases occurred under the influence of alcohol, but there are also many abusive incidents that happen in its absence. Inversely, countless men and women regularly consume large amounts of alcohol without becoming violent as a result.

On Getting Help

The odds of domestic violence is relatively higher when one or both parties have alcoholic tendencies. A report from the World Health Organization states that around 55% of domestic violence/intimate partner abuse perpetrators consumed alcohol before committing assault. Additionally, victims of domestic violence are also more likely to abuse alcohol.

While you can argue that consuming alcohol is not a direct cause of domestic violence, plenty of evidence suggests that they often go hand in hand. Aggressive tendencies, when mixed with alcohol, multiply the rate and likelihood of dangerous consequences. 

That being said, the best way out of domestic violence and alcohol abuse is to treat both conditions rather than just one. Treatment programs that focus on alcohol addiction, aggression, and trauma can help victims and perpetrators alike free themselves from this vicious cycle of abuse.

When is DUI Considered a Felony?

Have you ever been pulled over for drunk driving or driving under the influence? It can be scary if you have no idea what your state laws are for such an offense. One example of an oft-repeated question is whether a DUI (or DWI – driving while intoxicated) is a misdemeanor or a felony. When does a DUI charge become a felony?

While each state has its statutes for DUI charges, it is common knowledge that drunk driving is a misdemeanor or a traffic violation. However, authorities refer to drunk driving as driving while intoxicated by alcohol while there are different categories for DUI, mostly factors that impede or affect the driver’s motor skills. A DUI defense specialist knows this stuff, so if you’re looking at a DUI charge, you should hire one right away.

If charged with a misdemeanor, you’ll serve jail time, but the sentence and punishment are lighter than that of a felony. On the other hand, getting accused of a felony means you’ll spend time in state prison for over a year. It helps if you have a bit of background information on what constitutes a DUI misdemeanor and when it becomes a felony. Here are the factors used to determine the charge type.

A High Blood Alcohol Level

When authorities pull over a driver suspected of DUI, one thing they do is check on the person’s blood alcohol concentration or BAC. The numbers vary per state, but the standard minimum level is .08%. Once the driver’s BAC reflects a higher level, such as 0.12%, the DUI charge is a felony.  

Injury or Bodily Harm/Vehicular Manslaughter

If a driver caught driving under the influence caused injury or bodily harm, and if the act killed someone, then authorities will file a DUI felony charge against the driver. It is crucial to determine if it was the driver who caused the injury, accident, or death. Most states follow this ruling for vehicular manslaughter. 

Another scenario that can result in a felony conviction is running through a red light and hitting another vehicle where the passengers sustain injuries. 

In cases like this, the driver’s license is usually revoked, suspended, or restricted. 

Previous DUI Convictions

In terms of drivers with previous DUI convictions, states have different justifications and laws. Some states look at convictions that took place within the past ten years, others assign enhanced sentences to prior convictions within the last five years, and several states convict repeat offenders regardless of how long ago the previous arrest happened. 

If a Child is in the Vehicle

Drivers caught driving under the influence and carrying a child or minor under 18 years of age will receive enhanced sentences in most states. Some states have different age cut-offs, but the common regulation does not excuse anyone even if the child in the vehicle is theirs.

Driver Refuses to Take a Breath Test

Most states impose higher penalties on drivers caught driving under the influence but refused to take a breath test. The punishment varies from state-to-state; some revoke the driver’s license while others require offenders to spend time in jail. Generally, however, drivers who get caught are given harsher penalties.

If an arrested driver refuses to take a urine or blood test, he or she can only get enhanced sentencing if authorities present a warrant. 

Driving While License is Suspended, Restricted, or Revoked

Drivers with suspended licenses are not legally allowed to drive. So, when caught driving under the influence while their license is suspended – or even if it’s just restricted or revoked, they are charged with a felony depending on which state they are in.

When There is Property Damage 

A misdemeanor is elevated to greater penalties when the driver under the influence wrecks the vehicle he or she is driving. The stakes are even higher if the driver does not have car insurance, which is a major requirement in most states.   

DUI laws and penalties differ from state-to-state, and some cases require court intervention, so sentences are imposed on a case to case basis. Drivers convicted of a felony DUI will:

  • Go to prison – sentences are different in each state, but the length of time is usually more than a year; some even mete out a term of seven years or more
  • Pay fines – the courts determine the amount
  • Temporarily or permanently lose driving privileges
  • Go on probation – convicted drivers undergo counseling, submit to alcohol and drug tests, stay employed and refrain from committing any criminal offense
  • Lose visitation rights and custody if the child was in the vehicle when the driver was arrested
  • Use a monitoring device – the most common one being a breath alcohol ignition interlock device
  • Lose civil rights – such as the right to vote

There are also cases where the arrested driver is required by the authorities or the courts or state to join an alcohol education or treatment program.

To get more information about DUI misdemeanors and felonies, consult with your lawyer or legal adviser.

Can You Rely On Field Sobriety Tests To Be Accurate?

Police use standard field sobriety tests or SFSTs to determine if a driver is drunk or not. If you’re that driver and you fail such tests, you will likely face arrest for driving under the influence.

The purpose of field sobriety tests is clear. Their reliability, however, is still up in the air. Many even dismiss SFSTs as downright inaccurate.

Types of SFSTs

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends the use of three SFSTs:

1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

The HGN test is designed to detect signs of nystagmus, a vision condition that makes it difficult for a person to control eye movement. There is a link between nystagmus and alcohol intoxication, which can cause one’s eyes to jerk involuntarily.

HGN is usually done by asking drivers to follow with their eyes a small object they’re moving side to side in front of their faces. Nystagmus becomes apparent if the eyes appear to twitch a lot as they follow the object’s motion.

2. Walk And Turn (WAT)

In a walk and turn test, police will ask a driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn on one foot, then go back and take the same number of steps, all in a straight line. Police expect drivers who aren’t drunk to complete the test without a hitch.

3. One-Leg Stand (OLS)

Drivers undergoing the one-leg stand test will have to be able to stand on one leg for approximately 30 seconds. To avoid a DUI arrest, they must do their best not to sway, balance themselves with their arms, hop, or put their other foot down for the test’s duration.

Why SFSTs Are Prone To Inaccuracies

Police may have been doing SFSTs for a long time, but there is still little assurance that they report accurate results all the time.

A walk and turn, for example, may turn out to be difficult to pass even for someone who’s not drunk. The ground they’re doing the test on might be uneven and cause the driver to trip. The lighting conditions might be too dark, making it hard for drivers to see whether they’re going in a straight line.

The physical condition of the driver may also come into play. For all you know, a driver actually experiences nystagmus symptoms all the time, which means he or she has difficulty controlling eye movements, regardless of whether there is alcohol involved.

On the other hand, the one-leg stand may put people with balance problems, stamina issues, or arthritis at risk of facing arrest for DUI. The same goes for people suffering from anxiety disorders, which will likely render them too uneasy to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line and back.

The arresting officers also play a huge role in the outcome of any SFST they make drivers go through. After all, they’re the ones who will assess how well a driver did during the tests. That, by itself, already makes it clear that the whole thing is far from being objective. A person could end up facing DUI charges based on a police officer’s very subjective evaluation. Police officers are also not immune to committing mistakes in administering the FSTs or simply acting out of malice.

No matter how you look at it, SFSTs are not always accurate, and are, therefore, not reliable. If you were arrested on suspicion of DUI for failing a field sobriety test, you could rely on a skilled and experienced DUI attorney to challenge the results of those FSTs and improve your chances of a positive outcome in your drunk driving case.