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Understanding DUI Laws Across the Country

Many people think that a DUI charge (driving under the influence) is pretty straightforward. If someone is caught with an amount of alcohol in their blood that is over the legal limit while driving, then boom. Arrest, charge, conviction, penalties. But it’s not always as simple as it may sound.

There are a lot of different factors that may alter what you would expect to be the outcome of a DUI charge. A lot of this has to do with your geographical location. As with many laws, how the authorities will deal with an alleged lawbreaker depends on the state they’re in. Here are some of the things you should be keeping in mind.

driving under the influence

The laws differ from state to state

Your average citizen would probably tell you that the laws on drunk driving are pretty consistent throughout the country. And there are definitely a lot of similarities when it comes to conviction rates based on failed sobriety test results. But there are a lot of subtle differences that could make a big difference in someone’s case.

Whatever state you’re in, you will legally be classed as intoxicated if you have a blood-alcohol content level of .08 or higher. For your average 180-pound males, that’s the equivalent of about four beers. Of course, you should remember here that alcohol can affect different people in different ways! However, there are several other factors that will affect the severity of the DUI that may differ from state to state. Since DUI is considered a criminal charge in most places, you may need the services of a criminal defense attorney or an experienced dwi attorney if you get arrested.

“Normal” DUI and aggravated DUI

A “normal” DUI is what you would probably refer to as a “usual” level of drunkenness, if such a term is appropriate. The blood-alcohol content level for someone with a “normal” DUI will probably have been about .08 or not much more.

An aggravated DUI is different. It refers to a more extreme level of drunkenness, one that would impair you ability to drive even further. An aggravated DUI is based on what we call an enhanced blood-alcohol content level. A per se blood-alcohol content level is what we call the level that results in a normal DUI. While the per se level is .08 across the country, the enhanced level varies.

In Idaho, for example, your blood-alcohol content level has to be at .20 in order to find yourself listed for an aggravated DUI. (That’s roughly 8-12 alcohol drinks in a four-hour period.) In California, however, the level is at a much lower .16. This is one of the reasons you need to know the DUI lawyer who takes care of cases in your specific location.

Underage drinking

You can legally drive a car in this country for several years before you can legally drink. So what happens if someone who can’t legally drink is found to have been drinking before getting behind the wheel?

As you may have guessed, the underage person in question will probably be charged with both a DUI and underage drinking. Someone who is underage will be charged with a DUI even if their blood-alcohol content level is below .08. But, again, the severity all depends on location.

For example, in California, someone who is underage will be charged with a DUI if their level is .02. This is true in most states, in fact. One beer can get you to that level. But in many other states, your blood-alcohol content level doesn’t even have to be measurable. If the officer knows you’ve had even a sip (despite your level being around .00), you can be charged with a DUI. The driver will then need to resolve this matter legally via the states court system, ideally with the assistance of a dui lawyer. States that practice this include Illinois, Minnesota and Oregon.

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