Michael on an climbing expedition in the Andes, Peru. Headed towards the mountain to set up base camp.

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DRINKING AND DRIVING CAN HAVE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES, including arrest, injury, and sometimes death. The first rule is always have a designated driver – its much safer to have a person driving who has not consumed any alcohol or drugs. However, I know that most people will drink, maybe not a lot, and drive. Below is some information required the legalities of driving under the influence.

THERE ARE TWO BASIC DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE LAWS FOR PEOPLE OVER THE AGE OF 21. The first law says that it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08. That means if you have more than 0.08 percent of alcohol in your blood at the time you are driving, you are in violation of the law.

The second law does not operate by measurement of alcohol in your blood. Rather, it states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This law is intentionally ambiguous. This means, that if you have any alcohol or drugs in your system that impair you ability to operate a motor vehicle, you can be arrested. An example of this would be if you blood alcohol content is 0.06, you are not in violation of the first law, but if the police determine this amount of alcohol impairs your ability to drive a vehicle, you will be arrested.

The law is different for people under 21. There is zero tolerance. If you are caught driving with any amount of alcohol or drugs in your blood, you will be arrested and prosecuted.

However, IF YOU ARE OVER 21 YEARS OF AGE AND PULLED OVER, YOU HAVE CERTAIN RIGHTS. First, you have the right not to participate in the field sobriety tests; these are the tests that require you to perform certain coordination tasks, such as counting with your fingers or standing on one foot. You also have the right to refuse a Preliminary Alcohol Screening test; this is the breathalyzer test they will usually give you after you perform a field sobriety test. Understand the police give these tests not to determine whether you are safe to drive or not, but it is to gather evidence that will be used against you in court. If you refuse these test, be sure to do it in a courteous fashion, don’t act arrogant. Simply say “I will not participate in a field sobriety test or preliminary alcohol screening test.”

You can refuse the tests above. However, if you are arrested, you are required to give either a blood, breathe, or urine sample to determine your alcohol content. This is usually done at the police station or other facility.

THE PENALTIES FOR DRIVING UNDER TEH INFLUENCE ARE TWO FOLD. FIRST, you will be prosecuted in the court system for your violation of the law. You can hire a lawyer to help reduce the charges and penalties or maybe even take the case to trial and receive a not guilty verdict. If you are convicted of driving under the influence in court, you will be fined a certain amount of money and are subject to jail time. You will also be required to participate in a “first offender program” which involves alcohol type counseling.

SECOND, the Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver license, unless you notify them of your request for a hearing. You can request a hearing and sometimes win these cases and your license will not be suspended. If they find you are guilty you license will be suspended for 4 months for your first offense and for 1 year on your second offense.

If you refuse to submit to a chemical test as explained above (blood, breathe, or urine test) your license will be suspended for 1 year by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Court will usually consider your refusal a basis for enhancing your penalties or jail time.

If you would like information regarding other criminal matters we handle, please visit our Criminal Law page by following the link.