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Frequently Asked Questions

Can a person be guilty of drunk driving if he only had one drink?

A drunk driving crime is usually defined in two ways: (1) a blood alcohol content above the limit set by law, or (2) driving under the influence of alcohol. To find a person guilty under the first definition, a judge or jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the person's blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded a certain amount. In most states the legal limit is .08 percent. Therefore, if it is proved that the person's BAC at the time of the incident was .08 percent or greater, he or she can be convicted of drunk driving, regardless of how much alcohol was actually consumed.

In contrast, the second definition does not refer to any particular BAC, but rather if the driving behavior of the person is impaired by the person's consumption of alcohol, whereby he or she can be found guilty of drunk driving. Instead of presenting evidence of the BAC to a judge or jury, the prosecution seeking a conviction under this definition generally presents testimony about the person's driving and consumption of alcohol. A police officer will often describe the impaired driving that lead to pull the person over and the person's ability (or lack thereof) to perform field sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line. Evidence is also usually presented concerning the person's consumption of alcohol and if the judge or jury then concludes that the prosecution has met the burden of proof, the person will be convicted of drunk driving. A susceptible person may exhibit impaired driving after one drink and therefore be convicted of drunk driving.

Is driving over the speed limit a crime?

Traffic violations can be felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions. Felonies and misdemeanors are crimes, but traffic infractions are usually not thought to be part of the criminal justice system. Driving over the speed limit is usually classified as an infraction in those systems that use the infraction category and as a minor misdemeanor in those systems that do not. If driving over the speed limit is classified as a misdemeanor, it is technically a crime, but often such crimes are excluded from consideration in a person's criminal record. Whether speeding is an infraction or a crime, it is usually punished by a fine and court costs. A common scheme is for the fine to increase in proportion to the amount over the speed limit for which the ticket is written. Most jurisdictions tell the speeder the amount of the fine right on the ticket and often give instructions for pleading guilty and paying the fine by mail. The offender may have to pay a special fee to get a trial on the ticket and may not be entitled to a jury trial.

Traffic violations may be crimes or may be classified as violations and not considered part of the criminal law. Where they are crimes, they are typically considered the lowest level of misdemeanor and are generally only punished by a fine. However, some traffic violations can rise to the level of more serious crimes, such as vehicular homicide or leaving the scene of an accident, and driving under the influence.

What is "blood alcohol level"?

Blood alcohol level (BAC) is a term used to describe the level of alcohol in the bloodstream of a person arrested for drunk driving. It is used in court as evidence of that offense. The most common method of determining BAC is through a breath test, although blood and urine testing is done in some instances. If the level is found to be at or over .10, or .08 in most states, the test results can establish a presumption of impairment.

Can I refuse a Breathalyzer?

Although the answer can vary by state, in many cases, a refusal is itself a criminal violation subject to stiff penalties such as the suspension of driving privileges, the payment of a fine as well as a reinstatement fee. In addition, if the case against you is proven, there may be additional penalties for the refusal, above and beyond those for the drunk driving offense.

Drunk Driving and Auto Insurance

After serving a sentence and paying a fine, a person convicted of drunk driving is eager to return to life as it was before the charges.  In most parts of the U.S., normal living includes school, work, and other activities which require driving, and driving requires automobile insurance.  While the worst parts of your case may seem to be behind you, you then discover another consequence; that is to obtain reasonably priced automobile insurance after a drunk driving conviction.  An experienced defense attorney can explain automobile insurance consequences as a result of a drunk driving conviction.

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