What Are DUI Charges?

Melissa Barrett

Driving under the influence (DUI) is basically operating a vehicle while affected by a substance that could alter one’s ability to safely operate that vehicle. DUI charges are most often pressed against individuals driving a car while affected by alcohol. Most governments have statutes regarding driving under the influence. The definition of what constitutes DUI and the penalties for the behavior, however, can vary widely.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol constitutes a DUI.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol constitutes a DUI.

Impairment under DUI laws is most often determined by blood alcohol content (BAC). BAC is the amount of alcohol by weight in a given amount of blood. The amount of alcohol, the type of alcohol, body weight, metabolism, and the speed at which the alcohol was ingested all influence BAC.

The legal limits for DUI or DWI vary by state.
The legal limits for DUI or DWI vary by state.

Certain impairments are common at specific levels of blood alcohol content. Many governments use these standard impairments as the basis for determining DUI charges. The United States has one of the highest legal BAC levels with 0.08. Most other countries range between 0.02 and 0.08. Some countries, including Saudi Arabia, Armenia, and Cyprus, have a zero tolerance policy for blood alcohol content levels.

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Subsequent DUI arrests can result in jail time, probation and stiff fines.
Subsequent DUI arrests can result in jail time, probation and stiff fines.

In many countries, legal BAC levels can vary with the type of driver. Turkey and Ireland are among many countries that have lower BAC restrictions for commercial drivers. Several countries, including Austria and Germany, list much lower BAC limitations for drivers who have had their licenses for under two years.

Individuals convicted on DUI charges can face a variety of punishments. Most drivers found guilty of driving under the influence can expect to have their driving privileges suspended for a period of time. In areas with stricter DUI statutes, a driver can lose his or her license permanently. Repeat offenders are often more likely to have their licenses permanently revoked.

Conviction on DUI charges is often very expensive. In addition to potentially stiff fines, most defendants found guilty of DUI can expect to pay court costs and attorney’s fees. It is not uncommon for a repeat offender’s vehicle to be seized, sometimes permanently. In instances where the offender is allowed to retrieve the vehicle, impound fees and storage fees are often charged. Counseling and alcohol abuse assessment are also frequently ordered by the court, often at the driver’s expense.

Imprisonment for driving under the influence is common in many countries. Generally, the chance of incarceration increases with each repeat offense, but there are some exceptions. In Germany, a driver who is found guilty of DUI of 0.11 or higher is considered to have committed a criminal offense. That driver would be facing up to five years in jail, regardless of previous DUI charges.

Certain conditions can affect the seriousness of DUI charges. Often, parents convicted of driving under the influence with their children in the car are deemed unfit. These parents risk losing their children. DUI charges involving death or injury are often punishable by long prison terms. In some countries, drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents can face the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia does not allow alcohol and has a zero tolerance law.
Saudi Arabia does not allow alcohol and has a zero tolerance law.

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