DWI. Driving while intoxicated. What seemed like a harmless night out with a few friends has now turned into a charge that could change your whole life. Your job could be at stake. Your marriage. Your relationship with friends. Any future jobs you might apply for, trying to buy a house, even some educational programs will bar you from admittance because of a DWI. So before doing anything rash, make sure you educate yourself on what exactly it means to have a DWI on your record.
DWI laws vary, sometimes greatly, from state to state, but the basic guidelines are generally the same. Make sure to check your local laws before assuming anything.
What is a DWI?
DWI is not defined exactly the same in every state, but generally speaking it is defined as “driving with a blood alcohol concentration great than .08” or “not having the use of ones physical or mental faculties because of the use of drugs or alcohol”. An average person (and this varies greatly from person to person) processes 1 alcoholic drink every hour. 1 alcoholic drink equals a five ounce glass of wine, 1 ounce of spirits (i.e. 1 Jack Daniels and coke), or a 12 ounce glass of beer.
To blow or not to blow?
Sometimes at the bar, you’ll find business cards from attorneys stating DON’T BLOW, but even that is not guaranteed to help you. Some cities have found ways to get around this, but the first question is why don’t you want to blow? First of all, the devices that cops carry around with them are not actual Breathalyzers, they are PBT’s, also known as a portable breath analyzer. They are notoriously inaccurate, and this is done to help prove up the case against you. This goes for field sobriety testing as well. You want to refuse both at the scene, but once you get to jail, you’ll have to submit to an actual Breathalyzer or blood test. Not doing so could suspend your license for up to a year. As stated before, some states get around this with “mandatory blood warrants”, often-on specific holidays where drinking is typical, so check your states specifics.
What is the severity of a DWI?
DWI can be a felony conviction, though it is typically a misdemeanor. For example, if you cause the death of someone while in the course of driving while intoxicated in the State of Texas, that can be a felony charge of Intoxication Manslaughter. If you have 2 prior DWI convictions in addition to this, you just earned yourself a murder charge. Again, check the specifics for your state, but regardless; you’re treading on dangerous territory when you put yourself in this situation. Whether or not you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, these charges will stay on your record and will appear anytime a background check is done on you.
I was arrested, now what do I do?
If you do find yourself in this situation the first thing you need to do is call an attorney, or have the court appoint one to you if you can’t afford it. Do not, under any circumstances, represent yourself. You want an expert representing you that is knowledgeable of the guidelines, Court Judges, and case law for your particular state. Not to mention that representing yourself brings on a whole slew of judgments, just based on the fact that you show up to court alone.
Remember the information contained within this article is for general guidance on matters of interest only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. If you do get pulled over on and charged with a DWI, you should speak with a lawyer for the most accurate advice pertaining to your specific situation. Also, I know it’s annoying to leave your car at the bar overnight, but the peace of mind that a cab ride will buy you is well worth the price. Not only are you saving your own butt, but you’re also looking out for people around you. Too often people forget that they can hurt other people when they drink and drive. A lot of cities have safe ride programs that will give you a free cab ride if you’re too drunk to drive your car. You can try googling “sober ride” and your city’s name, and keep the number in your cellphone. If you’re going to drink and dial, at least let it be to someone who can help you.
- Man’s own gut makes him drunk (cnn.com)
- Court rules breathalyzer not enough to suspend drivers who blow under .08 (globalnews.ca)