Is My Life Ruined? Consequences of a Drunk Driving Conviction
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is no minor traffic violation; the potentially fatal consequences of such an action lead most states to treat the crime very seriously. Unfortunately for those facing these charges, a conviction could literally ruin their lives.
From having one's driving privileges revoked to having difficulty finding a job in the future, the consequences can be brutal. This is why anyone charged with the crime should understand the law and all of their rights.
Drunk Driving Laws
Drunk driving laws in America can be very complex, and this complexity is compounded by the lack of nationwide laws related to the crime. One thing that does hold true for all 50 states, however, is that a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) cannot be over .08 percent when driving. For commercial and underage drivers, this percentage is even lower.
In reality, it's enough to look at just one state's DWI laws to recognize how complex they can really be. In North Carolina, for instance, a person charged with a DWI can face five different levels of charges. The least severe is a Level 5 charge and these charges can go all the way up to Level 1.
The judge will actually make the decision on which level you're charged at by weighing aggravating factors (such as having a child in the vehicle), against existing mitigating factors.
North Carolina has some of the most complex DWI laws in the country, so a DWI defense in North Carolina must be built around these particular state laws by an attorney experienced with North Carolina law. But statutes in other states aren't much better.
Drunk Driving Penalties
Since states can choose their own penalties related to driving while intoxicated charges, the penalties related to such a crime can vary wildly. A license suspension is common in all states, and in many instances, this suspension is instantaneous upon a DWI arrest.
In addition, most individuals charged with the crime will have to spend at least one day in jail. Once again, however, this can vary greatly. A person convicted of a Level 1 DWI in North Carolina, for instance, can face 24 months behind bars.
It should be noted that serious fines, community service, DWI school and installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) may also be mandatory after a conviction. Unfortunately, a conviction of this magnitude can also cause a person their present and future job opportunities through the loss of their license and the existence of a criminal record. These repercussions can literally follow a person for the rest of their life.
Drunk Driving Defenses
One of the most important things to note related to DWI charges, however, is that they don't necessarily have to ruin a person's life. There are various DWI defenses, and having an experienced DWI attorney at one's side can make these defenses much easier to prove. Breathalyzer tests, for instance, are not a perfect science. In fact, hundreds of Pennsylvanian DWI cases were recently called into question when it was discovered that a few breath testing devices hadn't been properly calibrated.
In addition, police have to follow very strict guidelines when affecting a DWI arrest. This is because of the near unconstitutional violation of a person's right against self-incrimination. If officers don't follow state procedures to a tee, all of the evidence they collect, including field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, can be thrown out.
Being charged with drunk driving is definitely a scary event, but a DWI charge does not automatically equate a conviction. There are several defenses against these charges, and this is why many police forces have specialized DWI task forces. Without them, they'd have to train all of their officers in handling the complexities of a driving while intoxicated arrest.
There's one good aspect of being stopped for suspected drunk driving. Most people learn their lesson after one DWI charge, so it's often pointless to ruin their lives over a simple mistake that they're unlikely to make again.
Richard Freeland is a freelance writer concerned with the number of people whose lives are impacted every day due to someone driving while intoxicated.