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Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving

Q: What is "blood alcohol concentration" or "blood alcohol level"?

A: Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the level of alcohol in the bloodstream from drinking alcoholic beverages. BAC readings are used in court as evidence in drunk-driving cases. The most common method of measure is a breath test, although blood and/or urine testing is sometimes done. A result of 0.08 or higher may establish a presumption of intoxication. The details of the 0.08 BAC presumption laws vary among the states, but all 50 states have adopted 0.08 as their official intoxication level, in large part because of a federal threat of otherwise withholding highway funds.

Q: Can I refuse a Breathalyzer® test?

A: Every state has its own version of an implied consent law providing that a driver impliedly consents to alcohol testing just by the act of driving. In many states, a refusal to take a breath test is itself a criminal violation subject to stiff penalties. For example, refusing a breath test might result in automatic driver's-license suspension or revocation. If you are ultimately found guilty of a drunk-driving offense, there may be additional penalties because of the test refusal, such as a stiffer sentence. Your test refusal may also be used as evidence against you in a drunk-driving case.

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More than 1.4 million drivers in the U.S. were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs in 2001. Law enforcement officers nationwide are stepping up their enforcement of the drunk driving laws, largely in response to public outcry and the influence of lobbying groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). If you find yourself caught up in this crackdown, you need a lawyer with experience defending drunk driving cases to look out for your interests and to help you get the best results possible.

The Law Office of Shelley D. Dwyer
Over 15 years of experience providing criminal defense to clients in Northern California and the Bay Area

Northern California criminal defense attorney Shelley D. Dwyer has tried over 150 cases in front of a jury. She is also an aggressive negotiator and a compassionate professional. She can help you or a loved one get help for any criminal defense matter, and she specializes in DUI/DWI defense. When you are ready, find out what she can do for you.

Call 650-249-3131 or contact us for your free initial consultation

Drunk Driving - An Overview

If you have been stopped for, arrested for or charged with drunk driving, contact Law Offices of Shelley D. Dwyer in Redwood City, California, as soon as possible to discuss your options and rights with an attorney who has experience handling drunk-driving cases. Drunk-driving law is complex and the guidance of a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer can make a significant difference in a defendant's experience and in the outcome of his or her case.

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The Use of Ignition Interlock Devices in Drunk-Driving Cases

Most states have regulations that allow or mandate that judges order the installation of interlock devices as a penalty during sentencing in drunk-driving cases. An ignition interlock is a device installed in a car that measures the blood alcohol content of the driver, who must blow into the device before starting the car. If the blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a certain level, the car will not start. Because the laws regarding the use of ignition interlock devices in drunk-driving cases vary from state to state, it is important to speak to an experienced DUI defense attorney in your state.

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The Prosecutor's Role in a Drunk-Driving Case

Prosecution refers to the government's role in the criminal-justice system. When criminal activity is suspected, it is up to the government to investigate, arrest, charge and bring the alleged offender to trial. A prosecutor is a lawyer who works for the government and who is responsible for developing and presenting the government's case against a criminal defendant. Prosecutors may be called county attorneys, city attorneys, district attorneys or states' attorneys. Some jurisdictions may even have experienced police officers act as prosecutors in drunk-driving cases. The prosecutor is the opponent or "adversary" of the criminal defendant and his or her attorney; the two sides go head-to-head against each other in court.

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Reliability of Breath-Test Results in a Drunk-Driving Case

In every state in the U.S., a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is presumed to be legally intoxicated for drunk-driving purposes. Each state has also enacted an implied-consent law. Implied-consent laws provide that every licensed driver within the state is considered to have given his or her consent to chemical testing to determine his or her BAC whenever a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion of intoxication. In most states, refusal to submit to such a test results in license suspension or revocation.

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The Impact of a Drunk-Driving Conviction on Your Auto Insurance

An alcohol-related car accident and subsequent drunk-driving conviction can bring many negative consequences into your life, possibly including jail or prison time, a criminal record, car repair or replacement, restitution, guilt and grief over harm to others, higher insurance premiums, a civil lawsuit, fines, court and administrative fees, community service, alcohol education, substance-abuse treatment, social stigma, restrictions on or revocation of your driver's license, attorneys fees, restrictive probation and others. If you are arrested for or charged with drunk driving, a lawyer can advise you about your legal rights and help you fight the charges.

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Drunk Driving Resource Links

Impaired Driving
Information and resources on drunk driving from a legal and social viewpoint and with a goal of prevention, provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

DUI/DWI Laws
Link to informational chart about the drunk-driving laws of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Injury Prevention and Control: Impaired Driving
Facts, data, publications and other helpful information involving impaired drivers, provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The Century Council
A not-for-profit organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking.

American Council on Alcoholism and Treatment
A national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and those with alcohol dependence about the effects of alcohol, alcoholism, alcohol abuse and options for recovery. Extensive information about drunk driving.

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Law Offices of Shelley D. Dwyer
605 Middlefield Road
Redwood City, CA 94063

Local: 650-367-8500

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