In a nutshell, the criminal offense (misdemeanor DUI or felony DUI) of any impairing substance is how most state drunk driving laws and drugged driving statutes (DUI laws) are structured. To get an exact DUI definition, look to your state DUI laws.

The act of “drinking and driving” is no crime in ANY state. But, a drinking driver can become a DUI driver without having a clue or a sign that this is happening, during his or her consumption of alcoholic beverages. Many potential jurors that we see in current times have bought into a concept of “zero tolerance.” The DUI attorney’s job is to ferret out the hidden agenda that these people have when they get called for jury duty for a drunk driving prosecution.

Impaired Driving Statutes

All states have criminal statutes proscribing impaired driving (drinking and driving to excess), even if police never obtain a BAC level “number” of a specific quantity of alcohol in the person’s system. So, not agreeing to the blood test or breath test will not necessarily mean that you walk away from a drunken driving charge. Your bad driving actions (e.g., causing an accident, weaving across all lanes of traffic, or following too closely), your symptoms or manifestations of being too drunk to drive (e.g., slurred speech, unsteadiness on your feet, incoherent acts or words or both can lead to a DUI arrest. You can lose a DUI trial on the testimony of an officer alone describing drunken behavior, and no breath, blood or urine test will ever be mentioned. Usually, the culprit is failure to exercise your Constitutional Rights, and self-incrimination.

If you voluntarily and stupidly try to do field sobriety tests, a case can easily be made against a person who drove drunk. This type of DUI law is needed to be able to prosecute those who refuse to take a breathalyzer, or a blood test or a urine test at the request of a law enforcement officer who has arrested him or her. Also, a skilled DUI lawyer may be able to have a BAC test number excluded from the Prosecution’s case at trial, leaving only impaired driving, and not DUI per se.

CDL DUI Laws

Along the way, commercial truck drivers operating a big rig were mandated under federal interstate driving laws to have no alcohol on the driver’s breath at all, but that (if tested on a breathalyzer or blood tests) a lower standard of 0.04 grams percent would be applied to CDL drivers who were in their 18 wheelers. A CDL “endorsement” is an overlay of a regular driver’s license. So, this same driver’s license will be used by the commercial trucker when he or she is not in his or her big rig truck or school bus. Additionally, federal law mandates that any passenger van that accommodates 16 or more passengers must be driven by a CDL-licensed driver.

Underage DUI Laws

Furthermore, legislators all pushed for underage drivers to have a zero tolerance once the federal government sought to force states to go to a zero tolerance or lose federal highway funding. Many states now utilize a 0.00 BAC level as being their “zero tolerance” law, but others use 0.01 or 0.02 as the standard, because breath testing devices are not nearly as precise as blood testing instruments, and so state lawmakers permitted some machine variance to be built in for protection of the drinking drivers under age 21. The “official” reason given at government websites and published reports was that “some states use a .02 BAC standard to account for the alcohol that is in some permitted forms of cough syrup.” But just because you used Nyquil containing alcohol will not give ANY driver a “pass” if the BAC level is at or above the applicable per se limit.

So, across America, there are three DUI alcohol per se standards:
ADULT (age 21 and over) – 0.08
UNDERAGE – ZERO TOLERANCE – ranging from 0.00 to 0.02 in various states
COMMERCIAL Truck Driver in a Big Rig vehicle or School Bus – 0.04

Felony DUI

In a nutshell, if your first DUI-DWI arrest occurs, and you have not been declared an habitual offender for bad prior driving acts like attempting to elude, hit and run, or other serious driving offenses (even when no DUI offenses have occurred) and no underage children are in your car, and no accident has occurred that caused a death or bodily injury of any type, you are almost always assured of this being a misdemeanor drunk driving offense.

On the flip side of this coin, if you have had ANY prior DUI-DWI arrests or convictions, fully disclose this to your DUI lawyer. Don’t risk walking into court for your arraignment and being blindsided by a Prosecutor holding documents showing prior convictions in another state or states, or possibly under a different or prior name.