By: William C. Head, Criminal Defense Attorney Atlanta and DUI Attorney Atlanta GA

Top-Rated DUI Lawyer Georgia Bubba Head

DUI Meaning: The Crime of Drunk Driving and Drugged Driving in America

In seeking to define DUI in America, we can get a ballpark definition of DUI from Merriam-Webster. Because all states’ DUI laws vary in wording and scope, a garden-variety dictionary only scratches the surface. The author has expanded the “book” definition of DUI to this:

The most precise “DUI meaning” covers the criminal act of a person operating, driving, or being “in actual physical control” of a vehicle while that person is controlling the vehicle, and is affected by either alcohol, drugs, or some other substance. While not universal, most states define DUI for MOTOR vehicles, but others broadly proscribe a person being on ANY vehicle, including a bicycle, wheelchair, horse, or scooter.

You must begin your effort to isolate a meaning for DUI, being aware that roughly a dozen different acronyms for driving drunk or stoned exist. The ubiquitous acronym “DUI” is the most common acronym in the USA to describe the century-old criminal offense of impaired driving.

From around 1990 until 2007, every year brought news of over 1 million Americans being arrested for driving drunk or stoned. By far, the crash risk for drunken driving from alcohol surpasses that of the drug impaired cases. Plus, alcohol-related arrests typically have symptoms like slurred speech, unsteadiness while walking, and other manifestations that a police officer can observe and capture on videotape. Plus, since 1984, law enforcement officers have had a set of field sobriety tests that have survived most legal challenges for scientific reliability.

Every state, however, has created tough legislation against driving stoned, drunk, or driving with a higher BAC level than state law allows. Starting in 1910, after a sharp increase in alcohol-related crashes, New Mexico and New York became the first two states in the United States to enact DUI-DWI alcohol laws. Later, states saw that alcohol-impaired driving and drugged driving were problems.

Unique in the WORLD for not having a national impaired driving standard, each state’s legislative body has passed and revised its drinking and driving and drugged driving laws dozens of times. Thus, no singular DUI acronym or DUI meaning exists.

What Does DUI Stand For?

The “D” stands for driving, but many states use “operating,” and most states have written their laws to eliminate the need to see a person driving or operating a vehicle. The “U” stands for the word “under.” The “I” most commonly represents “influence,” but as will be stated below, virtually every state has enacted secondary statutes or subsections that criminalize being above the legal limit, commonly called DUI per se statutes.

Wikipedia offers these words to define driving under the influence (DUI):

Driving Under the Influence Definition in GA

Why Your State’s DUI Definition Is Similar to All Other States

When the nation’s first DUI laws were enacted in 1910, alcohol was the only substance being targeted. Today, criminal violations for driving while intoxicated, driving impaired, or under the influence covers all intoxicating substances whether they are glue fumes, aerosol propellant, or even prescribed drugs. States’ criminal codes prohibit anyone from being behind the wheel after operating motor vehicles while intoxicated or impaired by marijuana, ethanol (drinking alcohol), or any other drug, including over-the-counter substances like caffeine pills, Benadryl, or sleep meds.

Legal Alcohol Limit for Drunk Driving in Georgia

Your state’s DUI definition will closely mirror driving while impaired laws in sister states. These similarities exist because the federal government began GUIDING states on uniform laws that should be put in place, which boosted license suspensions, revocations, and criminal punishments. This change started in the late 1940s, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a part of the Department of Transportation. Today, Uncle Sam has wised up, and uses a carrot-and-stick approach: If you don’t change your laws, Washington D.C. won’t let your state have federal highway money.

GA Field Sobriety Tests

The purpose of such statutes is to criminalize, regulate, punish, and (hopefully) DETER citizens from risking putting a DUI conviction on their criminal record. The various Governor’s Offices of Highway Safety use your public money to erect signage on highways, broadcast radio ads, and even buy television time warning citizens NOT to risk being D.U.I.

The central theme is to criminalize behavior that puts others at risk, when a driver is less safe to drive, due to ANY substance or substances. If you chugged 10 Cuban coffees in a row and were then driving erratically due to the stimulant “high,” and a blood test showed excessive caffeine in your bloodstream, you CAN be convicted of DWI-DUI-OUI in most states.

The Definition of DUI Is Not Changed by the Acronym Used In Your State

Over ten different abbreviations for impaired driving or driving under the influence exist across our 50 states and Washington, D.C. Georgia’s abbreviation is DUI, but neighboring North Carolina uses DWI. The Badger State, Wisconsin, follows Indiana in calling its law operating while intoxicated, or OWI. The unique DUII acronym in Oregon adds the second “I” for “intoxicants.” Wyoming uses DWUI, and no other state has that abbreviation.

DUI Alcohol in Georgia

Expect to hear the use of “OUI” in RI, MA, and ME, but Ohio opts to call its statute OVI. To determine which abbreviation to use, refer to each state’s common usage of a state-specific acronym for drunk driving or drugged driving. Washington D.C. has separate statutes for both DUI and DWI.

Like other states when it comes to intoxicated motorists or impaired drivers, the Georgia DUI laws criminalize driving intoxicated, driving while stoned on drugs, driving while having any level of psychoactive marijuana metabolites (THC), or when affected by noxious vapors from gasoline, glue, aerosols, volatiles (like toluene), or similar inhalants, plus anything else. Georgia law (in recent years) has been modified to cover synthetic substances (like “Molly”) or all types of chemicals or plant material that impair the driver’s CNS (central nervous system), so as to make the person a “less safe” DUI driver.

Best Drunk Driving Law Firms Atlanta

Two Types of DUI-Alcohol Convictions Are Possible in GA

DUI Per Se meaning – Being over the alcohol legal limit for your age and vehicle type, regardless of symptoms or signs of impairment. Underage drivers in Georgia are held to a 0.02 grams percent BAC limit, the driver of a commercial motor vehicle cannot exceed 0.04 grams percent, and all others have a 0.08 grams percent blood alcohol content limit. Other than Utah, which lowered its “adult” permissible blood alcohol concentration to 0.05 grams percent in 2018, all other states still use 0.08 grams percent as the BAC level for drivers age 21 and over, who are not operating a CMV (commercial truck).

DUI Less Safe meaning – Officers can arrest any driver (regardless of being able to obtain a forensic test after arrest), if he or she can testify to or otherwise show (e.g., via body camera) observations of diminished motor skills and cognitive function.

Jail Time for First DUI Offense GA

Don’t Hire an Amateur to Try to Win a Case That a DUI Expert Needs to Handle

There are three things you need to know before calling our law firm’s number:

  1. The DUI case evaluation and FREE lawyer consultation near me applies to all Georgia cases;
  2. The FREE PDF copy of Mr. Head’s 430-page DUI book will guide and educate you on DUI terminology and court-related terms;
  3. Rest assured that NO OTHER Georgia law firm has better credentials than our three-partner, award-winning Atlanta DUI lawyers.

DIAL 404-567-5515, and tell us HOW and WHEN we can talk, in detail. You will be glad you did.

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Helpful Links About Our Award-Winning Georgia DUI Attorneys

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Key DUI Laws in Georgia That May Be of Interest

Main Statute: O.C.G.A. 40-6-391

Georgia DUI Schools for Risk Reduction DUI Classes

Alcohol and Drug Substance Abuse Counselor Link

DUI Testing Statute: O.C.G.A. 40-6-392

Is a DUI a Felony?

Felony Vehicular Homicide by DUI or Reckless Driving: O.C.G.A. 40-3-394

Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle: O.C.G.A. 40-3-394

Links About Administrative License Suspension in Georgia

Implied Consent Statute: O.C.G.A. 40-5-55

Implied Consent Notice: O.C.G.A. 40-5-67.1 Relating to Driver’s License Suspension or Revocation

New Ignition Interlock Option for Drivers Who Refused to Take the Post-Arrest Implied Consent Test

Ignition Interlock Devices, Georgia DDS Approved Providers

Best Attorneys for Driving Under the Influence in Georgia

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