The drinking and driving season is upon us. Throughout the cold-weather months, from holiday season office parties through St. Patrick's Day in March, there are ample opportunities for even cautious drivers to let their guard down when it comes drinking and driving.
Many cities and towns are gearing up for the holidays by setting up DUI checkpoints. At these checkpoints, police officers will typically check drivers for signs of intoxication. Despite some legal challenges, DUI checkpoints are generally considered legal if they're conducted in a reasonable way. This means that police should develop some sort of neutral criteria (for example, every third car) in determining which drivers they stop.
If you do get busted for a holiday DUI, consider it a gift that keeps on giving as far as punishments are concerned. With a DUI conviction, you can expect to pay fines and penalties and even possibly spend a few nights in jail. You may also have to pay thousands in attorney's fees. In addition, if you have to install an ignition interlock device in your car, you should expect to pay even more for installation and other fees related to the device.
Across the United States, the law is clear. It's a crime for a driver to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including prescribed and over-the-counter medications.
The use of alcohol and other drugs also extends beyond the roads to the slopes. In Colorado, for example, under the Ski Safety Act of 1979, it is "unlawful to ride a lift or to use any ski slope or trail when your ability to do so is impaired by the consumption of alcohol or any drug."
According to FindLaw.com, the nation's leading source of free online legal information, all states measure intoxication based on a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) above a set limit (now .08 in all states). This means if you have BAC at or above .08, you are intoxicated in the eyes of the law, and no additional proof of driving impairment is necessary.
The best way to avoid a wintertime DUI arrest is, of course, to not drive drunk in the first place. If you think you will have a drink or two, it's always wise to designate a sober driver ahead of time or call a taxi. Be safe out there!
-- Michelle Croteau, Director, Marketing Communications
with Adam Ramirez, FindLaw Audience Team