What You Need to Know About the Legal Matters of DUI

Driving under the influence is a common offense, and some of its statistics are alarming. Studies have shown that around two in three people will find themselves in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime.

In 2014, a daily average of 27 people died due to drunk driving crashes. In the same year, over 1.1 million individuals got arrested in the United States for driving under the influence, and about a third of that number are repeat offenders.

While we can all agree that it’s best to avoid getting behind the wheels after having a drink or two, we all know too that sometimes, we can’t always follow the advice we give.

So, here are other facts about driving under the influence, and maybe next time you can avoid dire situations like getting into a car crash or having a police officer arrest you for going over the legal limit when you’re quite certain you are under the number. And should you find yourself facing a DUI case, it’s best to know the following to ensure the protection of your wellbeing and rights.

Differences between DUI, DWI, and OUI

When we talk about the law prohibiting drunk driving, what usually comes to mind is DUI or driving under the influence. But in many other states, other acronyms like DWI, DUIL, OUI, and OMVI are in use.

Though they may mean differently - driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence of liquor, operating under the influence, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated - they all refer to driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

Some states only use DUI while others implement their laws using the other acronyms. And there are cases when a combination of DUI and DWI are at work to refer to people who drive under the influence of drugs and those who drive while intoxicated with alcohol, respectively.

Other states also use DWI when a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is over the limit, and use DUI if the BAC is still below the ceiling. With that, DWI charges are higher than a DUI, but some states allow a reduction the person charged meets specific conditions.

Drunk driving does not only refer to alcohol consumption

As mentioned earlier, DUIs or DWIs do not only refer to driving under the influence of alcohol. But they may also allude to the arrest and possible conviction of individuals who operate vehicles after substances that may or may not be illegal.

If a person drives a car after taking drugs, be it legal or not, prescription or over-the-counter, that could still be grounds for a DUI case.

To drink and drive isn’t necessarily illegal

In all states, there isn’t a law that prohibits anyone who has had a drink from driving a vehicle. If there was, then most restaurants and bars would shut down because there would be way fewer patrons then. That means the fact that a person simply had a drink or two before driving isn’t enough to make him or her guilty of DUI.

DUI means your vehicle is moving

There are states whose laws require a car to be in motion for a case to qualify as “driving” under the influence. However, not all police officers seem to get this. That is why some people were charged with DUI even though they only fell asleep in their car while in a parking lot or by the side of the highway.

With that in mind, it is so much better just to pull over and sleep in your car to sober up than insist on driving your way home.

Are DUIs misdemeanor or felony?

Often, getting a DUI, DWI, or OUI the first time around will land you charges of misdemeanor. However, some cases are serious enough that even for first-timers they will have to face felony charges.

Situations, like killing or severely injuring at least one person while driving under the influence, will call for a felony case. And if you were caught with a restricted, suspended, or a revoked license, or your BAC is exceptionally high, then you will more than likely have to deal with felony charges as well.

Other cases when a misdemeanor rises to a felony charge involve repeat offenders who are already on their third or fourth DUI or DWI. So even if you haven’t harmed anyone in particular, as long as you have multiple drunk driving cases already, the law will consider your next one a felony.

DUI convictions will not expire

Most states will not expunge your DUI convictions. That means, once you get a DUI conviction, you will have that on your criminal record for as long as you live. So the only way to keep your record clean of any DUI case should you be arrested is to have it dismissed or make sure the court does not find you guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Blowing a 0.08 does not automatically mean you’re guilty

Some laws on DUI make it illegal for anyone to drive on the grounds of material and appreciable impairment. And while it is important to show that the impairment is due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or both, there isn’t a particular level of blood alcohol that ties anyone with a DUI.

Even though the general number of 0.08 can categorize people who have consumed alcohol, it does not automatically show anyone is guilty of DUI. As a matter of fact, laws will require more than just a number to convict individuals as guilty of driving under the influence.

Refusing sobriety tests

Police officers usually ask people to do field sobriety tests to obtain the evidence they can use in court against the charged individuals. Should you find yourself in a situation where the police are asking you to perform a couple of tests, remember that you have the right to refuse just as you have the right to remain silent.

A word to the wise, though, even when you have the right to refuse, most police officers will still use your refusal and might even make it a reason to raise the charges against you.


Your safety and those of the people around you are of utmost importance. That is why it is always best to not go for a drive after drinking. But it is also important to understand the basics and to know your rights should you inevitably face a DUI case. Know that states use DUI, DWI, OUI, DUIL, or OMVI to refer to driving or operating vehicles under the influence of not just alcohol but also drugs, be they illegal or not, or prescription or over-the-counter.

Also, drinking and driving do not automatically mean you’ve committed a crime. The law enforcers will establish that by checking if your vehicle was mobile, your BAC reached 0.08, or you’ve caused harm to yourself and other people.

All these variables are valuable in categorizing your DUI as either misdemeanor or felony. And while you can refuse to take sobriety tests, do not expect the court to expunge your DUI conviction should they later find you guilty.



Vincent G. Spivey works at Livingston Loeffler Law Firm as a legal researcher. His field of interest is intellectual property law and alcohol law. He continues to spend years providing clients with the materials they need to understand and protect their legal rights over creative works as well as when facing cases of driving under the influence. Vincent spends most of his time discussing current issues to help educate other people about their rights.

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