Drunk Driving Statistics and Your Rights

If you are charged with a drunk driving offense you must take it seriously, but you still have rights.

The seriousness of driving under the influence (DUI) is reflected by the severity of the penalties facing those convicted of the offense. Anyone charged with driving while drunk will need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who has experience in handling such cases.

The statistics pertaining to drunk driving are, in a word, sobering. Hundreds of thousands of intoxicated drivers are on the roads and highways of this country every day, although only a few thousand of them will be arrested. Those who are apprehended might actually think of themselves as lucky, especially when considering the fact that drunk driving is involved in nearly one in three fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. In 2012 alone, more than 10,000 lives were lost in traffic crashes in which at least one of the drivers was intoxicated, a toll that works out to some 30 fatalities a day or one every 50 minutes. Nearly 300,000 others suffered varying degrees of injury in DUI traffic wrecks during the same year.

Progress has been made in recent decades in reducing drunk driving crashes and fatalities, with the current death rate only about half of what it was in 1980. This progress has largely come through increased law enforcement, with more patrols and sobriety checks, and the imposition of more severe penalties. Adults convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level that exceeds the prescribed amount can expect to lose their driving privileges for at least a while and to pay a fine, and may even spend time behind bars. Some offenders may be given the alternative of enrollment in an alcohol rehabilitation program before resuming their normal driving activities. In certain cases, ignition interlock devices will be placed on their vehicles to prevent them from getting behind the wheel unless they are sober.

Approximately one-third of those convicted of DUI offenses are repeat offenders, with at least one prior conviction, and it is these individuals who face the toughest penalties. Repeat offenders can lose their licenses for months, years or even permanently, will have to pay hefty fines and may face prolonged incarceration. Aggravating circumstances, such as driving while on probation or committing an additional traffic violation, can further increase the penalties. Those involved in accidents while driving drunk, especially if the crash results in injury or death to others, can be charged with a felony and receive the same treatment as hardened criminals.

Defense attorneys understand the intricacies of the law and the workings of the criminal justice systems in the states where they practice. They also understand the nature of police operations that target drunk drivers and the methods used to detect intoxication, including breathalyzer tests and blood tests. Lawyers may challenge the validity of the test given or even the validity of the stop that led to an arrest, which in either case could lead to the dismissal of the charges. They may also work out a plea arrangement that will result in a reduced penalty. In the event that the case goes to trial, an attorney can be the best advocate in protecting the rights of a defendant throughout the duration of the legal process.

Those charged with DUI offenses should never risk their futures to a justice system that can easily overwhelm them. This is why they need the services or a criminal defense attorney.