When you were taking classes to get your driver’s license, you may have had to sit through hours of lectures and videos about the dangers of drunk driving. This part of the driving school curriculum is relatively new and just one example of the efforts from special interest groups and lawmakers who are striving to reduce the number of drunk driving tragedies.
While this is a noble effort, if police arrest you for drunk driving, you still have rights. Even a first offense DUI can carry stiff penalties, and you would benefit from a thorough understanding of your rights and guidance in choosing the most appropriate course of action to protect your future.
How laws have changed
In just the past generation, drivers have seen the passage of hundreds of drunk driving laws from Washington and other state lawmakers and at the federal level. Many of these changes occurred following a tragic event that spurred family members and supporters to push for stricter laws and consequences for those who drink and drive. Some notable changes in laws include the following:
- Washington and other states adopted .08 as the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers, dropped from the previously accepted .10, but some states have dropped the BAC even lower.
- Twenty-one is the legal drinking age in every state.
- You face harsh penalties even for a first offense, including increasingly higher fines and longer license suspension periods.
- Many states require you to complete certain milestones before reinstating your license, such as alcohol counseling or driver education courses at your own expense.
- Drivers under 21 who have even a trace amount of alcohol in their systems face harsh consequences.
- Most states will revoke your license if you refuse to submit to a breath test at the time of your arrest.
- Many states have added mandatory jail time to their DUI sentencing, especially for repeat offenders.
- More states are including ignition interlock requirements after all DUI convictions.
You may agree that many of the laws passed in the last generation have saved lives. Nevertheless, it is common for overzealous police officers and prosecutors to pursue charges based on evidence that is faulty or obtained at the violation of your rights. There is no longer such a thing as a simple DUI. Any allegations related to drunk driving can result in life-altering consequences, and you would be wise not to deal with these charges without legal assistance.