DWI Information

For many people, the first step after a DWI charge is to learn as much as possible about what DWI is and how it might affect their life. Here's a look at some basic DWI information that might help you navigate the world of DWI charges.

Blood Alcohol Content and DWI

Blood alcohol content (BAC) refers to a measurement of the percentage of the weight of alcohol (by volume) in a person's bloodstream. BAC measurements are commonly used in DWI cases as evidence. That's because BAC laws work like this:

  • In all 50 states, driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher is illegal, regardless of a driver's level of impairment.
  • In some states, driving with a BAC above a certain limit (often .15 percent) is considered a more serious offense and comes with steeper penalties.
  • For some groups of drivers (especially those too young to legally drink alcohol), the legal BAC limit is much lower (often .02 percent).
  • The BAC limit is called a "statutory limit" because a driver can be convicted of DWI at that limit, whether or not his driving is noticeably impaired.

But there's more to the BAC story. Before performing a test of blood alcohol content, many police officers perform field sobriety tests, which test drivers' reflexes and reaction capabilities. If a driver fails a field sobriety test, she can be charged with DWI even if her BAC is below the legal limit (BAC measures alcohol, but a DWI charge can be issued for those under the influence of drugs or even legal medications).

Another important fact to note about blood alcohol content is the way it's measured.

  • Most commonly, police officers measure BAC with a breath test (using a Breathalyzer machine).
  • The most accurate way to measure BAC is with a blood test. A breath test technically measures breath alcohol content and converts it to blood content using a specific formula.
  • In some states, drivers are allowed to refuse a Breathalyzer, but such refusal often comes with legal consequences.

Possible Penalties for DWI Conviction

The penalties for being convicted of DWI vary by state, but most follow a general pattern. Common DWI penalties include:

  • Suspension of your driver's license;
  • Seizure of your vehicle;
  • Jail time;
  • Fees and fines;
  • Suspension of license plates;
  • Mandatory DWI education classes or counseling;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock system on your car;
  • Mandatory high-risk car insurance;
  • Probation;
  • Community service; and
  • Liability for any injuries or damage you caused.

Fines associated with DWI convictions can be significant, but many of the other DWI penalties can also be costly. High risk insurance, DWI education classes or counseling, damage liability and ignition interlock systems can all come with hefty price tags.

A DWI lawyer can help you understand more about the potential effects a DWI conviction might have on your life and even help you prepare a defense strategy to minimize the chances of being convicted.

DWI Sentencing Considerations

One question many people charged with DWI have is how their sentence will be determined if they are convicted. It's a good question to ask and, as a DUI lawyer can explain in more detail, a number of factors contribute to what sentence a court hands down.

These factors include:

  • State guidelines and limits: Each state has specific laws that outline legal penalties for DWI convictions. These laws often come with minimum and maximum sentence limits, as well as guidelines for how to judge.
  • Criminal and DWI record: Those with multiple DWI convictions on their record are often eligible for more severe penalties than first-time offenders.
  • DWI-related injuries: States provide specific guidelines for cases where the DWI led to an injury or death.
  • Personal attitude toward DWI: Those who show regret and remorse for their crimes may be more likely to receive a lesser sentence than those who appear unfazed by their convictions.

Your lawyer can offer more information about what sentences you might face from a DWI conviction and could help you work with the court to minimize the penalties if you are convicted.

The Role of a DWI Lawyer

DWI laws are often complex and they can have a significant, long-term impact on the lives of those charged with and convicted of DWI. Working with a DWI lawyer in your state may help you be better equipped to navigate the legal system as you move forward from your DWI charges.

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