DWI - Driving While Intoxicated
DWI, which stands for driving while intoxicated, is more commonly referred to as DUI, or driving under the influence. Legally, DWI refers to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled or chemical substance that impairs mental faculties. In order to be guilty of DWI, one's blood alcohol or drug levels must be above the legal limit, which differs by state. Because the legal drinking age in every state is 21, the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration is lower for underage drivers in all 50 states.
Blood alcohol concentration levels refer to the percentage of alcohol that's in the body as compared to the total blood supply. The maximum blood alcohol concentration levels range from .08 in some states to .10 in others. The number can be determined by comparing the number of drinks consumed with a person's weight and the amount of time spent drinking. Heavier people will be able to consume more drinks than lighter people, and men will be able to consume more drinks than women and still have lower blood alcohol concentration levels. Therefore, a person may not feel as though they are intoxicated, but their blood alcohol concentration will prove differently. On the other hand, another person may have three or four drinks and have a blood alcohol concentration level that is below the legal limit.
Once a person is stopped for suspected DWI, a police officer will usually give the driver a series of tests to determine sobriety. The officer can ask the driver to choose the breath, blood or urine test, or all three, to determine their blood alcohol concentration level. While the driver has the option of refusing, the officer usually also performs field sobriety tests to assess the driver's capacity to operate a vehicle. These tests are also voluntary, although a fine may be assessed if the driver refuses to take the tests.
Field sobriety tests for DWI usually consist of several different examinations of the driver's motor skills. The officer may ask the driver to say the alphabet, to walk a straight line, to stand on one foot and touch a finger to the nose, or to follow a pen with only his eyes. While many experts question the scientific merit and fairness of these tests, law enforcement officers still use them in DWI stops to make roadside determinations of a person's intoxication.
Just as maximum blood alcohol concentration levels vary from state to state, penalties for DWI differ nationwide. Fines and sentences depend on driving history, the blood alcohol concentration level, circumstances surrounding the DWI arrest and other factors. If arrested for a DWI, it is wise to contact a lawyer to better explain state laws and legal options.
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