What is Considered Impaired Driving?

Up until very recently, all 50 states and U.S. territories classified driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08% as a crime. In December 2018, Utah lowered the allowable BAC to 0.05%. Some states are much more strict than others and have increased penalties for high BAC ratios of 0.15% or higher. 

Colorado, Illinois, and Washington have additional specifications as to what qualifies as impaired driving. Drivers with 5 nanograms of active THC in their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence.

Types of Impaired Driving Penalties

License Suspension

Suspension of a driver’s license is the most common penalty for a 1st impaired driving offense. The length of a license suspension varies by state, and can further vary in severity in cases of a high BAC (determined at the state’s discretion), a refusal, status as a minor, or DUI. The most common duration of a license suspension is 90 days, but several states have significantly harsher license suspension periods:

  • Georgia (1 year)
  • Florida (1 year for refusal, otherwise 6 months)
  • Arkansas (6 months)
  • Indiana (180 days)
  • Iowa (180 days)
  • Oklahoma (180 days)
  • Utah (120 days)
  • Wisconsin (6-9 months)
  • Michigan (30-180 days)
  • Kentucky (30-120 days)

Limited Driving Privileges During Suspension

Certain states offer limited driving privileges which allow the offender to operate a vehicle during a license suspension. This is sometimes called a hardship license or conditional license. This allows a driver to operate a motor vehicle under certain conditions and usually for occupational, educational, or medical purposes. If available, a request for a conditional license can typically be made 30 days after the initial suspension, and in some states, can be done immediately following the suspension. This request typically involves a fee and participation in some sort of educational program. 

Ignition Interlock Program

More commonly known as a breathalyzer, an ignition interlock device that requires the driver to blow into it to both start and continue to operate the car. It is connected directly to the car’s ignition system and requires the individual to blow into the mouthpiece. If the driver’s BAC is higher than the allowable limit, the car will not start, or if already in motion, will cease to continue operating.

All states have some sort of an ignition interlock program, but there is some variance on when this punishment is applied. There are 31 states where ignition interlocks are either mandatory or highly encouraged for all convicted drunk drivers (includes first-time offenders), 7 states where it’s required for repeat offenders, 8 states where it applies to both high BAC and repeats offenders, and 4 states where ignition interlocks are discretionary.  

License, License Plate, or Vehicular Confiscation

Depending on the state and jurisdiction, anywhere from your license, license plate or registration can be confiscated by law enforcement at the time of the arrest. This is typically reserved for repeat offenders or those with BAC well above the legal limit. Fortunately, these impoundments are not always permanent and may be restored once the initial suspension term has been fulfilled. 

Vehicular confiscation is another consequence of impaired driving. While not as common, this is easily one of the most debilitating punishments. The term of impoundment can vary from 48-hours or up to 1 year. Louisiana has one of the most severe penalties and calls for immediate confiscation of the offender’s vehicle even for first-time offenders. 

Jail Time

Having multiple DUI, DWI, OUI offenses can land you with a felony conviction and result in jail time. However, this punishment isn’t solely reserved for repeat offenders. Certain states have a minimum required jail time, the period of which varies greatly from state to state. Some are only a few days while other states’ jailing period can be up to a year. There are only a handful that have no minimum jail time at all, and even fewer that allow offenders to do community service instead. 

Fines & Fees

The standard fee for an impaired driving conviction is between $500 and $2,000 dollars. Naturally, this fee will be larger depending on the severity of the violation. However, there are many other financial penalties outside of this initial fee that happens as a consequence: 

  • If jail time is required, paying for bail or a bond 
  • Vehicle impoundments are the responsibility of the driver
  • Car insurance rates will likely increase
  • Cost of installing, monitoring services, and removal of an ignition interlock device cost
  • DMV fee for reinstating a license, getting a new one, or getting a new license plate

Impaired Driving is Dangerous for You and Your Wallet

The risks of driving while intoxicated far outweigh the inconvenience of having to call a cab or stay at a friend’s place overnight. It only takes four drinks to get to the legal limit of BAC a 0.08% – you might be getting behind the wheel without even realizing that you’re intoxicated. If you end up having a breathalyzer installed in your car and keep failing it because you constantly have alcohol in your system, give us a call today at 985-222-HELP. We can help you take the first step to put your conviction behind you and get your life back on track. 

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