We’ve all used the term “drunk driving” to refer to someone being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, but in fact, you don’t have to be wasted or driving to be charged. The official term varies from state to state. It may be referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Operating Under the Influence (OUI).
It’s not only illicit drugs that can get you in trouble. Even if you’re just the passenger, you can be arrested for having drugs or alcohol in the car. Open container laws exist in most states and generally, prohibit drinking or possessing alcohol that has been partially imbibed or has a broken seal. Open container laws apply to marijuana too, even in states where it’s legal to use. In most cases, open containers can lawfully be kept in the trunk of a vehicle or in an area not readily accessible to the driver or passengers. Other exceptions include storing open containers in the living areas of a motor home, or in a hired vehicle such as a limousine or party bus. Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia are the only states with no laws regarding passengers and open containers on the books.
The basic definition of DUI is driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One question that you might not have considered is “What is a vehicle?” In addition to the obvious cars and trucks, some states classify nearly any moving object as a vehicle. In Washington, the definition is a device by which any person or property is or may be transported upon a public highway, which includes things like bicycles and golf carts. In some places, you can even be arrested for riding a horse while intoxicated. Keep in mind that even if your state doesn’t have such a broad interpretation of vehicles, you still may be arrested for public drunkenness or reckless driving.
Sentencing for DUI can vary among states and even counties. Using West Virginia as an example, you can spend up to six months in jail and pay a fine of $100 to $1,000 for a first offense. For a third offense, you may spend up to three years in jail and be fined $3,000 to $5,000. Your license may also be suspended for up to a year. There is also an implied consent law, meaning that if you refuse to take a test for any drugs or alcohol, you may be subject to a one-year license revocation.
Driving while impaired isn’t just dangerous to you, but to anyone else on the road. If you are in an accident while intoxicated, you may be considered at fault even if you don’t believe you caused it. Any injuries sustained by another party not only means stiffer criminal penalties but can leave you open to civil claims that might reach into millions of dollars.
If you need help quitting drug or alcohol abuse, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 and let us get you on the road to recovery.