There are various statutory formulations used to describe the requisite elements of the criminal act of drunk driving. In a number of states, the requisite act consists solely of ”operating.” These laws are known by the acronyms, OWI (driving while intoxicated) or OUI (driving under the influence).
There are certain factors which will trigger additional punishment in a drunk driving case. The factors generally considered include: (1) child endangerment, i.e. a child is in the car while driving under the influence of alcohol; (2) speeding above certain levels (20-30 mph over the limit) while driving under the influence of alcohol; (3) having a blood alcohol concentration or breath alcohol test of .15 percent or greater while driving; (4) refusing to submit to a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine when suspected of driving under the influence; (5) an accident, property damage, or injury arising out of driving under the influence; and, (6) prior convictions for a related drunk driving offense.
There are certain defenses that can be raised by a motorist charged with the offense of drunk driving, either driving while under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). One such defense is the “necessity” defense. This defense, which is sometimes referred to as ”choice of evils,” and ”competing harms” defenses, is presented when the motorist admits that he or she drove while intoxicated, but did so under threatening circumstances. The necessity defense exculpates the motorist for conduct that would otherwise be a crime when the motorist engages in the conduct in order to prevent something worse from occurring.
The penalties imposed by states for operating while intoxicated (OWI) and operating under the influence (OUI) follow the same pattern of penalties imposed by states enforcing laws for driving under the influence (DUI) and/or driving while intoxicated (DWI). In general, all states and the District of Columbia have “per se” laws defining it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a proscribed level of 0.08. percent and above.
When a defendant is convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, the defendant is usually subject to a license revocation or suspension, fines, and possible jail time. In addition, many states provide for penalties that affect the defendant’s vehicle and license plates.