In the United States, those under the age of twenty-one are considered minors when alcohol is involved. Some states have a no tolerance policy in regards to minors and alcohol consumption. West Virginia instead has a blood alcohol content limit of 0.02 percent. After this percentage an individual will be arrested.
Minors who receive driving under the influence charges will most often have their driver’s licenses suspended for a minimum of thirty days and may have to pay a fine. Those who drive commercial vehicles also have a different blood alcohol content limit, but it is higher than the minor limit and stands at 0.04 percent. The legal blood alcohol content for all other Americans is 0.08 percent.
Upon arrest individuals can be prosecuted in two different ways. One of these ways is through per se law. Under per se prosecution the prosecuting attorney will show the court that an individual had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. Per se law states that an individual can be convicted of driving under the influence simply for having a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent while driving.
Another way of prosecuting drunken driving is through impairment charges. A prosecuting attorney will provide evidence to show that an individual was impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Evidence for impairment cases normally includes driving patterns, field sobriety tests, chemical tests, blood alcohol content tests, and physical appearance. However under impairment laws simply because an individual had a blood alcohol content level above the legal limit does not mean that he or she was impaired.
Driving under the influence charges are considered misdemeanor offenses. At times a third driving under the influence offense can advance to a felony offense, while a fourth or subsequent offense is considered a felony offense. A first drunken offense can earn a fine between one hundred and five hundred dollars, incarcerations between one day and six months, driver’s license suspension for six months, and treatment program attendance.
A second offense’s fine will increase to a minimum of one thousand dollars and a maximum of three thousand dollars, while a driver’s license suspension can increase to ten years.
Felony DUI and Penalties
A third driving under the influence offense can earn a fine between three thousand and five thousand dollars, incarceration between one year and three years, driver’s license expulsion, and an ignition interlocking device. A full felony driving under the influence offense can earn up to seven years in prison.
Aggravating circumstances can increase an individual’s sentencing, despite being a first offense. These can include driving with a minor in the motor vehicle, causing harm to another, driving over the speed limit, causing the death of another, and driving with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit.
When an individual refuses to submit to chemical testing he or she will automatically have his or her driver’s license suspended, whether or not he or she is later convicted for drunken driving. A second test refusal can result in one year of driver’s license suspension to driver’s license expulsion.