By: William C. Head, Atlanta DUI Attorney (Copyright 2016-2017)
Drunk driving is a criminal law offense in Georgia and the other 49 States. The term “drunk” is usually associated with alcohol, but every state has special laws dealing with drugged driving, operating a vehicle with any amount of marijuana in your system (or some established per se marijuana DUI statutory limit, as in Colorado and Washington) as well as making it illegal to huff volatile fumes from paint or glue, in order to get “high.”
While every other nation on Earth has ONE law (one common “standard”) for their nation, as it pertains to a DUI definition, no need existed (when the Constitution was written) to explain “what does DUI mean” or to discuss impaired driving. Automobiles were not yet invented, high speed crashes on horses were not occurring at the hands of drunken settlers and cowboys, and so perception of a need to define DUI existed. The Industrial Revolution changed all of that, between 1870 and 1900.
From the first drunk driving accident, especially those involving serious injury or death (often between a speeding car and a horse and buggy), new stories of the need for drunk driving laws began to circulate. Then, in 1910, since no federal law preempted them doing so, both New Mexico and New York enacted the first DWI-DUI laws. Both of these states used the acronym, “DWI,” and this acronym was the first used, but the favored definition of drunk driving in America is now “DUI” vs “DWI.” This is one of the more interesting drunk driving facts, especially in light of both of the original states maintaining DWI vs DUI for over a century.
The criminal laws in all states have statutes proscribing driving under the influence. Generally, this four-word phrase explains what is DUI: “driving under the influence” of alcohol, drugs or some other substance. Despite different wording and phraseology, A “DUI” can be broadly defined as impaired driving or intoxicated driving as being the act of operating or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while the driver’s mental or physical faculties are negatively affected by ingesting some substance, chemical, or plant material. The DUI meaning is always consistent, except that some state lawmakers have been more liberal (and reasonable) is establishing fair limits for some illegal substances (e.g., marijuana) to allow some room for passive inhalation of smoke.
DUI is a catchall phrase that typically conjures up an image of a droopy-eyed, inattentive and possibly belligerent person. Yet, a person can be arrested for drunk driving, tried, and convicted of drunk driving (‘driving while impaired’) while looking and acting 100% sober. That is because the drunken driving laws across the United States have been expanded to cover any kind of pharmaceutical, chemical, synthetic drug, glue fumes, etc., that has the propensity to render a person less able to operate that vehicle. Therefore, as opposed to other nations, every American jurisdiction gets to define what is a DUI, insofar as “operating,” “driving,” or “being in actual physical control.”
Virtually every state broadly defines driving while having any impairing substance in your body. Since blood circulates through the brain, where human motor functions are controlled, the legislative goal is to NOT put others in danger by having an impaired driver behind the wheel. Modern chemistry, along with foolhardy individuals willing to “test” virtually any concoction through huffing, sniffing, injecting, driving or smoking, can create an infinite number of compounds and products, all of which are covered in the broadly-written laws of most states.
So, “designer drugs” like bath salts, “spice”, “Molly” or and other formulation that will diminish a driver’s mental sharpness or make a person’s reflexes slower, due to the quantity of that product or substance in your system at the time of driving. Another category of “substances” that is now part of most states’ DUI laws is noxious vapors or aerosols that can be inhaled or “huffed” to get high.
Acronyms do not change the gist of “what is DUI?” The DUI definition, as set forth above, is what all states’ laws seek to interdict. The only reason D.U.I. is so common is that a majority of states utilize this acronym in their case law (appeals dealing with driving under the influence litigation). DWI (driving while intoxicated) is the second most commonly used acronym for driving drunk, and the most common acronym could easily have been DWI vs DUI, in America. This list of different acronyms (some states use two or more) are used around the United States:
CO DWAI (lesser offense)
DC DWI and DUI
IN DUI and OWI
MD DUI and DWI
NY DWAI (lesser offense)
OH OMVI or OVI vs DUI
So, the difference between DUI and DWI is mostly semantics. The legal effect of both acronyms is to criminalize drunk driving and DUI-drugs, and to set up criminal laws and driver’s license suspension sanctions to punish and to thereby try to stop impaired driving.
From Simple Drunk Driving Arrests on Little Evidence to Use of an Evidential Breath Alcohol Test
At first, the DUI-DWI laws in America were simple. Police could smell alcohol on the driver, and most drivers (when asked) admitted drinking some alcohol. So, the arrest process for drunk driving by alcohol was very simple and uncomplicated. Since breath alcohol test equipment was not yet invented until the 1930s (Drunkometer and Intoximeter were the initial devices), any forensic test would have been a blood test. Seldom did cops request a warrant, in those days. NO DUI attorneys were around to make legal challenges, since much of our Nation’s Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment law was made in the 1960s and 1970s.
So, most arrests for drunken driving were made on the officer’s “opinion.” Any field sobriety test given at the roadway was based on no studies or science, since no effort to standardize field sobriety testing occurred until the 1970s. Each officer would dream up and use all sorts of unproven roadside tests to support an arrest decision, and criminal defense attorneys seldom challenged the LACK of any science, to back these up.
DUI Defense Lawyers Were Not a Known Practice Area
The legal practice specialty of DUI lawyer or DWI attorney was never considered or contemplated, since drunk driving defense was usually handled by the family attorney or the only practicing lawyer in town. A DUI lawyer would have starved to death from lack of business, since DUI arrests were few and far between. No random DUI checkpoints existed.
Plus, in the early days of these types of arrests, the law enforcement officer would have to see a vehicle being driven, and that vehicle be on a public roadway, versus a vehicle parked on the shoulder of the road with a sleeping driver in that vehicle. Criminal defense lawyers started to pay attention to DWI-DUI arrests, once citizens began to feel that they were being singled out, in an age where many people drank alcohol and drive daily.
Drunk driving accidents increased in number as cars and trucks became more common, and legislators started tweaking existing laws. Now, simply having the ignition key (or fob), and being inside a motor vehicle while drunk is enough to trigger a DUI arrest.
Can You Get a DUI on Private Property?
This question is one of the more interesting and baffling of all drunk driving facts. Our heritage, coming from our England roots, is that land ownership is a paramount right of being a citizen. Yet, when it comes to driving while impaired, these time-honored concepts have fallen to the way side (in some states) when it comes to DUI-DWI laws. The answer to this question is: YES, in some states.
Ultimately, several states, like Georgia, have passed laws that proscribe being “under the influence” ANYWHERE within the state, including on your own private property. So, you could be at your 3000 acre farm in south Georgia, be driving your tractor to plow under the fallow fields while sipping on beer all day, and later be found (by a Department of Natural Resources officer who is patrolling for illegal hunters) passed out and slumped over on your tractor, with the engine off, and be lawfully arrested for impaired driving.
This is true despite having never left your own land, and posing no danger to any other person or vehicle on Earth. So, being on a farm tractor that does not ever reach any public right-of-way or highway can support a Georgia DUI. DUI arrests have been made for allegedly intoxicated operators of golf carts (electric or gas powered), riding lawn mowers, mopeds, fork lifts, bulldozers, a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine inside of a building housing an ice skating rink, and many other “vehicles” including a horse and an electric wheel chair.
Under pressure from the federal government, which controls federal highway funds, state have had to ADD another category, called “aggravated” DUI, in most states. The general theme is that drivers with high BAC levels, from alcohol readings, should be punished more harshly. Some states (Like Georgia) have enacted meaningless changes, to accommodate the federal authorities. A few states, like West Virginia have done what the federal authorities wanted, but not gone overboard on extra punishment. A handful of other states, like Arizona, have enacted mandatory increased jail time, loss of license implications, and draconian punishment for drivers grossly impaired, according to the convicted DUI driver’s BAC level.
Government Anti-DUI Slogans and Marketing Tools Are Often Deceptive
In the 1980s, after MADD became a known, national force, catchy slogans began to be broadcast by NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency under the federal Department of Transportation). Some of the marketing posters are shown below. One recent tagline, [“buzzed driving is Drunk Driving”] and various Governor’s Offices of Highway Safety or state DOT offices [“You Drink-You Drive-You LOSE”] really do not accurately reflect the illegal conduct prohibited by state statutes. For adult drivers, drinking and driving, in EVERY state is NOT the crime. Intoxicated driving, or drugged driving is the crime.
If Facing a DUI, Hire the Best DWI-DUI Lawyer
This review of interesting drunk driving facts and the somewhat troubling evolution of laws from being based on a common sense, safety-related criminal law to an overreaching, overly-broad enactment of illogical and invasive legislation has often been passed to satisfy MADD and other anti-drinking activists. As laws began to become too broad and overreaching, public confidence in law-making, and the perception of DUI laws being written to generate revenue took over, with many accused drivers who were unfamiliar with their legal rights, and suffered the heavy-handed DUI penalties.
If you are facing this type of charge under Georgia DUI law, you need a GREAT Atlanta DUI lawyer. Call William Head, Larry Kohn or Cory Yager, for a DUI lawyer in your drunk driving case. Your initial appointment is FREE, and we will assess your DUI case, your DUI arrest and find a solution for this troubling legal matter. CALL 404-567-5515, 24 hours a day.
Being arrested for Georgia DUI charges is life-altering. If you have too much to lose to have a DUI on your criminal history for life, call us. We are DUI defense lawyers who are proven experts in drunk driving defense. Because we are 24-hour lawyers, all us NOW: 404-567-5515, and get immediate legal help.
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Our attorney ratings are outstanding. We are Georgia criminal defense lawyers who have built our reputations of knowing how to beat a DUI. Law partners William Head, Larry Kohn & Cory Yager offer FREE professional case review, in order to explain the approach we take, by fully investigating and defending your DUI case. A partner will discuss legal fees, possible expert witness costs, the odds of getting a DUI reduced to reckless driving in your case. Plus, we can explain DUI defense strategies that have been successful in other drunk driving cases, similar to your fact pattern.
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Remember, you only have 30 DAYS to file a license suspension appeal or apply for an ignition interlock device, or your driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year! Talk to Bubba Head, Larry Kohn, or Cory Yager now. We are available 24 hours a day, weekends, and all major holidays. (404) 567-5515