In 2004, According to the National Traffic Safety Administration: Alcohol (NHTSA) – related motor vehicle crashes, kill someone every 31 minutes, and non – fatal injury, someone every two minutes. Also, Drivers involved in fatal crashes, had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8 percent or higher, and nine times more likely, have a prior conviction, for driving impaired (DWI). The highest risk of drivers, related to fatal alcohol vehicle deaths are male drivers, which are almost twice as likely, as female drivers to be intoxicated, with blood alcohol concentration of 0.8 percent or greater. A BAC of 0.8 percent is equal to or greater than: Legal limit in most states. In 2003, twenty-five percent of drivers ages 15 – 20, died in motor vehicle crashes, related to drinking alcohol. Almost, three quarters of those convicted of driving, while impaired are either frequent heavy drinkers (alcohol abusers) or alcoholics (alcohol dependent).
During the past 20 years, fatal alcohol – related crash rates have decreased by 60 percent for drivers: Ages 16 to 17 years, and 55 percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 years. In 2004, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 13,096 motorists died, related to illegal blood – alcohol level of 0.08, compared to 12, 874 deaths in 2003. Annual campaign: “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” recently conducted by 11, 500 law enforcement officials. The crackdown ran through September 5, 2005, with a $13.9 million in advertising. Attributed to the decrease fatality numbers, related to effective minimum legal drinking age laws, and ‘zero tolerance’ laws for drivers: under 21 years of age. Also, increase number of sobriety checkpoints, where law enforcement systematically selects drivers to determine, their level of alcohol impairment. Studies have shown, reduction of DUI incidents, related to increase legislation enforcement, and education. Many legislatures have created special penalties, under state child abuse laws for persons who transport children, while driving drunk. Blood alcohol laws for drivers, established a standard level: 0.8 percent (Starting in 2001: Signed into law by the President of the United States) from 0.10 percent, which reduced – related fatalities, by an average of seven percent, equal, to 500 lives saved annually. States that did not comply with the new standard Blood Alcohol Concentration by October 2003, risk losing federal highway construction funds. Also, through the efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, have contributed to fewer alcoholic drivers on the road.
When a driver is arrested, and charged for driving under the influence, representation of an experienced, ethical and competent DUI attorney is very important to retain. The defendant should ask the following questions, to obtain the best qualified attorney: Does the lawyer handle drinking and driving cases only, does the lawyer have access to technical expert witnesses in police procedures and blood/breath analysis, does the attorney make unrealistic promises which is unethical practice, does the lawyer provide a written contract explaining all fees, did the lawyer attend a reputable law school, lawyer a member of National College of DUI Defense (“The National College of DUI Defense, Incorporated (NCDD) is a professional, non – profit corporation dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to the dissemination of information to the public about DUI Defense Law as specialty area of law practice”.), and or a member National Drunk Driving Defense Task Force (Membership qualifications require skill and fortitude to prevail in defending DUI / drunk driving cases and good standing member of the State Bar). Despite a defendant, believing guilty of a DUI offense, legally the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in Court Room. Experience lawyer will evaluate the arrest circumstance to determine if the police overstepped their bounds, unlawfully stopped, arrested, and legally charged the defendant. A good lawyer will direct the defendant to get counseling for the alcoholic substance abuse, and will try to minimize any penalties.
During the DUI trial, the prosecution has to prove the defendant is guilty, usually focusing on four things: Any irregular driving pattern, physical appearance of the driver which may indicate being intoxicated, field sobriety test performance, and chemical test results. These items are totally be scrutinized by a defense attorney, and attempt to remove from evidence, during the pretrial motion and / or trial. The defense lawyer will cross – exam the arresting officer, and any witnesses, to try weaken or dispute any testimony. During their pretrial, the defense attorney maybe fortune to have all charges dismissed or prosecution may dismiss those charges, before the actual trial begins, in front of a judge and or jury. Finally a defense attorney will conclude, the prosecution failed to prove the burden of proof for a conviction. In some cases, a lawyer may recommend plea-bargain to receive a lesser sentence, possibly no jail or prison time, and save legal fees for the defendant. Also, plea-bargain may help the defendant in future DUI case. For example: If the defendant plea bargains down to reckless driving, there would be no jail time for a second offense, which would be mandatory in some states, for DUI guilty verdict in a second case. If the defendant is found guilty or nolo contendere, the conviction is recorded on the driver’s license for a period of five years, and gets reported, to the National Driver’s License Registry which is accessible to all driving licensing agencies nationwide. Regardless of a guilty or non – guilty verdict in a DUI case, the defendant may have to fight a civil suit. Defendant caused any pain, suffering or death (manslaughter) by the influence of alcohol: A Civil suit pursued by the victim or victim’s family for a monetary amount.
Some states are trying to reduce, the number of repeat-offender drunk drivers, by issuing colored coding licenses, that would be recognized, by law enforcement and store clerks, when purchasing an alcoholic beverage. Law enforcement officers would recognize driver’s license codes, if they have to probable cause, to stop a driver for questioning. This new law may become effective in Denver by 2006. In Larmine County Wyoming, officials are considering setting up a court, exclusively trial drunk driving offenders.