Drinking Alcohol and Driving Alcohol is involved in about 40 percent of the traffic collisions in which someone is killed. If you drink alcohol, even a little, your chances of being in a collision are much greater than if you did not drink any alcohol. No one can drink alcohol and drive safely, even if you have been driving for many years. Because drinking alcohol and driving is so dangerous, the penalties are very tough. People who drive after drinking alcohol risk heavy fines, higher insurance rates, loss of license, and even jail sentences.
Why Is Drinking and Driving So Dangerous? Alcohol reduces all of the important skills you need to drive safely. Alcohol goes from your stomach into your blood and to all parts of your body. It reaches your brain in 20 to 40 minutes. Alcohol affects those areas of your brain that control judgment and skill. This is one reason why drinking alcohol is so dangerous; it affects your judgment. In a way, it's like alcohol puts good judgment on hold. You do not know when you have had too much to drink until it is too late. It is a little like a sunburn, by the time you feel it, it is already too late. Alcohol slows your reflexes and reaction time, reduces your ability to see clearly, and makes you less alert. As the amount of alcohol in your body increases, your judgment worsens and your skills decrease. You will have trouble judging distances, speeds, and the movement of other vehicles. You will also have trouble controlling your vehicle.
If You Drink, When Can You Drive? The best advice is if you drink alcohol, do not drive. Even one drink of alcohol can affect your driving. With two or more drinks in your bloodstream you are impaired and could be arrested.A typical alcohol drink is 1 1/2 oz. of 80-proof liquor (one shot glass) straight or with a mixer, 12 oz. of beer (a regular size can, bottle, mug, or glass), or a 5 oz. glass of wine. Specialty drinks can have more alcohol in them and are the same as having several normal drinks.It takes about one hour for your body to get rid of each drink. There is no way to sober up quickly. Coffee, fresh air, exercise, or cold showers will not help. Time is the only thing that will sober you up.There are ways of dealing with social drinking situations. Arrange to go with two or more persons and agree that one of you will not drink alcohol. You can take turns being a “designated driver,” use public transportation, or use a cab.
Alcohol and the Law If you are arrested for drinking and driving, the penalties are severe. You can be arrested for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more. In Washington, if you are under 21, you also can be arrested for a BAC of .02 or more. BAC is the percentage of alcohol in your blood and is usually determined by a breath, blood, or urine test. You can also be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) with BAC levels lower than these if you are driving and impaired due to alcohol or drugs.The Implied Consent Law means that when you operate a motor vehicle, you have agreed to take a breath or blood test to determine the alcohol or drug content of your blood. If a police or traffic officer asks you to take a BAC test, you must do so. You will lose your driver license for at least one year if you refuse to take a BAC test.Some penalties for drinking and driving come just from being arrested :
• If it is your first arrest within seven years and the breath or blood test result shows a BAC of .08 or more (.02 if you are under age 21), your license will be suspended for 90 days. You may be able to get a restricted license. You will only be allowed to operate vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device
• If it is your first arrest and you refuse to take a breath and/or blood test, your license will be revoked for one year
• If you have been arrested more than once within the past seven years, your license will be revoked for two years. If you are under 21 your license will be revoked for one year or until age 21, whichever is longer. In all of these cases, and before the penalties go into effect, you may request a hearing from us. Issuance of some restricted licenses will waive your right to a hearing. Alcohol-related offenses appear on your driving record for life. If you are found guilty in court of driving impaired and it is your first conviction, you may be fined up to $5,000 plus court costs and other penalties. You could also be sentenced from 1 to 365 days in jail and your license could be suspended or revoked for 90 days to one year. Prior convictions of alcohol violations can result in other penalties, including 150 days of home detention and license suspension or revocation of up to four years. Other possible penalties include: • Required proof of insurance (filing an SR22),
• License reapplication, knowledge and skill testing, and a $150 reissue fee,
• Seizure and loss of your vehicle, and
• Use of an ignition interlock device for up to 10 years. An additional 60 days will be required if you have a passenger under 16 at the time of arrest. Under the “Open Container Law” it is a traffic infraction:
• To drink any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle upon a highway
• For a person in a motor vehicle upon a highway to possess any receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage if the container has been opened or a seal broken or the contents partially removed.
• To incorrectly label the original container of an alcoholic beverage or place an alcoholic beverage in a container labeled as containing a nonalcoholic beverage or to be in possession of such a container.
• For the registered owner or driver to keep an open container in a vehicle on a highway, unless it is in an area not normally occupied by the driver or passengers. The container cannot be kept in any accessible storage compartment. There are certain exceptions which apply to the living quarters of motor homes and campers.
Probationary Licenses If you are convicted of driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence or are granted a deferred prosecution, a probationary license will be required for five years. In addition to regular licensing fees, the probationary license cost is $50 at issuance and again at time of renewal.
Deferred Prosecution As of January 1, 1999, a person is eligible for only one deferred prosecution of an alcohol-related offense in a lifetime. When charged with DUI, and if you suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental problems, you may be eligible for a deferred prosecution. If eligible, your DUI conviction is postponed while you complete an approved alcohol/drug or mental health program. You also have to meet certain licensing and court-ordered requirements which92can include use of an ignition interlock, proof of liability insurance, and other requirements. When you have completed your treatment and have met all court ordered requirements, the DUI charges are dismissed.
Other Drugs and Driving Besides alcohol, there are many other drugs that can affect a person's ability to drive safely. These drugs can have effects like those of alcohol, or even worse. This is true of many prescription drugs and even many of the drugs you can buy without a prescription. Drugs taken for headaches, colds, hay fever, or other allergies or those to calm nerves can make a person drowsy and affect their driving ability. Pep pills, “uppers,” and diet pills can make a driver feel more alert for a short time. Later however, they can cause a person to be nervous, dizzy, unable to concentrate, and can affect your vision. Other prescription drugs can affect your reflexes, judgment, vision, and alertness in ways similar to alcohol. If you are arrested or convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, the penalties are the same as for any alcohol violation. If you are driving, check the label before you take a drug for warnings about its effect. If you are not sure it is safe to take the drug and drive, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Many drugs multiply the effects of alcohol or have other side effects. You should read the warnings with your medicine or talk to your pharmacist before you drink and use medicine at the same time. This combination not only affects your ability to be a safe driver but could cause serious health problems, even death. Illegal drugs frequently affect your ability to be a safe driver. For example, studies have shown that people who use marijuana make more mistakes, have more trouble adjusting to glare, and get arrested for traffic violations more than other drivers.
If you have been arrested contact Attorney Russell West at 509-993-0748 for a free consultation and evaluation of your case. Time issues are critical so it is best to call an attorney right away. Russell West will work diligently to obtain the best possible outcome.
Geographical areas covered:
Russell West lives and works in Spokane, but handles cases throughout Eastern Washington. Russell West represents DUI clients in counties of Spokane, Whitman, Adams, Grant, Stevens, Okanogan, Lincoln, Ferry, and Pend Oreille. If you live in a smaller city like Colfax, Pullman, Clarkston, Riztville, Davenport, Chewelah, Cheney, Walla Walla, Newport, Deer Park, Moses Lake, Ephrata, or any other towns in Eastern Washington, you can count on Russell West being available to assist you with your DUI and DOL hearing case.
The laws are the same throughout the state but each county, each court, and each judge have some variance in how they settle cases and inflict sentencing. Rest assured that Russell West will do all possible to make sure you have the best possible outcome to your DUI case. This can be either via a plea bargain deal or going to trial. Call 509-993-0748 for questions to your DUI case or to schedule a free consultation.