Though DUI and DWI laws vary from state to state, since 2002, all 50 states have made it illegal per se (inherently illegal) to drive with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%.
States also consider "drunk driving" to consist of 2 separate offenses: DUI or DWI and the illegal per se blood alcohol content level. If a blood alcohol test is properly administered, a person can be charged and convicted of both offenses. Many, if not all, states have enacted other laws to deal with DUI as well.
All 50 states have instituted Implied Consent laws, and most individuals don't even realize it. When you accepted a driver's license, you also agreed to submit to chemical tests - breath, blood, or urine - for blood alcohol content when properly requested by law enforcement.
Federal law passed in 1995 requires states to enact a Zero Tolerance regarding blood alcohol content laws for drivers under age 21 or lose Federal-Aid Highway Funds.
Zero Tolerance makes it illegal for any person under the age of 21 to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.02%. Many states have taken that requirement a step further and restrict drivers under 21 to 0.00% or 0.01% blood alcohol content. Depending on the level of alcohol found with a properly administered test, penalties vary from administrative hearings to criminal charges.
Many states have also taken a further step beyond per se law for blood alcohol content. Many have enacted Enhanced Penalty laws for those with blood alcohol contents starting at 0.15% or higher - some states require a higher BAC for Enhanced Penalty. The penalties for higher blood alcohol content are much harsher than the penalties for below Enhanced Penalty levels if convicted.
Given the differing penalties and blood alcohol levels required from state to state, you need a lawyer experienced in DUI law to help you in dealing with the legal complexities of a DUI charge no matter what your age or blood alcohol levels.
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Due to the complexity and severity of DUI laws and penalties most people will need a DUI lawyer.
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