Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is the title of classification used to identify a drunk driving within the overall category known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Operating Under the Influence (OUI) and Operating a Motor Vehicle Intoxicated (OMVI) are the two other titles that fall within the DUI category. While laws specific to DWI do vary from state to state, a driver is generally in violation of DWI laws if they are unable to safely operate their vehicle due to intoxication.
Intoxication is determined through set standards for Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC), Field Sobriety, and Implied Consent Laws. After being stopped by a law enforcement agent for suspected DWI, it is up to the agents discretion on how they will determine whether you are intoxicated enough to classify as DWI. Chemical tests involving the use of a Breathalyzer device allow the law enforcement agent to determine whether or not your BAC is above or below the legal limit for the state you are currently in. As stated before, many factors depend on the state the offense has taken place in. Some states have "per se" laws that allow for a breathalyzer returning results of a BAC at or above the state limit to be enough evidence to determining that you are intoxicated. Nationwide, Zero Tolerance laws have been passed that have a similar standpoint, however these pertain to those under the legal drinking age of 21 if their breathalyzer results are .
02 BAC or higher, and can even be considered anything higher than 0.0 BAC depending on the state. If the "per se" laws do not apply in the specific situation, the law enforcement agent may determine DWI through a field sobriety test.
This often involves the driver to successfully complete a series of tasks that the agent has requested. Examples of tests an agent may request are: walking heel to toe in a straight line, recitation of the alphabet backwards, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test. It is uncommon to find an agent performing just a field sobriety test in a situation involving a suspected DWI. All drivers have essentially agreed to implied consent laws by registering for their driver's license. What this means for a driver involved in a possible DWI suspicion is that they are required to submit to a requested for of chemical testing when the DWI accusations have been levied.
If the driver refuses to submit to chemical testing they will be heavily penalized as refusal carries harsher punishment than failure of the specific test or even amplify the penalties if the DWI conviction occurs. At a minimum, those refusing such tests will have their license suspended for six months to one year. At the time when a Driving While Intoxicated case makes its way to a court of law, the arresting law enforcement agent will provide an eye witness account of your actions while driving before you had been pulled over. This information coupled with the negative results from any of the standards set above will often result in a conviction for DWI. While it is never wise to drunk drive, each state does have their own specific standards that you should be fully aware of before getting behind the wheel of a car if you have even had one drink.
It is your responsibility as a driver to know the laws pertaining to the road, especially when impairment may be involved.
Prepared by the Grant M. Scheiner Law Firm at Houston DWI Lawyer. You can find more information at Houston Texas DWI.