Driving While Intoxicated-DUI vs DWI Law-Impaired Driving-TX
By: 35 year Veteran DWI Lawyer
Drinking and driving in America is a daily event for millions. This article addresses frequently asked questions about the relatively new crime of “driving under the influence” (DWI) or "driving while intoxicated," (DWI) as it is described in a minority of USA jurisdictions.
Most crimes in America have roots dating back thousands of years but “horseless carriages” burst upon the scene in the late 1800s and became a major symbol of the Industrial Revolution. Never in history had criminal laws been enacted to regulate the person who operates a vehicle, since horses and buggies did not move very fast.
A central theme for all statutes addressing impaired drivers is “Was it safe for the person to drive?” The best DWI attorneys near me know that isolating on how to keep the most damaging evidence from being admitted in court is the best trial strategy. At the peak of drunken driving in America about 20 years ago, the number of DWI convictions approached 1.5 million annually.
The Legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Adult Standard has Changed Significantly.
While every other nation on Earth has ONE law (one common “standard”) for their nation, the United States has no federal DWI law. Since the current "national" BAC limit of 0.08 or higher (grams %) is the adult "over the limit" standard in all states except Utah, most people understand that current number.
In the late 1940s, the most common state BAC for drivers who are age 21 and over was 0.15 grams percent. Within 20 years, most states realized that this BAC level was far too high and dropped their legal limit to 0.10. In 1970, a new federal DOT agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began addressing traffic safety on a national level, and especially for DUI vs DWI cases against those who drink alcohol to excess.
By the early 1990s, many states were changing their laws to go to 0.08 gr %. Today, by using federal highway funds as its “leverage,” the federal government has INFLUENCED all states to enact laws that set the adult “per se” alcohol law for being over the legal limit at 0.08 grams percent or less. Former President Bill Clinton pushed through this new regulation just before his presidency ended in 2000.
But the federal regs only state that the states should be NO HIGHER than 0.08. Any state can pass laws to make that permissible BAC to be lower. In 2018, Utah became the first state to drop their adult DUI legal limit to 0.05 grams percent.
As it pertains to a DWI definition, no need existed (when the Constitution was written) to explain “what does DWI mean?” or to discuss impaired driving. Automobiles were not yet invented, and high-speed crashes on horses were not occurring at the hands of drunken settlers and cowboys.
Article Answering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Crime of DUI-DWI
The term “drunk driver” had never been used, so no perception of a need to define DWI as a crime existed. The Industrial Revolution changed all of that between 1870 and 1900.
From the first alcohol-related drunk driving crash, or drunk driving accident, especially those involving serious injury or death (often between a speeding car and a horse and buggy), political rumblings began for imposing laws on traffic safety. Drunk driving statistics have been kept in Washington, D.C., and separated for alcohol-based cases and those for drugged driving.
Then, since no federal law had been passed (setting a national DWI standard), the states were not preempted from enacting local drunk driving laws. In 1910, both New Mexico and New York enacted the first DWI-DUI laws to criminally sanction those who drink and drive.
Both states used the acronym “DWI,” and this acronym was the first used because ALCOHOL was the deemed culprit. Later, when more drivers had accidents and were under the influence of something OTHER than alcohol, the concept of “driving while intoxicated” and “driving while impaired” by ANYTHING began to gain favor. By 1960, driving under the influence (DUI) had become the most common term used.
What is a “DWI?”
The criminal laws in all states have statutes proscribing driving under the influence. Generally, this four-word phrase explains “what is DWI?” which means “driving under the influence” of alcohol, drugs, or some other substance. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that when a person has a prescription for medications that are a controlled substance, the level of impairment may show that he or she was rendered incapable of driving safely.
Despite different wording and phraseology, a “DWI” law can be broadly defined as legislation criminalizing driving impaired 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. Also associated with this type of crime, federal highway safety laws began to push for all states to take away driving privileges if a person was convicted of DUI-DWI.
The DWI meaning is always consistent, except that some state lawmakers (in the last decade) have been more liberal (and reasonable) in establishing fair limits for some illegal substances (e.g., marijuana) to allow some room for passive inhalation of smoke. Texas does not have any DWI marijuana laws. One recovery center reports that heavy weed users will have detectable traces of weed for 120 days after last consuming it.
DWI is a catch-all 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, go to trial (or plead guilty), and be convicted of drunk driving (‘driving while impaired') while looking and acting 100 percent sober.
Lawyers Near Me for Drunk Driving and Drugged Driving Defense
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