What is driving while Intoxicated?
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is the criminal act of driving a motor vehicle while your ability is impaired due to the ingestion of alcoholic beverages or narcotics. To charge one with this offense, the prosecution must demonstrate four discrete things:
- (1) operation
- (2) of a motor vehicle
- (3) on a public way
- (4) while impaired from the influence of alcohol
Operation relates to the mechanical operation of a motor vehicle. It is not a crime to be sitting in the driver’s seat of a non-running vehicle while intoxicated. DWI requires the vehicle’s engine to be running or in some cases, the keys in the ignition.
Any motor vehicle will suffice for DWI. This includes automobiles, commercial vehicles, construction vehicles and/or equipment, motorcycles, mopeds, and any other motorized vehicle capable of being operated by an individual. It is similarly illegal to operate a motorized boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The vehicle in question must be operated on a public way including streets, roads, parking lots, highways, trails and other areas to which the public has access.
The operator must be impaired at the time of operation from either intoxicating alcoholic beverage or a narcotic drug. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08. A motorist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater is presumptively impaired from the ingestion of intoxicating alcoholic beverages.
There are various forms of evidence offered to support the impairment element of Driving While Intoxicated. This includes an operator’s statements regarding the ingestion of alcohol of drugs, and if so, the type, quantity and time of ingestion.
Other forms of evidence consist of the arresting police officer’s observations of the motorist’s demeanor and condition, such as the presence of absence of slurred speech, blood shot eyes and the odor of alcohol emanating from the motorist’s breath, as well as the presence or absence of alcoholic and/or drugs inside the motorist’s vehicle.
Evidence also comes from the motorist’s coordination when retrieving his or her license and registration and motor skills such as his or her ability to stand upright, walk, and maintain balance if and when asked to exit from the car. Another well-known form of evidence includes a motorist’s performance on roadside physical coordination tests called Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
More scientific or medical forms of evidence include performance on Breathalyzer or chemical breath tests to measure one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and blood tests that measure the same.
Lastly, there is opinion testimony that may be offered. This may include opinion testimony by the arresting or responding police officers or expert testimony related to certain field sobriety tests or breath and/or blood analysis for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) calculations. All forms of impairment are subject to challenge and scrutiny in court.
Being charged with Driving While Intoxicated may have serious consequences. These include:
- loss of the right or privilege to operate a motor vehicle
- potential employment consequences and adverse effects to commercial driver’s licenses
- professional licenses and professional privileges such as those who work in healthcare and the airline industry or who may operate commercial vehicles or equipment
This type of charge also has the potential to impact the cost of your automobile insurance and potential to receive continued coverage from your insurance carrier.
Penalties associated with Driving While Intoxicated depend on a number of factors. These include:
- the measure of a motorist’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
- the presence or absence of a motor vehicle accident
- if an accident, the extent of property damage and physical injuries
- and whether or not the motorist is a subsequent offender.
Subsequent offenders are subjected to enhanced penalties, which increase based on the number of prior Driving Under the Influence or similar offenses. Prosecutors often look to in-state and out-of-state criminal records when making subsequent offender charging decisions.
There are many procedural and substantive aspects of Driving While Intoxicated offenses that only an experienced lawyer can analyze and challenge on your behalf. If you have been charged with Operating under the Influence, it is important to seek legal representation immediately in order to protect your rights and minimize the impact that a charge of his nature may have on your life.
If you have been charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and need expert legal representation, contact the Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Defense Lawyers at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III by email or call today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a free consultation.