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Guest Wikipedia

United States

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Under the laws of the United States, it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle when the ability to do so is materially impaired by the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, including prescription medications. For impaired driving charges involving the consumption of alcohol, the blood alcohol level at which impairment is presumed is 0.08, although it is possible to be convicted of impaired driving with a lower blood alcohol level.

For example, the state of California has two basic drunk driving laws with nearly identical criminal penalties:

V.C. Sec. 23152(a) - it is a misdemeanor to drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
V.C. Sec. 23152(b) - it is a misdemeanor to drive with .08% or more of alcohol in one's blood.

Under the first law, a driver may be convicted of impaired driving based upon their inability to safely operate a motor vehicle, no matter what their blood alcohol level. Under the second law, it is per se unlawful to drive with a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater.

For commercial drivers, a BAC of 0.04 can result in a DUI or DWI charge. In most states, individuals under 21 years of age are subject to a zero tolerance limit and even a small amount of alcohol can lead to a DUI arrest.

In some cases, it is possible to be charged with a DUI in a parked car if the intoxicated individual is sitting behind the wheel. In some jurisdictions the occupant of a vehicle might be charged with impaired driving even if sleeping in the back seat based on proof of risk that the occupant would put the vehicle in motion while intoxicated. Some states allow for a charge of attempted DUI if an officer can reasonably infer that the defendant intended to drive a vehicle while impaired.

Repeated impaired driving offenses or an impaired driving incident that results in bodily injury to another may trigger more significant penalties, and potentially trigger a felony charge.

Many states in the US have adopted truth in sentencing laws that enforce strict guidelines on sentencing, differing from previous practice where prison time was reduced or suspended after sentencing had been issued.

Some states allow for conviction for impaired driving based upon a measurement of THC, through blood test or urine testing. For example, in Colorado and Washington, driving with a blood level of THC in excess of 5 nanograms can result in a DUI conviction. In Nevada, the legal THC limit is 2 nanograms. It is also possible for a driver to be convicted of impaired driving based upon the officer's observations of impairment, even if the driver is under the legal limit. In states that have not yet established a THC blood level that triggers a presumption of impaired driving, a driver may similarly be convicted of impaired driving based upon the officer's observations and performance on other sobriety tests.

Prevalence
In the United States, local law enforcement agencies made 1,467,300 arrests nationwide for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1996, compared to 1.9 million such arrests during the peak year in 1983. In 1997 an estimated 513,200 DWI offenders were in prison or jail, down from 593,000 in 1990 and up from 270,100 in 1986. In the United States, DUI and alcohol-related collisions produce an estimated $45 billion in damages every year. In some US and German studies BAC level 0.01-0.03% predicted a lower collision risk than BAC 0%, possibly due to extra caution, whereas BACs 0.08% or higher seem to be responsible for almost all extra accidents caused by alcohol. For a BAC of 0.15% the risk is 25-fold.

Implied consent
All U.S. states recognize "implied consent", pursuant to which drivers are deemed to have consented to being tested for intoxication as a condition of their operating motor vehicles on public roadways. Implied consent laws may result in punishment for those who refuse to cooperate with blood alcohol testing after an arrest for suspected impaired driving, including civil consequences such as a driver's license suspension. The State of Kansas found unconstitutional a state law that made it an additional crime to refuse such a test when no court-ordered warrant for testing exists. Under the implied consent law of the State of Michigan, a person who is arrested for drunk driving is required to take a chemical test to determine their blood alcohol content, and refusal will result in six points being added to their driver's license and their driving privileges will be suspended for one year.

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