When you get arrested for either driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI), you will likely see that two separate claims were filed against you. Don’t be alarmed—this was not a mistake on the officer’s end and you are not in deeper trouble because of the second charge. Rather, you are being charged for two different types of DUIs, each of which requires a different type of proof.
Usually, an officer will convict the impaired driver for both offenses just in case there isn’t enough proof for one of the DUIs. Even if you are found guilty of both “per se” and “impairment,” the judge can only issue punishment for one of the convictions.
Per Se DUI
A per se DUI proves that the driver was operating a motor vehicle with a certain amount of drugs and alcohol in their system. This can be proven by having the driver partake in a chemical test, usually of the driver’s choosing. These options include either a breathalyzer test on-the-site of the arrest or a blood or urine test at a hospital. In all 50 states, anyone driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more can be convicted of per se DUI. In some states, if you have a certain amount of drugs in your system, you can also be convicted for per se drug DUIs.
To convict a driver of an “impairment DUI,” the officer must prove that the driver was actually drunk or stoned while operating the vehicle. However, the level of impairment needed for conviction varies across different states. In some states you can be convicted for an impairment DUI if the officer can prove you were affected in any way by drugs or alcohol. However, in other states, the officer has to prove that you were substantially affected by drugs or alcohol.
Impairment DUIs don’t have to apply to just illegal drugs or alcohol—you can also be convicted if you are substantially impaired by prescription drugs.
Since DUI and DWI laws vary across different states, you should contact an attorney soon after you are convicted. A skilled DUI lawyer, like from May Law, LLP, will be able to help you understand next steps and how your driving record, license and insurance will be affected by the conviction. It’s also important that you contact an attorney who’s local to the state in which you were arrested. They will be able to better understand the specifics behind the state’s DUI charges.