Drunk Driving Law Law and Legal Definition

All states have laws against driving intoxicated, which vary by state. Legal intoxication is defined as a certain level of blood alcohol content (BAC), usually measurable at .10 or .08 percent. States that use the lower .08 BAC to define intoxication are eligible for more federal assistance, and therefore, there is a trend toward lowering the BAC limit.

State laws impose penalites on drunk drivers, which range from paying fines to incarceration and loss of vehicle and driving privileges. In general, repeat offenders or offenders with a high BAC level are subject to more severe penalties. Some states have alternative sentencing programs, allowing offenders to obtain treatment and/or operate a vehicle with an ignition locking system. Laws against drunk driving usually apply with equal force to driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance.

The yearly estimated costs of driving under the influence (DUI) accidents total many billions of dollars. Within the past decade, nationwide advertising campaigns by citizen activist groups have raised public awareness, and made the public less tolerant of the destruction created by drunk drivers. Public lobbying efforts, along with federal monetary incentives, have led state legislatures to enact new drunk driving laws that impose strict penalties on DUI offenders. Some of the laws passed are designed to punish the offender, and others are intended as remedial. Remedial civil sanctions are not characterized as punishment and can be imposed in addition to criminal penalties without invoking the Double Jeopardy Clause's protection against multiple punishments. The distinction may become blurred, for instance, in the case of administrative license suspensions (ALS). While some argue ALS is punishment, others argue that statutory provisions intending to remove a possibly dangerous driver from the highway serve a remedial purpose of removing the evil of dangerous, intoxicated drivers. ALS statutes have been historically viewed as remedial, because they revoke a privilege voluntarily granted and not a constitutional right.