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What Offenses Can I Be Charged With in Conjunction With a DUI Stop?

Right after the holiday season's end and the passage of the new year, there are likely a higher than normal number of drivers who were stopped for suspicion of drunk driving. The legal situation is unfamiliar to many and stressful, given the nature of charges and potential of some punishments in aggressive, zero-tolerance jurisdictions. The privilege to drive is more than a convenience for most of us. It's the way we commute to work, recreation, family events, worship, appointments, shopping, and so many other things. Yet, in the blink of an eye, from making a poor or impaired decision, a driver can abruptly lose that privilege for a long period of time, if not permanently.

What Charges Traditionally Result From DUI Stops?

The traditional charge that results from a DUI-related traffic stop is one of these three:

It may surprise and shock some to realize that these are criminal charges, as traffic offenses are a subset of criminal law.

Per Se Offenses May Also Result in Nearly All U.S. Jurisdictions

Nearly all of the 50 states (49 of them) have enacted a second type of charge that is called the per se offense for drunk driving charges, as well. What is the per se offense exactly? The per se offense is characterized as driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that is deemed excessive. In most jurisdictions, excessive BAC is .08 percent or higher. In many instances, a traffic defendant involved in a DUI stop will be charged with a DUI, OWI, or DWI, as well as the per se offense.

Two Offenses May Result From a DUI Stop, but Only One Penalty

Fortunately for the defendant, however, the person will be sentenced with penalties for only one of the two charges. This is because the punishments or penalties for both types of charges are identical. Note also that if a defendant refuses to take a chemical test, he or she can only be charged on the first type of offense (DUI, OWI, or DWI). However, the defendant cannot be charged with a per se offense because there is a lack of evidence to press any charges, let alone impose any penalties, with regard to the latter type of offense.

DMV Imposes Administrative Penalty

Totally separate and apart from criminal charges that result from a DUI stop, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) takes action. The DMV issues an administrative driver's license suspension for defendants who have either a .08 percent BAC or for those who refuse a chemical test. Some defendants deem the DMV administrative penalty the most severe and traumatizing to them overall.