Drunk driving laws tend to be pretty straight-forward across the board, no matter where you live or how long you’ve been driving. Although every state dictates its own arrest procedures, traffic citation fines, and state sentencing guidelines, many states allow/prohibit similar things (making it fairly easy to figure out what is legal and illegal, even if you’ve never driven in a particular state before).
That being said, understanding traffic laws — and drunk driving laws, in particular — can get a little confusing simply because of the terminology used. So, here are a few important phrases and legal terms that you’ll probably hear thrown around when drunk driving laws are being discussed:
- Implied consent: Implied consent laws are used in every state, and they’re an important part of the arrest procedures when someone is suspected of driving under the influence or drugs and/or alcohol. Under implied consent, every legal driver automatically agrees to take a chemical test (e.g., breathalyzer) if a police officer suspects the person of drunk driving. This consent is given when the person is issued a driver’s license, and if the person refuses to take a chemical test, the punishments can be pretty severe.
- Zero tolerance: This is another important facet of drunk driving laws and it pertains to specific groups of drivers; although states don’t always have the same Zero Tolerance policies, most states have these laws in place for drivers under 21 and drivers with a certain number of previous DWI convictions. Under a Zero Tolerance policy, the driver can be issued a DWI or DUI charge if any amount of alcohol is found in his/her BAC, even if it’s just .01% or .02%.
- Sobriety checkpoints: Sobriety checkpoints aren’t permitted in every state, and in most states where these DWI traffic stops are permitted, there are usually very strict guidelines that law enforcement officials must follow. Sobriety checkpoints allow police officers to screen drivers quickly and assess if anyone is driving while intoxicated. Although many people argue that sobriety checkpoints shouldn’t be legal because officers are technically pulling over drivers without having any reason to do so, sobriety checkpoints can actually be very effective for reducing the number of drunk driving crashes (when placed in strategic locations and when officers abide by all the rules).
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