Why Is DUI Considered a Criminal Offense?

by Stacy Aspen on October 9, 2013

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(U.S. Criminal Law and generally) There likely aren’t many people who don’t recognize that drinking and driving is illegal. Even if someone was somehow unaware of this fact, ignorance of the law would not preclude them from facing its repercussions. The question often arises, however, as to why driving under the influence (DUI) is treated as a criminal offense rather than a traffic violation. Understanding these reasons is essential for all drivers, and the consequences of ignoring these facts are often much worse than a person could imagine.

Why is DUI a Criminal Offense?

As mentioned, many individuals wonder why drunk driving is considered a criminal offense. After all, speeding results in many traffic deaths, but the consequences of speeding usually only equate to a citation and fine. It’s important to note, though, that drunk driving is much more dangerous than speeding and a host of other risky driving behaviors.

The simple fact is that drunk driving results in a staggering amount of traffic deaths every single year. The first American DUI laws went into effect in New York in 1910. These laws weren’t too stringent, but with the help of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), DUI laws became more severe starting around the ’70s. By the end of the century, some states had been coerced into setting their legal blood alcohol content (BAC) standards at .08 percent for drivers.

Drunk Driving Statistics

Many understand that accidents can be caused by drunk driving, but few actually recognize the full extent of this danger. About one-third of all driving deaths in America are related to drunk driving. This equates to more than 10,000 deaths yearly. What’s even sadder is the fact that nearly one-fifth of these victims are under the age of 14. With over 1.4 million drunk driving arrests in 2010, however, it’s surprising that these numbers aren’t higher.

The courts view drinking and driving as an extremely negligent action. A short series of ill-advised decisions on the part of a drunk driver can greatly increase the risk of innocent victims around them meeting an untimely demise. Because of the inherent danger that DUI poses to property and life, is it treated much more severely than other traffic violations.

Consequences of DUI Conviction

One of the biggest complaints that some people have is the fact that they believe DUI consequences are too harsh for the actual violation. In some areas, a single DUI conviction can lead to a year in jail, and this is the same punishment that some violent misdemeanor convictions bring. Additionally, it only takes one DUI conviction for a person to lose their driving privileges, face huge fines, be required to attend DUI school and perform community service.

Unfortunately, some innocent individuals get caught up in harsh DUI laws. Hundreds of cases were called into question recently in Pennsylvania, for instance, when it was discovered that several Breathalyzer devices hadn’t been properly calibrated.  In cases such as this a consultation from attorneys like www.kellislaw.com would help to clarify the situation. Several other factors, such as diet or “mouth alcohol”, can also lead to misleadingly high BAC readouts on Breathalyzers. This is why anyone faced with the criminal consequences of a DUI should immediately seek legal help.

Driving under the influence is a risky behavior, and doing so has been illegal in many parts of America for over a century. Because of this, courts have very little sympathy for those arrested for the crime, and in reality, the potential consequences that drunk drivers face is enough to show that America takes the crime very seriously. This is why anyone charged with a DUI should immediately seek out legal help. A DUI arrest never equates to an automatic conviction, and if an attorney can help an individual avoid the consequences of conviction, they can make their client’s life much easier.

J.L. Williams is a freelance writer who shares informative articles on legal choices and resources so that people can make informed decisions about how to proceed. Legal help is available at www.kellislaw.com to assist Pennsylvania residents seeking helpful resources on DUI and its related issues.


Stacy Aspen

Stacy Aspen

Stacy Aspen has been a legal writer since 2008, assisting lawyers with articles, research papers, web copy and blog posts. Stacy has a BA in creative writing and also enjoys writing poetry in her spare time.

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