An OUI is a criminal offense in states that utilize Operating Under the Influence traffic laws. It carries with it severe legal penalties that can take a toll not only on your checkbook but also your future. You can avoid an OUI charge and conviction by learning what it is and how Operating Under the Influence is punished in OUI laws.
What is an OUI?
An OUI stands for Operating Under the Influence of either drugs or alcohol. Unlike a DUI in some states, which can be reserved solely for the consumption of and driving under the influence of alcohol, an OUI extends to the use of and driving under the influence of illicit, controlled, and over-the-counter drugs as well as alcoholic beverages.
States that have OUI laws on the book determine someone 21 years of age and older to be at or above the legal OUI limit if their blood alcohol content is at or over 0.08 percent. The same OUI states have a zero tolerance policy, meaning that anything other than a BAC of 0.00 percent can lead to the minor under the age of 21 being charged with Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol. Commercial drivers must have a BAC under 0.04 percent to avoid a charge of OUI in these states.
So how can law enforcement know that you are Operating Under the Influence? They are trained to look for and identify certain driving behaviors that indicate that you could be at or over the legal BAC limit. For instance, driving across the center lane marker or drifting repeatedly across the shoulder of the road could indicate that you are Operating Under the Influence.
Likewise, if you brake erratically, stop in the lane of traffic without explanation, or follow other cars too closely, you could be signaling to law enforcement that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and committing an OUI.
Most states with OUI laws do not give motorists the option of opting out of field sobriety testing. The implied consent laws mean that the officer can ask you to take a breathalyzer test or perform a field sobriety test to determine your level of intoxication.
If you refuse, you could have your license suspended for 275 days for a first-time refusal. A second time refusal can result in your license being suspended for up to 18 months. Subsequent refusals can result in your license being suspended for up to six years.
How is an OUI Punished?
States with OUI laws punish Operating Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol in a variety of ways. The punishment you might face will depend on whether or not you are a first-time offender or if you have other OUI convictions on your record. It also will depend on your BAC at the time of your arrest.
A first-time OUI conviction can result in your driver’s license being suspended for up to 150 days. You also will be ordered to undergo driver education classes and have your car outfitted with an ignition interlock device, or IID. You will have to pay reinstatement fees to get your license back, and you will also have to pay all of your court costs. Additionally, you could spend up to seven days in jail and pay a fine of $700.
A second OUI offense can result in your license being suspended for up to three years. You must undergo court-ordered drivers education and have an IID fitted on your car. You also will have to pay reinstatement fees as well as court costs. You could also be sentenced to up to a week in jail and have fines that total up to $700.
A third conviction for Operating Under the Influence can result in your license being suspended for up to eight years and fines totaling up to $2100. You could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and be ordered to take drivers education as well as pay court costs and reinstatement fees.
These penalties are reserved for people at or slightly above the 0.08 percent BAC level for OUI. If your BAC is at or above 0.15 percent, the penalties you face could be even harsher. Other aggravating OUI factors that could result in steeper fines and punishments include:
- traveling more than 30 miles over the posted speed limit
- eluding police
- leading police on a chase prior to your OUI arrest
- having a passenger under the age of 21 in your car during your OUI
These aggravating factors can result in longer jail sentences, steeper fines, and possibly having your license suspended indefinitely.
How to Avoid an OUI
The best way to avoid Operating Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol is simply to abstain from using either of these substances. If you do not drink and do not take drugs, you cannot become inebriated to the point that you cannot operate a motor vehicle safely. You will pass a breathalyzer and field sobriety test every time if you do not use drugs or alcohol before driving.
However, if you do plan on drinking out with friends or at home, you should know your limit and stop before you become too drunk. You can always check your own BAC level by using a breathalyzer test that can plug into your smartphone or clip onto your key chain. It will tell you when you have reached the legal limit for alcohol consumption.
Another way to keep your BAC level down is to eat food and drink plenty of water with your alcoholic beverages. Food and water slow down how quickly your body absorbs the alcohol. They also help your body pass the alcohol faster. You likewise may consume less alcohol if you get full faster from eating food and drinking water.
Dealing with an OUI
If you do find yourself charged with Operating Under the Influence, it is important that you know how to protect yourself from the legal consequences of OUI. You should hire an OUI lawyer as soon as possible, ideally before you are arraigned on a charge of Operating Under the Influence. Many police stations give you the chance to retain legal counsel prior to your arraignment hearing.
Your OUI lawyer can make sure that you were read your rights and lawfully arrested. If you were arrested without being read your rights or questioned before you had the chance to retain legal counsel, your lawyer could have the charges of Operating Under the Influence against you reduced or dropped.
Likewise, your OUI attorney can make sure any blood or urine samples that you gave were tested accurately in an objective third-party lab. If the readings come back that you were under the legal BAC limit, your attorney could ask the court to drop the charges against you.
Having a skilled OUI attorney on retainer is a wise decision even if you did commit the offense and were lawfully arrested. Your lawyer may be able to bargain down the charges and find out if you are eligible for a diversion program that could result in your conviction being expunged from your record after a year.
Operating Under the Influence is a crime in states with OUI laws. This offense can bring with it harsh penalties and steep fines. It can be dealt with effectively by hiring an OUI lawyer to take your case.