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 »  Home  »  History Of The DUI
History Of The DUI
» History of the DUI
By Chicago DUI LAWYER | Published 08/18/2008 | History Of The DUI | Rating:

In most international jurisdictions, anyone who is convicted of injuring or killing someone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be heavily fined, as in France, in addition to being given a lengthy prison sentence.

The specific criminal offense may be called, depending on the jurisdiction, driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating while intoxicated (OWI), operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI), driving under the influence [of alcohol or other drugs] (DUI), driving under the combined influence of alcohol and/or other drugs, driving under the influence per se or drunk in charge [of a vehicle]. Such laws may also apply to boating (as in Canada), piloting aircraft, and even bicycling in some states such as California.

First German driving school in 1906, Aschaffenburg.

First German driving school in 1906, Aschaffenburg.

Historically, guilt was established by observed driving symptoms, such as weaving; administering field sobriety tests, such as a walking a straight line heel-to-toe or standing on one leg for 30 seconds; and the arresting officer's subjective opinion of impairment. Starting with the introduction in Norway in 1936 of the world’s first per se law which made it an offense to drive with more than a specified amount of alcohol in the body, objective chemical tests have gradually supplemented the earlier purely judgmental ones. Limits for chemical tests are specific for blood alcohol concentration or concentration of alcohol in breath.

With the advent of a scientific test for blood alcohol content (BAC), enforcement regimes moved to pinning culpability for the offense to strict liability based on driving while having more than a prescribed amount of blood alcohol, although this does not preclude the simultaneous existence of the older subjective tests. BAC is most conveniently measured as a simple percent of alcohol in the blood by weight. It does not depend on any units of measurement. In Europe it is usually expressed as milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. However, 100 milliliters of blood weighs essentially the same as 100 milliliters of water, which weighs precisely 100 grams. Thus, for all practical purposes, this is the same as the simple dimensionless BAC measured as a percent. Since 2002 it has been illegal in all 50 US states to drive with a BAC that is 0.08% or higher.

The validity of the testing equipment/methods and mathematical relationships for the measurement of breath and blood alcohol have been criticized. (Taylor 2007)

Driving while consuming alcohol may be illegal within a jurisdiction. In some it is illegal for an open container of an alcoholic beverage to be in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle or in some specific area of that compartment.

The German model serves to reduce the number of accidents by identifying unfit drivers and removing them from traffic until their fitness to drive has been established again. The Medical Psychological Assessment (MPA) works for a prognosis of the fitness for drive in future, has an interdisciplinary basic approach and offers the chance of individual rehabilitation to the offender.


All 50 states now have two statutory offenses. The first is the traditional offense, variously called driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) or operating while intoxicated/impaired (OWI). The second and more recent is the so-called illegal per se offense of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% (previously 0.10%) or higher. The first offense requires proof of intoxication, although evidence of BAC is admissible as rebuttably presumptive evidence of that intoxication; the second requires only proof of BAC at the time of being in physical control of a motor vehicle. An accused may be convicted of both offenses, but may only be punished for one.

It is also a criminal offense in all states to drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs DUID, or under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs; the drugs themselves need not be illegal, but can be prescription or even over-the-counter. In some states, the effects of some herbal remedies (such as Kava Kava extract) fall into this catagory. This offense requires evidence of impairment as a result of the drugs or drugs and alcohol, although some states have passed laws making driving with the mere presence of certain drugs a criminal offense. A number of states have expanded upon DUI laws to make operating a motor vehicle while impaired a punishable offense, which includes sleep deprived driving, among other things.

Some states also include a lesser charge of driving with a BAC of 0.05%; other states limit this offense to drivers under the age of 21. All states also now have zero tolerance laws: the license of anyone under 21 driving with a BAC of .01% or higher (.02% in some states) will be suspended.

The blood-alcohol limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%. Commercial drivers are also subject to stricter punishments for exceeding the blood-alcohol limit.

Pilots of aircraft may not fly less than eight hours after consuming alcohol, while under the impairing influence of alcohol or any other drug, or while showing a blood alcohol concentration equal to or greater than 0.04 grams per decilitre of blood.

The various versions of "driving under the influence" generally constitute a misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail) . However, the offense may be elevated to a felony (punishable by a longer term in state prison) if the incident caused serious injury (felony DUI), death (vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide), or extensive property damage (a state specified dollar amount) or if the defendant has a designated number of prior DUI convictions within a given time period (commonly, 3 prior convictions within 7 years). California, which is being followed by a growing number of states, now charges second-degree murder where the legal state of mind of malice exists -- that is, where the defendant exhibited a reckless indifference to the lives of others.

Administrative License Suspension (ALS) • If you are stopped for drunk driving and you refuse to take the sobriety test, or if your test results exceed the legal limit of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), the officer can take your driver's license on the spot, and the suspension begins immediately (Florida). • Depending on previous offenses or refusals, you can have your license automatically suspended for a period of 90 days to five years, or permanently revoked for multiple DWI convictions (Connecticut). • As of 2005, only nine states did not have ALS laws: Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Tennessee.

An SR-22 is an official documentation required to redeem a suspended drivers license and get your car registered at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A SR22 Filing is a form issued by an insurance company which removes a suspension order placed by the DMV's office on your driving privilege. The most common reason for an SR22 filing is when you are arrested for Driving Under Intoxication (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). The filing provides a guarantee to the state that an insurance company has issued at least minimum liability coverage for the person making that filing and that the insurance company will notify the DMV should the insurance ever lapse for any reason.