Drunk Driving Essay, Research Paper
Every year almost 20,000 people are killed in accidents involving people (or
persons) under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That means that someone is killed from
alcohol-related accidents approximately every 7 hours and 29 minutes. These types of
accidents end up costing the nation almost $50 billion dollars each year. Which is a rise of
4% since 1994. Every year, the police give a breath test to 1.2 – 1.4 million car drivers
and about 7,000- 10,000 boat drivers to eliminate drunken drivers endangering traffic.
All but 2 states (Massachusetts and South Carolina) and the District of Columbia
have per Se laws defining it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
at or above a proscribed level, usually 0.10 percent. Fourteen states mandate jail or
community service after first convictions. License suspension or another penalty may
result from violations of BAC thresholds that apply only too young drivers in 44
jurisdictions. These underage BAC laws apply to drivers younger than 21 except in
Georgia, Louisiana, Vermont (younger than 18 in these states), and Wisconsin (younger
In New York the BAC defined as illegal Per Se: all drivers is 0.10; there are
special provisions for young divers: the BAC level is 0.02 (eff. 11/1/96). Suspension of
your license in New York lasts until prosecution is complete. New York is the first
municipality in the nation to seize the vehicles of motorists arrested for driving while
intoxicated. Under New York City’s new drunken driving policy: motorists with a blood
alcohol level of .10 percent — the legal limit — or higher will have their vehicles seized on
the spot; while the motorist faces prosecution in criminal court, the vehicle seizure will be
part of a separate proceeding in civil court under state forfeiture laws; because civil
proceedings require only a preponderance of evidence for guilt — rather than guilt beyond
a reasonable doubt — motorists acquitted of drunken driving in criminal court may still
lose their cars in civil court; vehicles belonging to banks or car rental agencies can be
returned but the businesses will be responsible for paying storage fees; the vehicles of
motorists arrested on the lesser charge of driving while impaired — with a blood alcohol
level of .06 to .09 percent — will not be seized.
There are six offences in drinking and driving. They are “driving while impaired”,
having care and control of a vehicle while impaired”, “driving while exceeding 80 m.g.”, ”
having care and control of a vehicle while exceeding 80 m.g.”, “refusing to give a breath
sample”, and “refusing to submit to a roadside screen test. These are all Criminal Code
Offences. The sentence for “refusing to give a breath sample” is usually higher than either
of the “exceeding 80 m.g.” offences. Consequently it is usually easier in the long run for
you to give a breath sample if asked. If, for example you are convicted of “Refusing to
give a breath sample” for the first time, but was earlier convicted of “Driving while
impaired”, your conviction for “Refusing” will count as a second conviction, not a first,
and will receive the stiffer penalty for second offences. For the first offence here is the
penalty and the defenses you can make. Driving a vehicle while your ability to drive is
impaired by alcohol or drugs is one of the offences. Evidence of your condition can be
used to convict you. This can include evidence of your general conduct, speech, and
ability to walk a straight line or pick up objects. The penalty of the first offences is a fine
of $50.00 to $2000.00 and/or imprisonment of up to six months and automatic suspension
of license for 3 months. The second offence penalty is imprisonment for 14 days to 1 year
and automatic suspension of license for 6 months. The third offence penalty is
imprisonment 2 for 3 months to 2 years (or more) and automatic suspension of license for
six months. These penalties are the same for the following offences.
“Having Care and Control of a Motor Vehicle while Impaired” is another offence.
Having care and control of a vehicle does not require that you be driving it. Occupying the
driver’s seat, even if you did not have the keys, is sufficient. Walking towards the car with
the keys could be sufficient. Some defenses are you were not impaired, or you did not
have care and control because you were not in the driver’s seat, did not have the keys, etc.
It is not a defense that you registered below 80 m.g. on the Breathalyzer test. Having care
and control depends on all circumstances. “Driving While Exceeding 80 m.g. is the next
offence. Driving a vehicle, having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the proportion
of alcohol in your blood exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. Some
defenses are the test was administered improperly, or the Breathalyzer machine was not
“Having Care and control of a Motor Vehicle while Exceeding 80 m.g.” offence
means having care and control of a vehicle whether it is in motion or not, having
consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the proportion of alcohol in your blood exceeds
80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. The defenses are the test was
administered improperly, or the Breathalyzer machine was not functioning properly.
You will then be asked to provide two breath samples, about fifteen minutes apart.
Normally they will take the result of the lowest result and use it as evidence against you.
“Refusing to Give a Breath Sample” means refusing without a reasonable excuse to give a
sample or refusing without a reasonable excuse to accompany a policy officer, when
demanded by the police officer. Before demanding by the police officer, he must have
reasonable and probable grounds to believe that you are committing or at any time in the
preceding two hours have committed, one of the offences of driving or having care and
control of a vehicle while impaired or while having a blood alcohol level in excess of 80
m.g. You can refuse to give a breath sample until you have communicated in private with
your lawyer even if this takes you beyond the two hour period, unless it is shown that your
request for a lawyer was not genuine and merely to delay the testing. The test can be done
after the two-hour period, but a technician must testify in court as to what your blood
alcohol would have been in the two-hour period. You cannot refuse to accompany the
officer until you see your lawyer. You can argue that the officer didn’t have reasonable and
probable grounds to suspect you, but this however depends on the circumstances.
“Refusing to submit to a Roadside Screening Test” is the last offence. When you
commit this offence you are refusing without reasonable excuse to give a breath sample
for a roadside screening device, or refusing without reasonable excuse to accompany a
police officer for the purposes of giving such a sample, when demanded by an officer.
Before the officer demands a Breathalyzer he must reasonably suspect that you have
alcohol in your blood.
The maximum penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm to someone is up
to 10 years in prison and up to a 10 year prohibition from driving. The maximum penalty
for impaired driving causing death is up to 14 years and a 10-year prohibition from
driving. The maximum penalty for manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death is
up to life in prison and up to a lifetime prohibition from driving.
Underage drinking and driving is also becoming a large problem in America.
Alcohol is found to be a significant factor in teenage crashes. Studies have shown that
young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking alcohol, but their crash risks
are much higher when they do. This is especially true when their blood alcohol
concentrations are lower and is thought to be because of teenagers’ inexperience with both
drinking and driving.
In order to try to stop teenage drinking and driving, 49 states, including the
District of Columbia have established lower blood alcohol thresholds that are illegal per se
for teenage drivers than for older drivers. In 1995 the federal legislation passed a “zero
tolerance” law meaning that drivers under the age of 21 may only have a blood alcohol
level of a maximum of 0.02 percent.
Studies have shown that in the past it was fairly easy for people under the age of
21 to purchase alcohol. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, many states lowered their
minimum purchasing ages from 21 to 18 or 19 years old. The consequence was an
increase in 15-20 year olds under the influence involved in fatal crashes.
As a result, a number of states raised their legal buying age, in a number of states
back up to 21 years old and in other 19 or 20. Institute researchers then found that the
number of nighttime fatal crashes dropped. In 1970, the average of nighttime fatalities was
28 percent. Between 1975 and 1984 it dropped by 13 percent, meaning in 1985 the
nighttime fatality rate was 15 percent.