Like everything else in law, the matter of intoxicated driving has become complicated over time, and that trend will inevitably continue. In fact, only one thing is certain about DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), and OUI (operating under the influence); every state punishes these crimes severely.
The first arrest for drunk driving was made in 1897, and it wasn’t even in the United States. A London cabbie named George Smith drove his cab into the side of a building, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to pay a fine of 25 shillings. The state of New York was the first of the United States to pass drunk driving legislation. That was in 1910. California soon followed. The earliest DUI laws offered no precise definition of inebriation, and they were only enforced only sporadically.
The American Medical Association and the National Safety Council concluded in the 1930s that motorists with 0.15 percent blood-alcohol content were too intoxicated to drive safely, so 0.15 percent became the first precise legal limit in the late 1930s. In 1936, Dr. Rolla Harger, chairman of the Indiana University School of Medicine and a professor of toxicology and biochemistry, patented a “Drunkometer.”
When someone breathed into the device, which resembled a balloon, it could determine if the person was intoxicated. A more somewhat accurate device, the Breathalyzer, was invented in 1953 by Professor Robert Borkenstein, also of Indiana University, and it is still in use today. DUI laws remained for the most part untouched in the 1950s and throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was started in 1980 by a woman named Candy Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver with three previous DUI convictions. DUI laws grew stricter in the 1980s and 1990s, due in part to pressure from groups like MADD. Every state bumped the drinking age up to 21, and police departments made DUI enforcement a high priority. In most jurisdictions, the legal limit is now 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content, and most drivers now face license suspensions for refusing to take a breath or blood test.
If you’re being charged with DUI – even if it’s a first offense – you need the counsel and help of an experienced DUI defense attorney. A good DUI defense lawyer will defend your legal rights, assess the specifics of your case, explain your options, and direct you through the legal process. An experienced DUI defense attorney might even, in some cases, find a way to have your charges lowered or dismissed. If you’re facing any kind of DUI-related charge, speak to a qualified DUI defense lawyer today.
Common DUI Myths in Nevada
Whenever the topic of drinking and driving comes up, you may hear some myths and misconceptions about Nevada DUI laws. Unfortunately, plenty of stories and twisted facts are floating around, enough to cause misunderstandings that have led to arrests. Here are some common misconceptions and the truth about them:
“You can’t be arrested for DUI if you’re not over the limit.” False. Even if you register under the legal limit on a breathalyzer test, in Nevada you can still be arrested if the officer believes you are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
“If you fail a DUI test you’ll be convicted.” Absolutely false. A good DUI defense lawyer can often discredit test results. A driver might test positive for drugs or alcohol for any number of reasons. In Nevada, experienced DUI defense attorneys successfully challenge blood, breath, and urine test results almost every day.
“You have the right to refuse blood, breath, or urine tests after being arrested for DUI.” False. Nevada has “implied consent”; just driving a vehicle means you consent to a breathalyzer test, whether or not you’ve been arrested. You also consent to blood, breath, and urine testing if you’re arrested.
“You have a right to see an attorney before any drunk driving test.” No. You do have the right to remain silent if interrogated, and you have to right to speak to an attorney after you are arrested. An experienced DUI defense attorney would advise you to be pleasant and polite, but answer no questions beyond what’s needed to establish your identity. Submit to the tests, remain cordial, and contact an experienced DUI defense attorney as quickly as possible.
“Your license can be suspended only if you’re convicted.” This isn’t true; your license can be suspended even if you’re never convicted of DUI. If you’re arrested and you register a BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher, the Department of Motor Vehicles automatically suspends your license for 90 days (if it’s a first offense, unless you challenge the suspension by requesting a DMV hearing). Even if you’re acquitted or charges are dropped, your license may remain suspended for the full 90 days.
DUI penalties in Nevada can be quite severe. But if you think DUI laws are tough in Nevada, you might not care to live in Belarus, a tiny Eastern European nation bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. If you’re detained there for DUI twice within a year, the government can confiscate and sell your car, take your license for three years, fine you, and order community service. But the DUI law in Belarus is still more lenient than the law in El Salvador, where there are no second offenses; your first DUI conviction puts you in front of a firing squad. Bulgaria is more lenient; they don’t execute you there until your second conviction. South Africa imprisons you for ten years and imposes a fine of $10,000. In Russia, you are never allowed to drive again. Norway waits until your second offense before permanently revoking your license. While you won’t face penalties quite this harsh, if you’re accused of DUI anywhere in the Las Vegas area, you’re still going to need the help of an experienced Las Vegas DUI defense attorney. If you are arrested or charged with DUI in Nevada, now or in the future, protect yourself and speak at once to an experienced Nevada DUI defense attorney.