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Perhaps one of the worst decisions we can ever make as responsible drivers is to get behind the wheel after a night out on the town where we imbibed a few too many intoxicating beverages. We may not even be in any condition to make a rational judgment anyway, let alone operate a vehicle.
Yet with a feel-good high and a sudden sense of nothing-can-go-wrong immortality, we hop in and fool ourselves. Many of us have faced this grim choice, usually after a night of fun or even an afternoon barbecue. But when it comes down to it, we should not even consider driving home a viable option.
It should be off the plate instantly if there is any chance of you being pulled over and sending your life on a frantic rollercoaster ride though the justice system. Besides, cabs are always around―especially if you reside in one of the larger towns like Cheyenne, Casper, or Cody.
If not, just chalk it up as a learning experience and hoof it home. The fresh air and exercise will be a welcome feeling. And most likely it is not too far, since most accidents happen when we are about one mile from home.
You can also always get a ride with a sober driver, call home to be picked up, or stay where you are until you're fit to drive. You might not only save your own life but the life of some innocent person that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Alcohol-related crashes are the top cause of death among those ages 16 to 24.
- Around 25,000 people are killed each year in alcohol-related accidents; that is a quarter-million people every 10 years.
- 500 people are killed each week.
- 70 are killed each day.
- 708,000 are injured on average each year due to alcohol-related crashes.
- Close to 70% of all fatal single-car accidents involve, you guessed it, alcohol.
- $3.4 million: the average cost of one death due to an alcohol-related crash. That is $1.1 million in actual monetary costs and $2.3 million tallied for overall quality-of-life costs.
- The average cost endured by one who is injured in a crash involving alcohol is $98,000. That is $48,000 in actual monetary costs and $50,000 in quality-of-life costs.
- Crashes involving alcohol account for close to 20% of auto insurance payments.
In Wyoming, you will hear the offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs referred to as a DUI and a DWUI. This depends on what department you are in contact with. Regardless of what it is called, both of these acronyms mean the same thing: driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or exceeding 0.08%.
But there is a bit more involved than that. Considering that Wyoming has yet to institute mid-level laws (0.04 to 0.08 BAC) against alcohol-related stops, law enforcement officers have great discretion when using field sobriety tests.
Due to issues of accuracy, the breath test reading taken at the roadside is not admissible in Wyoming courts. Only the reading you will give once taken into custody and escorted to jail is valid.
In Wyoming, what can really count against you in court is not necessarily what you blow into the tube, but the results of a field test evaluation. This usually entails reciting the alphabet backward, counting back from some arbitrary number, and the old heel-to-toe walk, turn, and return. You will also most likely see the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), more commonly known as eye-jerk analysis.
All of these secondary tests are designed to bolster the officer's testimony that you were intoxicated, whether this is what the breath test machine said or not.
If you decide to plead not guilty in court and fight your arrest, you will probably want to hire an attorney who specializes in DWUI cases. Considering how much you have to lose if you are convicted (see below), it could be worth the attorney's fees to try for a reduction in the charges or a dismissal. Many DUI attorneys offer a free initial consultation―it's worth a phone call.
NOTE: The Wind River Indian Reservation, in central Wyoming, recently changed its legal BAC to 0.05%. This limit, however, only applies to tribal members.
Gambling with the BAC
Blood alcohol concentration is how much alcohol is pulsing through your blood, giving you the feel-good high of inebriation. While there are numerous factors affecting BAC, scientists have come up with a few basic averages.
Cresting the 0.08% BAC level would require a 170-pound guy with an empty stomach to imbibe around four drinks in one hour. To match this, a woman hovering around 140 pounds would need to have three drinks in an hour on an empty stomach.
The variable is based on body weight, time frame vs. amount consumed, and time elapsed between drinks. As far as alcohol content per drink, a glass of wine, one beer, and one shot all carry about equal punch.
Administrative Per Se: If you fail the roadside sobriety test or blow a 0.08 or more in the field, the chances are pretty high that you will be arrested at that point. Depending on the officer's tendencies or discretion, you may have to fork over your driver's license before you are read your rights and cuffed. Yes, you will be handcuffed. Face it, you will be under arrest and headed to jail.
Other officers will wait until processing at the jail before taking your driver's license. Either way, it will be gone from your possession for a while. If you are convicted of the DWUI, the suspension will shift to a DWUI Suspension. The Administrative Per Se Suspension already served will be credited to the DWUI Suspension.
Refusal: If you opt not to take a chemical test upon an arrest for a DWUI, then the Refusal Suspension comes into play.
While you do have the right to not take the test, the state has a right to impose a hefty consequence for making that call. And they do, to the tune of a six-month suspension of your driver's license for the first refusal. This will be in addition to the suspension imposed by the court if you are convicted.
If you choose to plead guilty to the DWUI charge within 10 days of your arrest, this suspension will be eradicated from your driving history. Before you plead guilty to any crime, however, it's advisable to consult a DWUI attorney.
- Fine: Between $200 and $750. There is no mandatory fine, so it will come down to the officer or judge ruling.
- Jail time: Generally, a first offense will not carry any jail time past the initial arrest (and a possible night in detox).
- License suspension: 90 days.
Within five years of the first offense:
- Fine: Between $200 and $750.
- Jail time: Seven days mandatory behind bars; possible jail time of up to six months.
- License suspension: One year.
Within five years of the first offense:
- Fine: Between $750 to $3,000.
- Jail time: 30 days mandatory; possible jail time of up to six months. Individual must undergo alcohol assessment.
- License suspension: License will be revoked for three years.
Within five years of the first offense, the crime becomes a felony:
- Fine: Not more than $10,000.
- Time: Not to exceed two years.
- License: Revocation.
We hope you never need one, but a DWUI attorney can help you understand these penalties as well as what you can expect in court.Articles
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