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DWI/Traffic Violations

July 13, 2024

DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)

Driving while intoxicated is a very serious crime. While under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can drastically affect your ability to operate heavy machinery, which includes automobiles. The definition of driving while intoxicated is driving over the state’s maximum permissible blood alcohol limit. It is currently against the law in all 50 states to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In the eyes of law, you can also be guilty of a DWI when your physical abilities are impaired as it makes no difference whether the drug is legal or illegal. If taking that drug impacts your senses of seeing, hearing, talking, walking and/or judging distances, you may be guilty of a drunk driving offense.

Recently, the laws in New York State have changed. No tolerance is the policy.

Drunk driving, or sometimes referred to driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), has two meanings:

Driving with a blood alcohol level over the state’s maximum permissible blood alcohol limit. The limit for adults is either 0.08% or 0.10%. As of October 2000, the following 19 jurisdictions used the 0.08% standard to define drunken or impaired driving: Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington State. All other states used 0.10% except Massachusetts and South Carolina which do not use numerical limits.

In October 2000, Congress passed a law requiring all states to adopt a limits of 0.08% by 2004 or lose some of their Federal highway funds, so it is likely that most of our states in the U.S. will adopt that lower limit.

Most European countries are far stricter than the U.S. and have limits that are far below 0.08%. You can be considered "legally drunk" and be arrested even though do not feel or look as though you are under any influence from the alcohol.

Traffic Violations

Tickets are often divided into two main categories: moving violations and non-moving violations.

Moving Violations

A moving violation is one that occurs while a driver is operating a vehicle. Moving violations are generally more serious than nonmoving violations. In some states, this infraction can result in "points" against your license, which result in increased insurance rates. If you get to a certain number of points, your license may be suspended or even revoked. Even if you don't reach that maximum, you insurance rates will spike dramatically with each point accumulated. The length of time that the points remain on your license varies, but the average is 36-48 months.

Examples of moving violations are driving over the speed limit, running a red light,
making an illegal turn, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving with a suspended or revoked license or registration, illegal passing, following too closely, and driving on the wrong side of the road.

Non-moving Violations

Non-moving Violations are lesser infractions that generally result in the payment of a small fine but don't appear on your driving record. Non-moving violations don't normally accumulate points on your license so there are no issues with an increase in insurance rates.

Examples of non-moving violations include parking in front of a fire hydrant,
parking in a handicapped zone, failure to pay a parking meter, driving with an expired inspection sticker and double parking your vehicle.

Should you defend yourself in court over minor violations? It might not be a bad idea, but necessarily expect to win.
One good thing that may play in your favor is that municipal judges are typically from your community and are aware not only of community prejudices, but also of community practices. In general, you can represent yourself without a great deal of difficulty--provided that you have accepted the possibility that you may lose, and are willing to pay the fine due. Some examples of violations in which you may expect to have a better chance of a favorable disposition are littering, jaywalking and exceeding the speed limit by less than 5 miles per hour and moving violations of a vehicle in traffic that don't involve substantial monetary fines (usually under $100).

The usual procedure in municipal court cases is that you are brought in the name of the people of your state and are prosecuted either by a district attorney or a local (municipal) prosecutor. A trial will be held before the judge if you plead innocent. (If you plead guilty, usually it's just a matter of paying a fine. For more severe violations, you may be require to serve jail time or community service).

If you decide to represent yourself, you should come prepared to court. This means lining up witnesses, if any, having physical evidence if necessary and making certain that on the day you are scheduled to appear, you have your case ready to go before the Judge.

Regardless of the claim against you, the essential rule to remember is that you must be prepared. That means preparing in advance your questions to the police officer. It means having your witnesses present with you and having any photos handy that prove your point. Remember that many municipalities use their local police as a means of obtaining revenue. The fines the court charges go to the cause of reducing property taxes. In the end, that can ultimately make the violation hard to beat.



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