People today throw around legal terms as if they are interchangeable. An example of this is when people speak of a DUI or an OUI as being the same as a charge for DWI. While this is understandable given their similarities, they are actually different crimes. In Idaho, the main difference between the two is quite simple.
A DUI or OUI is limited to cases in which a driver is “under the influence.” A DWI, on the other hand, is when a person is “driving while intoxicated.” Usually, people don’t really consider the difference until they are sitting in a jail cell waiting for their DUI defense attorney to show up.
The interesting thing about drunk driving offenses is that, while they may mean different things, they often carry the same penalties. At least they do in Idaho. If you’ve been charged with either of these offenses, you should call and talk to a criminal defense attorney. They can review your case and determine what the chances are of getting the charges reduced or dismissed. With so much at stake, it’s in your best interest to have an experienced attorney by your side.
What Exactly Is a DUI or OUI in Idaho?
A DUI stands for the words, “Driving Under the Influence.” Similarly, OUI stands for “Operating Under the Influence.” These offenses apply to people who are driving after they have ingested any variety of substances that can impact their ability to drive. For example, you can be arrested and charged with DUI if you’ve been out driving after smoking marijuana. The same is true if you’re taking prescription medications that somehow impaired your ability to drive safely.
Some of our clients ask why it’s illegal to drive while under the influence of a substance that is legal. After all, if somebody is prescribed a certain medication, why would they be arrested for taking it? What they don’t realize is that the law is meant to protect the public from dangerous and unsafe drivers. If you’ve been driving after taking something that can make you an unsafe driver, you’re going to be arrested for it.
Of course, your criminal defense attorney can try to get the charges dismissed. Perhaps they can show the prosecutor that you were taking the medication as prescribed. Or they may be able to show that the field sobriety test wasn’t conducted fairly and that you weren’t driving in an unsafe manner.
You Can Be Charged With DUI or OUI Even if Your BAC Is Under the Legal Limit
It can be difficult for a DUI defense attorney to explain how someone can be arrested for drunk driving if their BAC was under the legal limit. For example, most people know the legal limit for drunk driving in Idaho is 0.08. They naturally assume that you can only be charged with DUI if you take a breathalyzer test and blow higher than .08. This isn’t the case.
Just because your blood alcohol concentration is less than 0.08 doesn’t mean you can’t be charged with DUI or OUI. If the police feel that you’re driving in an unsafe manner and you happen to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you’re going to jail.
You’ll need to call an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. This is the best way to try to get the charges reduced or dismissed. In fact, it may be the only way for you to get out of jail in a matter of hours and not days.
If Your BAC Is Over 0.08, You’ll Likely Be Arrested for DWI
The major difference between a DUI/OUI and a DWI is the word, “intoxicated.” If you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the police are going to look for signs of impairment. For example, if they notice any of the following things, they’re going to proceed with a breathalyzer and a field sobriety test:
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Stopping for no reason
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Driving without your lights on
- The smell of alcohol or drugs
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
If they see any or all of these things, they have the right to ask you to get out of the car. Once out, they’ll ask if you’ll submit to a breathalyzer. If you refuse, they’ll automatically arrest you for DWI and your license will be automatically suspended. If you take the test and it measures your blood alcohol concentration as being .08 or higher, you’ll be arrested for DWI.
If your breathalyzer is lower than 0.08 but you appear to be intoxicated, you can still be arrested. If your breathalyzer registers anything higher than a 0, you’ll be asked to perform a field sobriety test (FST).
Can Your DUI Defense Attorney Challenge the FST?
One common way DUI defense attorneys challenge the charge of a DWI is by criticizing the field sobriety test. The police are required to administer the test in a fair and reasonable manner. They are also limited in the kind of questions they ask a driver. For example, cops are no longer allowed to demand that drivers recite the alphabet backward. This was seen as unreasonable.
The same is true for other ridiculous requests. They are also expected to use a fair approach when deciding when to administer the test. For example, if there is a thunderstorm at the time of a traffic stop, it may not be the most conducive environment for an FST. Your criminal defense attorney will review the video of the FST and determine if it is worthy of a challenge.
Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Right Away
If you’ve been arrested and charged with either DUI or DWI in Boise, you need help. There isn’t a lot of time between your arrest and your first court appearance. It’s in your best interest to have a seasoned criminal defense attorney by your side when this happens.
You can call our office from the county jail if need be. Or you can have your family members call us on your behalf. You should do whatever you can to retain an experienced lawyer right away. This will increase your chances of having the charges against you reduced or dismissed.