In the United States those under the age of twenty-one are considered
minors when alcohol is involved. Some states have a no tolerance policy
in regards to minors and alcohol consumption. West Virginia instead has
a blood alcohol content limit of 0.02 percent. After this percentage an
individual will be arrested.
Minors who receive driving under the influence charges will most often
have their driver's licenses suspended for a minimum of thirty days and
may have to pay a fine. Those who drive commercial vehicles also have a
different blood alcohol content limit, but it is higher than the minor
limit and stands at 0.04 percent. The legal blood alcohol content for
all other Americans is 0.08 percent.
Upon arrest individuals can be prosecuted in two different ways. One of
these ways is through per se law. Under per se prosecution the
prosecuting attorney will show the court that an individual had a blood
alcohol content above the legal limit. Per se law states that an
individual can be convicted of driving under the influence simply for
having a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent while driving.
Another way of prosecuting drunken driving is through impairment
charges. A prosecuting attorney will provide evidence to show that an
individual was impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Evidence for
impairment cases normally includes driving patterns, field sobriety
tests, chemical tests, blood alcohol content tests, and physical
appearance. However under impairment laws simply because an individual
had a blood alcohol content level above the legal limit does not mean
that he or she was impaired.
Driving under the influence charges are considered misdemeanor
offenses. At times a third driving under the influence offense can
advance to a felony offense, while a fourth or subsequent offense is
considered a felony offense. A first drunken offense can earn a fine
between one hundred and five hundred dollars, incarcerations between
one day and six months, driver's license suspension for six months, and
treatment program attendance.
A second offense's fine will increase to a minimum of one thousand
dollars and a maximum of three thousand dollars, while a driver's
license suspension can increase to ten years.
Felonies and Penalties
A third driving under the influence offense can earn a fine between
three thousand and five thousand dollars, incarceration between one
year and three years, driver's license expulsion, and an ignition
interlocking device. A full felony driving under the influence offense
can earn up to seven years in prison.
Aggravating circumstances can increase an individual's sentencing,
despite being a first offense. These can include driving with a minor
in the motor vehicle, causing harm to another, driving over the speed
limit, causing the death of another, and driving with a blood alcohol
content twice the legal limit.
When an individual refuses to submit to chemical testing he or she will
automatically have his or her driver's license suspended, whether or
not he or she is later convicted for drunken driving. A second test
refusal can result in one year of driver's license suspension to
driver's license expulsion.