Learn About Federal DUIs

Federal DUI
Source: Marian Weyo/shutterstock

Car accidents are among the leading causes of death in America, and driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI), is one of the main ones to be recorded on a yearly basis, so much so that apart from local DUI laws, there is also a Federal DUI, with stricter penalties.

Each state is responsible for promoting road safety and ensuring citizens abide by traffic rules. These key action points are aimed at reducing the more than 30,000 fatal car crashes registered per year in the U.S. Additionally, hospitals receive approximately 2.5 million victims of car accidents, 200,000 of which need hospitalization.

The most troubling data in regards to car accidents is that approximately 40% of people who die in crashes turn out positive for alcohol or legal and illegal drugs in the tests performed. Consider the following information about DUIs in the U.S. at a state level and also on Federal DUIs.

What is DUI?

Each state has approved a law that prohibits driving under the influence of toxic substances. Regardless of the actual penalties each state applies, it is regarded as an illegal activity across the entire country.

Any kind of DUI (whether state or federal DUI) involves the use of alcohol, drugs and some types of prescription or off-the-counter medications. These increase the risk of accidents, clouding the mind, distorting reality, altering their perception of distances between cars and giving the impression that there’s nothing wrong they could be doing behind the wheel.

If you are caught driving under the influence, you will have to take the breathalyzer test to analyze blood alcohol level. If your blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) is 0.08 or more, you will be arrested for incurring in illegal activity. Some states even set the bar lower than 0.08 for minors and commercial drivers.

What is a federal DUI?

Drunk driving can also be considered a federal offense. In most cases traffic violations fall under state jurisdiction; nonetheless, they can become a federal DUI if they occur on any sort of federal property, such as the following:

  • Airport
  • National park
  • Military base
  • Government compounds
  • Post office
  • Federal courthouse
  • Parking lots
  • Federal land
  • National monuments
  • Federal government properties

Federal laws are hierarchically superior to state regulations, meaning that the former conditions state legislators. Federal leaders establish the minimum requirements state laws need to comply with, and then provide them a certain freedom to create their own.

The illicit action is the same (driving under the influence of toxic substances), yet the consequences that the act may have can differ.

What consequences does a federal DUI have?

Regardless of the state, you are in, the consequences of Federal DUIs will always be the same. Some of these consequences are:

  • Fines up to 5,000 dollars.
  • Incarceration at a federal prison for a maximum of 6 months.
  • Probation for up to 5 years.

All these consequences can actually worsen if the person commits a Federal DUI while also speeding or driving with an under-14-year-old passenger; or if he or she has already been penalized for driving under the influence.

Of course, the typical sanctions are also possible in these cases, depending on the state you were at. Facing charges such as suspension or removal of driver’s license, implementing an ignition blocking device, AA meetings, driving courses, traffic tickets, community service and jail time or home arrest.

Does a federal DUI affect my driver’s license points?

Yes. Being caught driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs will take a toll on your driving points. These points function as strikes against you and your driver’s license. After a certain number of “strikes”, you are out of the game and very important consequences come into play. For example, your license can be suspended or revoked.

On a different note, insurance companies thrive from keeping an eye on their clients’ driving records. After committing a Federal DUI, your driving points will be highly affected, leading to an increase in insurance fees. The reason behind it is that now since you have infringed the law while driving, you pose a greater risk for insurance companies than you used to. For instance, if before the Federal DUI you used to pay 1,250 in premiums after it you will pay around 2,500 dollars.

Is there any law that protects me?

Yes. The key regulation in these sorts of cases is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects people from being registered or confiscated due to irrational reasons. If you were not stopped at one of the constitutionally allowed control points and you believe that the officer does not have reasonable proof of you committing a Federal DUI, an attorney may get the court to throw the evidence obtained when you were charged.

Some common reasons for fighting a Federal DUI are:

  1. Illegal detention, which implies that the officer did not have a probable cause to stop the vehicle. This technique is one of the most popular among defense attorneys.
  2. Higher BAC. Implying that the officer raised the actual number of blood alcohol concentrations to reach or exceed the 0.08 mark.
  3. Sobriety test wrongly performed. Implying that the results were wrong because of how the test was performed.
  4. Wrong use of a breathalyzer. The attorney can question if the test was correctly performed the day of the arrest, asking if it was in working function or even if the officer was properly trained to administer it.
  5. Chain of custody of the blood test. The defense attorney will question if the results were tampered with during the chain of custody.

Can I fight it?

Yes. You can fight the Federal DUI sanction on your own or with a lawyer. In the document the officer will give you, you will find the date and time of the hearing where you can plead your case. Before considering that option, you may also want to visit your local DMV to learn of any evidence they might have to help dismiss your case. Sometimes, first offenders get off with community service or similar activities.

To fight a Federal DUI, you’ll need irrefutable proof to support the fact that you were wrongly accused. Of course, make sure to always use the truth as your tool. If you lie, it is highly possible that you will get caught, because it is easy to make mistakes while lying.

Also, attend the meeting at the Court with all the documentation needed and some questions answered beforehand. You should mostly focus your defense on why you should not be considered guilty of the Federal DUI you were accused of. Your chances of winning will depend on the BAC results (if analyzed) and other factors.

Do I Need A Lawyer?

It depends on the degree of your charges, but it is recommended in most Federal DUI cases. Some cases are easy and take little time, which is why they can be done without the help of a professional. However, Federal DUI trials can be quite challenging and take a long time to finish them, which is why being represented by an attorney is the best way to approach the problem.

Keep in mind that you are not looking for any traffic ticket attorney, as not all of them are allowed to practice law in federal courts. Therefore, you need to search for a federal criminal defense attorney to represent you on your Federal DUI hearing. They will inform you of your rights, explain the law to you and represent you in court.

Depending on the circumstances and proof, should you lose, consequences could worsen. Hopefully, the Federal DUI attorney can help you revoke your intoxication charges on federal property.

Does medical marijuana qualify as a federal DUI?

Yes. Even drivers who reside in the states that allow the use of medical marijuana under medical prescription can be charged for a Federal DUI. If the officer has enough proof to charge you on driving under the influence of drugs in federal property, arguing dismissal on the grounds of a medical exception isn’t a possibility.