It is dangerous for motorists to drive under the influence of alcohol, so it is generally illegal to do so. In most places, drunk driving laws make it illegal for a person to drive if he has consumed enough alcohol to be impaired, or if he is too young to legally drink alcohol. The level of intoxication at which it is illegal to drive may vary according to region and country. Penalties for this crime also vary among jurisdictions.
Driving under the influence (DUI) charges may lead to serious consequences, especially if a driver has previous DUI convictions. Drunk driving laws are instituted to protect civilians from injury or death caused by individuals who drive while intoxicated. Some states categorize drunk driving charges as felonies under certain circumstances.
In many cases, police officers enforce drunk driving laws by using field sobriety tests that let them assess a driver's level of intoxication. Although the assessment may be subjective, an officer's evaluation may allow him to determine whether the suspect's ability to drive was impaired. The officer's determination may be significant in court.
Drivers accused of violating drunk driving laws face criminal court proceedings. If he pleads guilty or is found guilty by a judge or jury, the driver will face a judge who assesses criminal penalties for the crime. The sentencing judge may commonly revoke or suspend a driver's license.
Repeat offenders may also face a jail sentence for violating drunk driving laws. The drunk driver may also be subject to fines and be placed on probation as well. He will then have to report regularly to his probation officer who will determine if any violations of probation have been made. Violations may result in more severe punishment. In many cases, the individual may be required to serve community work and be placed in a community service program.
In some countries, drunk driving laws may result in punishment involving other family members. For example, in Malaysia a drunk driver may face a jail sentence, and his spouse may also be jailed regardless of whether she was present or involved at the time of her husband's arrest. In Russia, drunk driving charges may lead to motor vehicle license suspension for several years, or driving rights may be permanently revoked.
Drunk driving laws typically call for strict penalties for underage drivers. Convicted juvenile offenders may be sentenced to juvenile detention centers as well as participation in some type of community program. Legal representation may be necessary for most convicted drunk driving offenders, whether they are underaged or adult.