DWI

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Page 47

An abbreviation for driving while intoxicated, which is an offense committed by an individual who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or DRUGS AND NARCOTICS. An abbreviation for died without issue, which commonly appears in genealogical tables.

A showing of complete intoxication is not necessary for a charge of driving while intoxicated. State laws indicate levels of blood-alcohol content at which an individual is deemed to be under the influence of alcohol.

Laws against drunk driving vary slightly from state to state. In the majority of states, a person's first DWI charge (also referred to as Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, in some states) results in an automatic suspension of the violator's license. The length of the suspension in the various states ranges from 45 days to one year. Forty-three states require offenders to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles in order to drive. These devices are capable of analyzing a driver's breath, and the ignition is unlocked only if the driver has not been drinking. In 29 states, violators may be required to forfeit their vehicles that they have driven while impaired.

States have made efforts to strengthen their drunk driving laws since the 1980s. They have imposed longer prison sentences, and many have turned DWI into a felony-level crime for repeat offenders. However, the more controversial issue in this national debate has been the effort to reduce the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) that is needed to charge a person with DWI, from .10 percent to .08 percent. Proponents have argued that such a reduction is the most effective way to prevent drunk-driving deaths. Opponents contend that the .08 percent standard is too low and that it will ensnare drivers who are not truly impaired. Although many states had adopted the .08 percent standard, proponents sought a national solution, winning a victory in October 2000, when Congress enacted, and then-President WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON signed, the Transportation Appropriation Bill. Included in the act was a provision that requires states to enact a .08 percent BAC as the legal limit or lose part of their federal highway funding. Since this enactment, 36 states and the District of Columbia have reduced their BAC standard to .08 percent, while the others have maintained a .10 percent standard.

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