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Legal Issues Surrounding Drunk Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three people are killed in alcohol-related highway crashes every two hours. The consequences of drinking and driving are arrests, property damage, injuries, and thousands of deaths each year. A number of state laws allow for a felony DUI (or DWI) charge in cases where the driver’s alcohol-related acts have caused bodily harm or death to another.

This post focuses on specific legal issues surrounding drunk driving accidents, which includes civil liability for injuries and state laws regarding the legality of BAC testing after an accident.

DUI Accidents and Probable Cause

The officer may ask one or more of the drivers involved if they had been drinking, while looking to see if any beer cans or other evidence is in plain view. The officer also may conduct field sobriety tests, checking the drivers’ eyes for signs of impairment. If the investigation leads the officer to conclude that a motorist is most likely under the influence of alcohol or drugs, often based on the results of a BAC test, then the officer has probable cause to make an arrest for drunk driving.

Only solid evidence of intoxication gives the officer probable cause for a DUI arrest. However, some states allow either mandatory or discretionary BAC testing of motorists involved in accidents that cause serious injury or death.

BAC Testing for Accidents

Most state laws regarding BAC testing of motorists after serious accidents fall into one of the following two categories:

  • Mandatory Testing – Many states require BAC testing of all drivers, passengers, and/or pedestrians who are fatally injured in an automobile accident.  Roughly half of the United States have mandatory testing laws.
  • Discretionary Testing – Some states allow for BAC testing of individuals who are fatally injured in an automobile accident, although it is up to the discretion of medical examiners or other officials.  More than 10 U.S. states have discretionary testing laws.

 Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents

If you or a loved one are involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver, contact an experienced attorney at Parvey & Cavenago. You may claim damages in a civil lawsuit and may also pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if a family member was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver.



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