Tobias Gillot
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The Legal Consequences of Alcoholism

Here’s what you should know about the legal consequences of alcoholism.

By one estimate, 6.2 percent of adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Nearly 10 million men are dealing with this disorder, compared to 5.3 million women. Alcohol can have a wide range of negative effects on your body. You may blackout, get fatigued more often, or experience sexual dysfunction. Additionally, if you drink and attempt to drive, you can end up hurting yourself and others.

Driving While Intoxicated and Driving Under the Influence

One of the most common alcohol-related crimes is DWI or DUI. The former stands for driving while intoxicated and the latter means driving under the influence. The crime you’re charged with will typically depend on the state in which you get arrested, as well as a few additional factors.

In most states, a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is enough to get you arrested, but some are going beyond that. In the final days of 2018, Utah dropped its legal limit to 0.05, declaring its limit the strictest in the country.

No state approves of drunk driving, but some make you pay more than others. Not surprisingly, Utah is one of the states that comes down on people who drink and drive the most. In Arizona, those who drink and drive face a minimum of ten days in jail on their first offense. But in South Dakota, there’s no minimum sentence for either a first or second offense.

There are several things that could happen, though. It’s likely you’ll end up behind bars for at least a few hours. You may be assigned to dry out in your county lock-up’s drunk tank, which is not exactly a dignified experience. Your license will probably be suspended for at least a few weeks, and your car might be impounded.

A DUI felony charge on your record can close a lot of doors in the future. If you want to be a lawyer, it’s going to be much harder with a criminal record. In fact, it’s going to be tough to enter any legal profession, from court reporting in Florida to law enforcement in California.

If You Get Arrested

When you get arrested, your first priority should be to not incriminate yourself any further. It’s possible what you say might not even matter, especially if you blow a 0.15 on a breathalyzer. But don’t assume that you can’t make your situation worse. If you keep talking, you just might get hit with additional charges.

There’s a good chance your life is about to get very expensive very fast. You’ll need to bail yourself out of jail. If you don’t have the money for that, a friend or family member will have to do this for you. If possible, you should also consult with a DUI lawyer. Most of the time, you’ll be able to spend a few minutes with a lawyer for free. But eventually, you’ll need to pay them.

If entering alcohol treatment is feasible, you should consider the option. Alcohol treatment is not a “get out of jail free” card, but if you take it seriously, it lets both prosecutors and the judge know you’re trying to address the problems that led you to drive drunk. It can certainly help you face your personal issues and establish a plan to ensure your offense doesn’t occur again.

The worst decision you can make is getting behind the wheel of a car while drunk. But if you do and fail to treat the criminal case as a serious offense, then you’re just piling one mistake on top of another. 

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