What Does Per Se Mean for Drunk Driving Laws?

As you’re well aware, North Carolina has some strict DUI / DWI laws on the books. If you’re caught operating a motor vehicle while under the effects of alcohol or other controlled substance, you can face severe penalties. However, there are legal jargons that you may not be aware of, and this ignorance can be costly.

One of the most important laws you should be aware of when driving under the influence is the per se DUI law.

As of now, every state in America has drunk driving per se laws in their legislation. What this means is that any driver found to be operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater is automatically assumed to be guilty of drunk driving.

This “per se” DUI law (which in Latin translates to “by itself”) means that no further evidence needs to be collected to deem you guilty of driving under the influence.

While the arresting officer may subject you to field sobriety tests, notate erratic driving behavior, annotate that you have the smell of alcohol on your breath, these are superfluous regarding the per se law. The sheer fact that you registered a BAC of 0.08 or higher on a blood test at the station or a breathalyzer at the scene is enough to warrant a conviction of driving while intoxicated.

Be aware that while these extra pieces of evidence, such as reckless driving and incoherent speech, aren’t needed due to the registered BAC, they will still be admitted to the courts.

If, for some reason, an attorney can have the BAC results overturned, and the per se DUI law can’t be cited, the prosecution will use this evidence to indicate impaired driving.

This additional obstacle is why it pays to know your rights surrounding field sobriety tests, as a failed test has landed many people in jail, even though their BAC was less than 0.08.
Zero-Tolerance DUI Laws

Per se laws share many similar aspects to the zero-tolerance driving while under the influence laws that every state has adopted. Zero-tolerance laws are designed to prohibit a motor vehicle’s operation by a driver under 21 if any detectable alcohol can be found in their blood alcohol concentration.

Per Se Law Adoption in 2005
As the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) took to the legal system, their results surfaced in every state in America, passing the per se DUI laws back in 2005. This law saw little resistance as the federal transportation bill threatened highway funding. This bill is the one that set 0.08 as the standard for drunkenness.

Scientifically backed data established the legislation. According to the research, by instilling a 0.08 percent BAC limit, there would be a drastic reduction in alcohol-induced accidents and fatalities across the motorways.

The data derived to form the per se DUI laws was supported by findings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reported a decline of approximately 23 percent between the years of 2005 and 2013.

Are there Per Se Laws for Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance?
As of now, there hasn’t been a per se law established for dictating whether a person is automatically guilty of operating a vehicle while under the influence of illicit or prescription drugs. However, many states are passing their own legislation in an attempt to curb the dangers of driving while using drugs. The majority of states hold a zero-tolerance policy when handling the matter, but a few states are creating a more diverse structure for measuring the presence of drugs in someone’s system.

As it stands, there probably won’t be an established per se law based on metrics. The reason being the current level of technology to detect drug concentration isn’t as clear cut as it is with alcohol. This is compounded with the fact that different drugs have wildly different effects on people, and each drug’s half-life is drastically different across the spectrum.
Contact an Attorney to Help Even if You Had an Elevated BAC
The court process is a complex system that requires intimate knowledge to navigate effectively. You don’t want to be trapped by legal jargon and face consequences that could have otherwise been avoided. This is why you need to retain legal representation even if you have tested over 0.08 BAC. To ensure that your rights are protected, you need to be advised by an attorney who specializes in DUI law. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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