The answer to that question may seem obvious -- if you've consumed too many drinks to feel that you can safely drive yourself home, you should find a designated driver or take a taxicab. However, in some states, passengers have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) even while riding as passengers in a vehicle. What can you do to avoid this situation, and what should you do to get yourself home safely after a night out drinking? Read on to learn more about how DUI and DWI laws function in different states.
What is the difference between DUI and DWI?
Although all drivers are likely familiar with the 0.08 percent blood alcohol level that denotes the legal limit, there are situations in which you can be below the legal limit and still get charged with a drinking offense. Many states also proscribe blood alcohol levels below this limit if impairment is shown. For example, if you are observed by an officer driving left of center but your blood alcohol level is only tested at 0.02 percent, you may still be charged with driving under the influence.
In general, DWI is used to refer to situations in which your blood alcohol level is at or above 0.08 percent, with or without impairment, while DUI refers to a blood alcohol level below 0.08 percent with demonstrated impairment.
When can you be charged with DUI or DWI as a passenger?
In some situations, passengers of vehicles driven by intoxicated individuals have been arrested and charged with DUI or DWI -- even though they weren't driving the vehicle.
- You own the vehicle
Certain states have interpreted their own DUI and DWI laws to imply that a vehicle owner is (or should be) always in control of his or her vehicle. This means that if you are intoxicated and allow an impaired or intoxicated friend to drive your vehicle, you may be arrested and charged with DUI or DWI as the person who permitted an intoxicated person to drive your vehicle.
- It is unclear who was driving the vehicle
If there is any confusion at the scene of the traffic stop as to who was driving the vehicle, and both you and the driver are impaired or intoxicated, you may both be arrested and charged with the offense.
- You took control over the vehicle at any point
Suppose you are riding home when you realize that your friend is too intoxicated to drive. If you had a drink or two, but don't feel impaired, your first instinct may be to force your friend to pull over so that you can drive. Even if you travel only a short distance, if you show any evidence of impairment, you can be charged with DUI. This is true even if your friend, if still driving, could have been charged with a DWI.
Can you be charged even if sober?
In certain situations, you may even find yourself spending the night in jail when sober. If you are a passenger in a vehicle being driven by someone who is legally intoxicated, and you are sober and capable of driving, you may be arrested and charged with reckless endangerment for permitting your friend to drive while impaired.
What should you do if you're too buzzed to drive?
One situation which you will almost never find yourself in trouble for after drinking is that of taking a taxi. Rather than accept a ride from a friend who may have been drinking, your best bet is to simply call a cab. (However, be aware that if you cause a disturbance while riding in a taxi, you may find yourself facing a charge of public intoxication.)
For more information, talk to an experienced attorney from a firm like Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm PA.