Five Shocking State Laws Regarding Drunk Driving
Few subjects rouse as much fervor and passion as drunk driving. The statistics are staggering. According to data gathered by MADD:
- 28 people die in the United States every day because of drunk driving
- There were 10,322 U.S. drunk driving fatalities in 2012
- On average, one out of every three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash sometime in their lives
- Drunk driving damages in the United States total more than $132 billion each year
Because of these shocking numbers, most lawmakers are committed to enforcing strict anti-drunk driving measures. However, although the definition of drunk driving is the same across the country (driving with a BAC at 0.08% or above), laws vary widely from state to state. In some areas, lawmakers are so passionate about ending the scourge of drunk driving that they have passed extremely rigid laws, and many citizens may be unaware of the harsh drunk driving laws in their own states. Take a look at some surprising laws from across the country:
Dram Shop Laws
In drunk driving cases, most victims assume that the intoxicated driver is the only responsible party. However, in states with dram shop laws, establishments that continue to serve patrons after they have clearly become intoxicated will share liability for an accident. Though some may question the efficacy of these laws, statistics show that they are indeed useful; in 2001, a researcher at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy found that dram shop laws reduced fatal drunk driving crashes by 5.8 percent. Because these laws are not discussed often, you may be surprised to learn that most states enforce dram shop laws. Kansas, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, and Virginia are the only states without these measures.
Social Host Laws
Social host laws are similar to dram shop laws because under their provisions, a third party may be held responsible for someone else's intoxication. These laws state that anyone who supplies alcohol to a minor can be found partially responsible for any accident that the minor causes. While furnishing alcohol to underage citizens is a crime across the country, only about half the states enforce these harsher measures.
Test Refusal Penalties
Many drivers assume that if they are stopped for drunk driving, they have the right to refuse a blood, urine, breathalyzer, or field sobriety test. They believe that, without their express permission, such tests would constitute unlawful search and seizure. Unfortunately for these drivers, some states enforce harsher penalties for drivers who refuse these tests. Lawmakers state that when a driver gets behind the wheel, it involves implied consent and drivers have given unspoken permission for police officers to perform BAC testing.
BAC Test for Drivers Who Are Killed
To many, these mandatory tests may seem harsh and unreasonable. After all, when a drunk driver is killed, it is a tragedy. At that point does it really matter whether the accident was alcohol-related? Lawmakers believe it does. Detecting drunk drivers is important for preventing accidents in the future. In many cases of postmortem drunk driving tests, officials find other parties that were partially responsible for the tragedy. For example, these tests can help detect parties who are guilty under social host or dram shop laws.
Shock Probation Laws
This law is the only one on the list that is surprising for its leniency. These laws state that a judge can reduce a convict's prison sentence after the first few months, not for good behavior, but because the judge believes that the convict has been "shocked" by the prison system. Judges state that the first few months of a prison sentence are the hardest, and for first time convicts, they are often enough to discourage similar crimes in the future. Although shock probation laws pertain to a wide variety of crimes, they are frequently applied to drunk driving cases.
Find a Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk driver, the laws mentioned above could have an enormous impact on your case and the amount of compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact an auto accident attorney in your area to find out more about drunk driving cases and to learn whether you have a viable personal injury case.