* Note: The following article was written before Oregon enacted a felony DUII law. Penalties for conviction of felony DUII are more severe than those listed below.
By: Hugh Duvall
We've all seen the billboards: "If you drink and drive, the least you'll lose is your license." These signs have significant value. However, the public is still misinformed about Oregon's driving under the influence of intoxicants law. Unfortunately, many residents learn the details of our law too late and at a cost that drastically affects their lives:
As a criminal-defense attorney, I find three misconceptions most prevalent. (Keep in mind that municipal ordinances may differ from the state law discussed here.)
Let's set things straight:
One does not have to be drunk or even anywhere near it to be picked up for DUII. Oregon considers someone under the influence of intoxicants if a person's mental or physical abilities are negatively affected to the point where he or an observer can detect such change.
Alcohol need not be the sole source of intoxication. Nor does alcohol even need to be present.
"Intoxicant" means just that and includes not only alcohol, but also controlled substances such as prescription drugs. Therefore, one can commit the crime of driving under the influence without ever touching a drop of alcohol. Often the prosecution's case rests on the theory that a combination of a controlled substance (often a prescription drug) and alcohol has caused someone to become under the influence.
One's blood-alcohol level can be lower than 0.08 percent and one can still be found guilty of DUII.
The often-heard 0.08 percent standard is simply the level at which the law presumes one is impaired. But keep in mind that people are arrested and prosecuted for driving with blood alcohol levels less than 0.08 percent.
One can also be found guilty of DUII for operating a bicycle. A police officer does not have to see you drive to arrest you for DUII. Police officers can stake out drinking establishments and follow drivers leaving the premises in an attempt to pull the vehicles over for minor infractions. And you can be arrested and convicted for DUII without exhibiting any impaired driving skills; that is, you can be stopped for simply having a taillight out and then arrested for DUII.
Oregon's DUII law has become vast and complex. The heat is on.
Anyone who drives a motor vehicle in Oregon is deemed to have consented to take a breath test under certain circumstances. A driver is required to submit to the test if a police officer has "reasonable grounds" to believe that the driver is under the influence.
If a person is younger than 21 and the breath-test machine registers any amount of alcohol, his driver's license will be suspended. Anyone over 21 for whom the breath-test machine registers 0.08 percent or more will have his license suspended. The Division of Motor Vehicles also suspends the license of anyone who refuses, without proper cause, to take a breath test.
Suspensions for failing a breath test begin at 90 days on up to one year. Suspensions for refusing to take a breath test range from one to three years. And one must endure at least a period of time before becoming eligible to apply for a hardship or occupational permit. (Under certain circumstances, no hardship license is allowed).
In addition to any DMV suspension, upon conviction for DUII, the law requires that at minimum the court impose the following penalties:
* Note: This article was written before Oregon enacted a felony DUII law. Penalties for conviction of felony DUII are more severe than those listed below.
At least two days in jail or 80 hours of community-service work.
Completion of a self-paid substance-abuse program.
Driver's license suspension (separate from the DMV suspension) of one year or three years depending on one's driving record.
A $1000 fine.
In addition, most courts routinely place the person on probation with conditions, such as requiring that the person not buy, posses or consume any alcoholic beverage, or frequent places where alcoholic beverages are served during the period of probation. The maximum sentence and fine are one year and $5,000.
Drink and drive at your own risk. And the risk is substantial.
NOTICE: Contracted and published by The Oregonian. The purpose of this publication is to provide general information about Oregon DUII law, not to provide specific legal advice.