Drunk Driving FAQ
Answers to your questions on legal limits, chemical tests and hiring a lawyer in the event you're charged with driving under the influence.

How drunk or high does someone have to be before he can be convicted of driving under the influence?
In most states, it's illegal to drive a car while "impaired" by the effects of alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs). This means that there must be enough alcohol or drugs in the driver's body to prevent him from thinking clearly or driving safely. Many people reach this level well before they'd be considered "drunk" or "stoned."

How can the police find out whether a driver is under the influence?
Police typically use three methods of determining whether a driver has had too much to be driving:

Do I have to take a blood, breath or urine test if asked to do so by the police?
No, but it may be in your best interests to take the test. Many states will automatically suspend your license for a year if you refuse to take a chemical test. And if your drunk driving case goes to trial, the prosecutor can tell the jury that you wouldn't take the test, which may lead the jury members to conclude that you refused because you were, in fact, drunk or stoned.

If I'm stopping for driving under the influence, am I entitled to talk to an attorney before I decide which chemical test to take?
The answer depends on where you live. In California, for example, you don't have the right to speak with an attorney first. But many other states, including Arizona and Kansas, allow you to talk to your lawyer before you take a chemical test.

If I'm taken in for driving under the influence, can a police officer ask me questions on the way to the station without reading me my rights?
Yes, they can. In most situations, this type of questioning would be a violation of your constitutional rights. But the U.S. Supreme Court has held that drunk driving cases are different from most, and that officers may ask you questions while you're riding in the back of the police car -- without reading you your rights (including the right to remain silent, the warning that anything you say may be used against you at trial and the right to have a lawyer).

I've been charged with drunk driving. Should I get a lawyer?
Defending against a charge of drunk driving is a tricky business. Defenders need to understand scientific and medical concepts, and must be able to question tough witnesses, including scientists and police officers. If you want to fight your drunk driving charge, you're well advised to hire an attorney who specializes in these types of cases.