The History of the DUI

When was the first drunk driving law created?

Today, every state has some version of a DWI statute. Drunk driving laws make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle if the driver has consumed over a certain level of alcohol. Drunk driving laws are important to protect the public, but at times drivers will be wrongfully accused of this crime. Below, our Phoenix, Arizona DUI lawyers explore the history of the DUI and how DUI laws have changed throughout the years.

History of the DUI: The First DUI Law

The first drunk driving laws in the United States were created in 1906. That year, legislatures in the state of New Jersey enacted a law that said no intoxicated person should operate a motor vehicle. Violation of this law was punished by a fine of $500 and up to 60 days in jail.  After the passage of this law, several other states passed similar drunk driving laws.  

These early drunk driving laws outlawed intoxication but did not define what constituted intoxicated. Officers determined a driver’s inebriation based on behavior. New York was the first to alter its drunk driving law to require that the arrested person have a blood alcohol content of over .15 percent within two hours of arrest in order to be convicted of the crime. This level of .15 percent was adopted by several other states and became the standard cut off for many years to follow.

DUI Laws Strengthen 

During the 1970s to the 1990s, DUI laws strengthened. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving pushed for the lowering of the legal limit in order to protect more road users. The states reacted by adopting zero-tolerance laws for those under the age of 21 and blood alcohol limits of .08 percent, which has become the standard today. As DUI laws have become better defined and levels more stringent, punishments have also increased. In Arizona, fines for a first offense DUI may amount to $2,000 or more. Drivers must serve one day in jail, but can be sentenced 10 days or more. Drivers will also face suspension of their driver’s license and may be forced to complete an alcohol treatment course.  

DUI defendants today will need the assistance of an experienced DUI lawyer to combat these serious charges. A DUI conviction can prove life-changing, particularly if it is your second or third offense. Contact a DUI lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest so that he or she can get started mounting your defense.

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