Over 14 million United States citizens struggle with an alcohol use disorder, problematic drinking pattern, or addiction. Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are a form of substance abuse that manifests characteristic symptoms of risky behavior, impulse control, and chronic mental and physical health conditions in those who wrestle with them.

Society and medical professionals associate many side effects and symptoms with the misuse of alcohol, one of which is engaging in hazardous behaviors like operating a vehicle while under the influence. In driver’s education courses, family talks, and even television commercials, the importance of designated drivers and not driving while under the influence is a frequent topic of discussion.

Nevertheless, studies estimate that nearly 28 people in the United States, over 10,000 individuals annually, meet life-threatening or ending conditions due to drunk driving daily.

On average, this estimate equals that at least one individual ceases to exist any longer every 52 minutes due to drunk driving accidents in the United States. Such deaths are preventable; nonetheless, more than 111 million individuals in the United States are guilty of driving while under the influence of either alcohol or other impairing substances each year, 1 million of which end in arrest.

Of course, in most instances where driving under the influence occurs, a form of alcohol or substance use disorder typically presents itself in conjunction. As a result, an individual can receive help enrolling in a top alcohol treatment center to breed an environment conducive to long-term healing. Yet, to understand precisely what is at risk, why individuals should take it seriously, and how to heal from it, an individual must first come to a conclusive definition of driving under the influence (DUI).

Driving Under the Influence Defined

The government defines driving under the influence, otherwise known as impaired driving, as the operation of any form of a motor vehicle with drugs (illicit and prescription) or alcohol in an individual’s system that mars a person’s ability to think, act, and react to situations and stimuli in safe manners. The term driving under the influence is quite literal.

An individual driving at impaired capacity puts themselves and all other individuals on or near the road at risk. Driving with illicit drugs, prescription medications, or copious amounts of alcohol in an individual’s system impairs their ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Not all prescription medications will have this effect on individuals. And consuming a responsible and safe amount of alcohol should not interfere with an individual’s ability to operate machinery under the right conditions where they eat, drink plenty of water, and wait for some time before operating a vehicle. Even so, all over-the-counter medications, alcoholic beverages, prescriptions, controlled substances, and illicit drugs carry the potential to produce impairment in an individual.

Typically, individuals who drive under the influence have some substance use disorder. Still, someone with no history of drug or alcohol misuse can interact adversely with medication or overestimate their operation capabilities after drinking. Thus, why it is imperative individuals learn the definition of driving under the influence, what can produce it, and work to engage in safe and prudent driving practices at all times. Individuals who drive while impaired may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Poor and weakening concentration capabilities
  • Slower reaction times
  • Difficulty engaging short-term memory functions
  • Challenges perceiving time
  • Challenges gauging distance correctly
  • Decreased hand-eye coordination skills

Individuals who attempt to drive with alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit substances in their systems may also experience difficulties remaining awake while operating their vehicle, which could result in swerving on the road, crashes, and other forms of vehicular accidents. There are cases in which driving under the influence is accidental and others in which the action is purposeful.

Even though driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be an individual’s decision made with ill-intent, the act itself puts everyone in the vicinity at risk. Even small amounts of alcohol or over-the-counter drugs can impair an individual’s ability to drive. As a result of DUI education, prevention, and the risk it poses to all community members, whether driving with an impairment occurs by rare accident or from carelessness, each State’s individual laws concerning impaired drivers are rather severe.

What Happens to Individual’s Caught Driving Under the Influence?

It is challenging to drive under the influence without knowing. Most individuals guilty of driving while impaired chose to go out to enjoy some alcoholic beverages but overdrank and did not allow themselves enough time to become sober before attempting to travel back to their destination of origin. These individuals, although impaired, are typically fully aware of their condition to some extent. But what lands them in trouble is the lack of impulse control associated with copious drinking.

This lack of impulse control prevents individuals from keeping themselves from attempting to drive themselves back to their original destination. As a result, even first-time DUI cases handle the offender with strict administrative or potentially criminal penalties.

Each State within the U.S. carries the exact definition of driving under the influence. Although, it is pertinent to know that some States separate charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases from DUI events for clarity, driving under the influence holding to medication and drug circumstances, and intoxication referring to those operating a vehicle while drunk.

Still, in some States, legal offices will separate DWI and DUI cases for clarity purposes. It is still possible for an individual to receive a criminal or communal penalty for the presence of both conditions. In Florida, “driving while intoxicated” and “driving under the influence” are interchangeable. Even so, the penalties for drunk or otherwise impaired driving in the Sunshine State are extensive.

Suppose an individual is driving in hazardous, erratic manners or crashed a vehicle due to intoxication on public and private roadways or property. In that case, Florida State DUI penalties can hold either administrative or criminal consequences, and in some cases, both. Some of the penalties an individual charged with driving under the influence may encounter in the Sunshine State include:

  • Administrative Consequences:
    • License suspension (typically lasting anywhere from six months to one year)
    • “Hardship” licenses
    • Fines
  • Criminal Consequences:
    • License suspension (ranging from six months to a year typically)
    • Community service
    • Probation
    • Vehicle impoundment
    • Fines
    • Ignition interlock devices (typically in use for six months or more)
    • Jail time

Depending on the severity of circumstance, age of the individual driving, and how impaired the individual proves at the time of the occurrence, these criminal and administrative consequences can fluctuate in severity. For instance, a first-offense DUI driver who demonstrates just slightly intoxicated and who has not caused any more significant damage or hazard to the community may be subject to the lowest series of consequences the court will allow.

Meanwhile, those found to be well above legal limits of intoxication or demonstrate the presence of other substances in their system alongside community endangerment will have to answer to higher adverse penalties. The fines for being charged with a DUI alone can range from $500 to $5,000. And jail time for a DUI conviction can result in six months to nearly five years of sentencing.

The conditions and penalties which an individual will face after arrest for a DUI will also depend upon the severity and frequency of their conviction status. Individuals who have more than one DUI conviction are likely to encounter more severe consequences for their actions, especially where property damage or personal injury of another human being are involved. Typically, individuals stopped for suspected impaired driving are run through a series of tests on-site to determine their level of driving capability.

If found within the margins for driving while under the influence (generally with a BAC 0f 0.08 or above), they can be placed under arrest and brought back to the police station for holding for eight hours or until they sober up. During this time, formal charges are investigated or put into place to make a proper conviction of the individual suitable to their case. Once these circumstances are appropriately filed, legal action(s) typically takes place within a week or two after being stopped for the violation but is subject to change.

The consequences of driving under the influence can prove extensive. The convictions can range from motor accident to vehicular homicide, first-degree misdemeanor, to third-degree felony. Regardless of the specifics per conviction case, driving while under the influence is a severe offense that can lead to serious, life-altering consequences. This can prove a problematic factor to face for those who come toe-to-toe with DUI charges. The good news is, there is hope for those who are facing a DUI charge and addiction.

Addiction Rehab Treatment and DUI Conviction

Drug and alcohol use disorders or addictions are treatable conditions. Although driving under the influence itself is not an addiction, it often coincides with addictive habits and substance use disorders as a symptom of abuse. Although it may not be a viable option for all clientele as they work through the legal practices involving their DUI case, classes and addiction rehab centers that provide special attention to driving under the influence courses and rehabilitation programs exist.

Typically, alcohol and drug treatment facilities like St. John’s Recovery Place (SJRP) treat a wide range of substance use disorders and addictions through traditional, alternative, and complementary therapeutic services. These services use therapeutic methods that treat the body, mind, and spirit holistically, helping an individual pursue healing in a well-rounded, holistic manner. There is no specific therapy designed to treat DUI, but many programs can tailor to fit an individual’s needs and treat the core of the issue, which relates to either alcohol or drug abuse.

Attending rehab for a DUI case may be court-mandated, or it may be voluntary. Attending an addiction rehab program will not get a client a free pass from serving the consequences of a DUI conviction entirely. Still, it can help rehabilitate the individual, count towards hours for community rehabilitation, and provide the court with evidence that the individual is attempting to better themselves in the best interest of their community. Operating a vehicle while impaired is often a sign that a person may be struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. And although receiving a DUI conviction is, at best, extremely unpleasant, many drug and alcohol rehab centers choose to see this event as an opportunity for intervention.

Rehab cannot cure a DUI case but can treat an addiction to alcohol. Treating such a disorder can help prevent the potential for a repeat driving offense. Additionally, if an individual enrolls into a rehab program following a DUI arrest, they may reduce their sentencing and fine penalties if they can prove continuous work towards not repeating the same offense in inpatient treatment. Unfortunately, the individual will still need to undergo a class about driving under the influence, driver’s safety, and alcohol safety/treatment to re-obtain licensure from the DMV in the future.

In the end, driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol is an extremely dangerous offense to both the person conducting the action and those around them. The penalties of which can be severe. Although there is no way to bypass DUI arrest and conviction penalties, an individual can seek out and receive treatment to help prevent the circumstance from occurring again and potentially lighten the load of the consequences they must legally face. Addiction treatment centers like SJRP work hard to connect with their clientele.

Better than most, this Florida Alcohol treatment center knows the challenges addiction can bring upon an individual and their family. They are familiar with the guilt, fear, and frustration an individual may feel in this situation and wish for nothing more than to help their clients learn to love themselves again as they heal.

Addiction no longer has to define you. Even if you or a loved one are in danger of conviction for driving under the influence, you still hold the potential to heal and live a productive life full of happiness and love. The recovery journey is often challenging, and there will be both joys and sorrows to encounter along the way, but healing is worth the effort.

If you would like to know more about St. John’s Recovery Place, addiction treatment, or the potential to heal after a DUI, call 1-833-397-3422 to learn more. Your recovery and new life could be just around the corner.