Glossary of DUI Terms

Drunk driving cases can become very complex, with many different laws and details of your case affecting your result. That's why the lawyers at Grabel & Associates have published this Glossary of DUI Terms. 

The Michigan based Law Firm is committed to defending clients in DUI and OWI cases, and our experienced criminal defense lawyers work to ensure clients understand every legal issue affecting their case and the associated terminology that will be used throughout the criminal justice process. This glossary of drunk driving terms will help you understand the charges you are facing, however you should always contact a skilled attorney before attempting to take legal action in your case.

Grabel Law's Glossary of DUI Terms

BAC: BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, is the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood, usually measured via chemical blood or breath testing. In the state of Michigan, it is illegal for persons over 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.08%, while commercial drivers cannot operate a motor vehicle with a BAC over 0.04%. Drivers under the age of 21 cannot operate a motor vehicle with any blood alcohol content.

Breathalyzer: A breathalyzer is a device that measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a person by determining the concentration of alcohol in the lungs. A breathalyzer is a device that a driver will blow into, which gives an approximate reading of what his or her BAC is. Usually, police will administer multiple tests and average the readings.

Breath Test: A chemical test that uses a breathalyzer device to measure blood alcohol content.

Blood Test: A chemical test that measures blood alcohol content by taking a blood sample.

Burden of Proof: The responsibility to prove accusations in a criminal case. In DUI cases involving a defendant with a BAC over 0.08%, the defendant has the burden of proof to prove he or she was not driving while intoxicated.

CDL: Commercial Driver’s License. Distributed to those who drive high-weight vehicles for commercial use.

Charge: A formal legal allegation against a person. In the state of Michigan, drunk driving will result in an OWI charge.

Chemical Test: A chemical test is a test designed to measure the amount of alcohol or drugs in a person’s system. Common chemical tests include breath tests, blood tests, and urinalysis.

Child Endangerment: A charge that occurs when a person is arrested for drunk driving while a child is in the vehicle. Enhanced penalties can apply in child endangerment drunk driving cases.

Conviction: A guilty decision in a criminal court case. After conviction, sentencing determines the penalties for the crime a defendant has been found guilty of.

Defendant: The person charged with a DUI or other drunk driving charge is referred to as the defendant.

Driver Responsibility Fees: A possible penalty in drunk driving cases, driver responsibility fees are mandatory fines for traffic offenses and criminal convictions.

DUI: Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, is used to describe the illegal act of driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. DUI is a term used interchangeably with “drunk driving” and other related charges.

DWI: Driving While Intoxicated (or Driving While Impaired) is used interchangeably with DUI, however can be more commonly used to refer to a drug intoxication case.

Expunge: The act of partially clearing a person’s criminal record after a criminal conviction. Persons convicted of drunk driving can attempt to have their record cleared through expungement, often after serving the associated criminal penalties.

Felony DUI: After a third drunk driving offense, defendants will face felony charges and increased punishment. Felony DUI charges differ from misdemeanor DUI in the minimum and maximum allowed sentences.

Field Sobriety Test: Field sobriety tests are examinations used by police officers in order to determine if a person is intoxicated. Common field sobriety tests include walking in a straight line, walking and turning, or balancing on one foot.

Ignition Interlock Device (IID): A breathalyzer type device used to determine the BAC of a driver, which is connected to a vehicle’s ignition. A person cannot start their vehicle without passing the IID test, and many devices utilize rolling retests or photo images to ensure compliance.

Implied Consent: Drivers cannot refuse a chemical test if they are suspected of drunk driving, as by driving they have already consented to a blood, breath, or urine test in the event of suspected DUI. License suspension and other penalties can occur if you refuse a chemical test.

License Suspension: A possible penalty in drunk driving cases, suspension results in temporary loss of driving privileges. After a suspension is up, the driver may have to pay a reinstatement fee in order to obtain a new driver’s license.

License Revocation: A possible penalty in drunk driving cases, revocation refers to the loss of driving privileges. After a license revocation, a person will have to apply for a hearing with the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division and try to win back their right to drive.

Misdemeanor: A misdemeanor is a criminal act that is less severe than a felony offense. Although punishments can be less serious, it is still critical to work with an experienced attorney in misdemeanor cases.

Open Container: Unsealed alcoholic beverages are not allowed in vehicles, regardless of the BAC of the driver. An open alcohol container can result in criminal punishment.

OUI: Operating Under the Influence (OUI) is used interchangeably with DUI, OWI, and other terms. The word operating implies more than just public driving of a vehicle, and can include operating vehicles in parking lots or other areas.

OUIL: Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol is a criminal charge, which doesn’t require the driver to have a BAC over 0.08%. The prosecution has the burden of proof to prove you were impaired by alcohol consumption.

OUID: Operating Under the Influence of Drugs refers to the operation of a motor vehicle while using illegal, prescription, or otherwise intoxicating narcotics.

OWI: Operating While Intoxicated is a criminal charge in Michigan, which can result in harsh penalties.

OWVI: Operating While Visibly Impaired, like OUIL is a charge that does not require an illegal blood alcohol content. The prosecution has to prove you were unable to safely drive and were visibly intoxicated at the time of arrest.

PBT: A preliminary breath test (PBT) is a portable chemical breathalyzer test, often utilized immediately after pulling over a drunk driving suspect. These tests are very prone to error and are not recognized as a reliable measure of BAC.

Plea Bargain: A defendant agrees to enter a plea to less serious charges and possibly benefit from a shorter sentence. Plea bargains, or plea deals, are used to speed up the criminal process, and always have some value for the prosecution. Never accept a plea bargain without the help of an experienced attorney.

Point System: A system that adds a number of points onto a person’s driver’s license for traffic violations and criminal offenses. If a person reaches 12 driver’s license points, his or her license will be reviewed and potentially suspended.

Probable Cause: Police must have a reason to pull you over, and reason to arrest you. Swerving outside your lane, running a traffic light, or other violations can give police probable cause to suspect you are drunk and arrest you, while a preliminary chemical test can establish probable cause for arrest.

Prosecutor: The chief legal representative of the prosecution who attempts to secure conviction of a defendant.

Rising Alcohol Level Defense: A defense utilized in some drunk driving cases, due to the fact that BAC rises after someone stops drinking. Chemical testing measures BAC at the time of the test, rather than when the driver was actually operating a vehicle, and in some cases can present a false representation of the driver’s level of impairment.

UBAL: Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level, which for most Michigan drivers means a BAC over 0.08% (See BAC).

Vehicular Homicide: If an accident occurs while a driver is under the influence of alcohol and causes the death of another, that driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular homicide.

Zero Tolerance: It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any blood alcohol content if you are under the age of 21. A BAC over 0.02% will result in criminal DUI charges.

Contact Scott Grabel for a Free Consultation

Call 1-800-342-7896 now for a free consultation, or contact our firm online. Our lawyers will help you fight back against criminal penalties, and we understand the legal issues that will affect your case. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney; we will work to achieve the best possible case outcome in your DUI or OWI case.