DUI 'per se' laws and your rights

Whether officers pulled you over because of your erratic driving or for an unrelated reason, you may have been shocked when police asked you to step out of the car and submit to field sobriety tests. These tests include walking a straight line, standing on one foot and allowing the officer to check the involuntary jerking in your eyes.

If you know your rights, you may have politely refused to take these tests or to blow into the portable breath test that gives a preliminary measure of your blood alcohol concentration. Many in Louisiana believe that they can avoid a DUI conviction if they do not provide this evidence for police. However, if you are still facing DUI charges, it may have something to do with Louisiana's per se laws.

Per se works against you

Per se means "by itself." Per se laws related to drunk driving mean that if your BAC is at the legal limit, which is .08 or higher in most states, police do not need to present any other evidence that you are impaired. You can refuse to take the roadside sobriety tests, or you can take them and pass with flying colors, but if your BAC is .08, the law considers you to be intoxicated.

These laws may make it more difficult for you to determine when you have had enough to drink. You may not feel impaired or even demonstrate any difficulty controlling your vehicle. You may not be slurring your words or stumbling when you walk. However, your BAC is the defining evidence of impairment.

Under 21? Your BAC limit is much lower

Per se laws for underage drinkers are a bit different. Instead of .08, most states have zero tolerance laws. This could mean that even a trace of alcohol in your system may result in DUI charges. This is not something you should shrug off. A conviction for drunk driving can have a serious impact on your future, including your choice of careers and perhaps your ability to complete college.

It may seem as if you have no advantages or alternatives when your blood or breath test results in a BAC over the legal limit. However, a skilled attorney will have the knowledge and resources to challenge the results of your test. This may mean investigating the maintenance and calibration of the machine police used, or questioning whether police violated your rights at any time before, during or after your arrest.

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