Have DUI Laws Evolved Over Time?
Steven: Yes, I think the law is different. I think the way the prosecutors treat the law is different. I think the way the judges treat the law is different and I think there are more groups out there that are concerned about drunk driving; a good example would be Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The Legal Blood Alcohol Limit Has Been Reduced by Almost Half Since the 1960’s
I can remember back in the late 60s, early 70s, when you had a DUI case, I think in some states it was .15. Then it went to .10, and it stayed there for a while.
California Tests Were Used to Measure Impairment Prior to the Advent of Breath Tests
In the 1960s and 1970s some of the states didn’t have a breath test, so they really relied on what they called the California Test. The police would arrest you and bring you into the police station, and one of the tests was comprised of checking your eyes, counting forwards and backwards, doing the ABCs, finger dexterity tests, which included picking up coins on a flat surface and putting them in increasing order, i.d. 1 cent piece up to a 50 cent piece. They laid out on a table a penny, nickel, dime, 25 cent piece and half a dollar piece. There were also the co-ordination tests like those that are not called the SFST. Although, they did not give you the eye or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.
Decades Ago, DUI Offenses Were Treated Very Leniently
If it was your first offense, they might lower the charge, and just give you a slap on the wrist. If a jail term was required, you could serve your time in the county courthouse. You could serve the term on weekends. They used to say that a day’s worth of jail was eight hours. Then the courts and the commissioner of corrections got on them for that, and you had to go in for 24 hours. They would offer all sorts of leeway. If you had a 30‑day jail sentence, you could serve it on weekends.
Drinking and Driving Was Socially Acceptable Decades Ago; However, Penalties Were in Place That Had Significant Consequences for Car Accidents Causing Injury or Death
It was a lot different. It was really part of the culture that people drank. It was socially accepted. But even decades ago, there were laws that, if you drink and drive and you kill or injure someone the penalty was severe and other charges were filed against you that would increase your jail time.
Current Laws Changing Multiple DUIs to Felony Charges Have Penalties with Significant Long-Term Consequences
I do not recall there being too many states that had felony DUIs. Today DUIs are classified as first offense, second offense, and third offense. Second offense in Connecticut is considered a felony, and a conviction really has long-term consequences.
Interviewer: So a second offense is a felony. That’s pretty serious. That tells me that on a first offense you shouldn’t treat it lightly at all because, if you are convicted or you plea out, you’re setting yourself up for a major problem if you ever are arrested again.
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