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Understanding the elements of a drunk driving charge

Being accused of drunk driving is a serious situation for residents in Iowa and elsewhere. Whether it is the driver's first charge or not, it is important to not only understand how the charge could impact them but also the circumstances that led to the DUI charge. Understanding the elements of a drunk driving charge assists defendants with a defense strategy, helping them reduce or even dismiss the charges against them.

With regards to DUI elements, the driving element is required in most states. This means that the accused must have been driving in order to be convicted of a DUI. Other states use the term operating, which implies that the accused was in actual control of the vehicle. In order to determine if an alleged driver was in fact driving, certain factors will be considered. This includes the location of the vehicle, driver, keys and the operability of the vehicle.

In most states, the presumption of drunk driving is proven through the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of the driver. Per se drunk driving presumes that even if the driver is still able to drive safely, if his or her BAC is 0.08 or higher, then they are determined to be drunk driving.

In order to establish that a driver was under the influence, police officers will prove this element by collecting testimony regarding the unusual driving of the driver, the driver's conduct or physical appearance, the driver's performance during a field sobriety test, video images taken at the scene or an incriminating statement made by the driver.

When a driver is charged with a DUI, he or she could consider the above elements when developing a defense strategy. If a defendant is able to suppress evidence or disprove any necessary DUI elements, he or she could have the charges against them reduced or discharged.

No matter the evidence collected against a defendant, it is important that defendants understand that they are entitled to a criminal defense. Taking steps to make a defense not only ensures that their rights are protected, but it could help the accused avoid serious penalties.

Source:, "Elements of a DUI Offense," accessed Jan. 11, 2016

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