All traffic accidents are regrettable under any circumstances and even more so when someone gets injured. Thousands of Oregon drivers are unfortunate enough to be injured every year, and hundreds are killed in accidents that are caused by everything from poor road conditions and appalling weather to medical conditions or texting while driving. However, Portland personal injury lawyers for victims of drunk drivers feel very strongly that driving while under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) is perhaps the most negligent act any driver can take. Portland law enforcement agencies are also clamping down on those people who think it’s all right to drink, do drugs, or both, and then get behind the wheel.
Many people think that if they are tested for DUII and their blood alcohol level is under the legal limit of .08%, then they haven’t got a case to answer. More and more, however, Portland police are looking at the circumstances under which drivers can be charged with DUII. In the case of a 47-year-old Portland man who registered a blood alcohol content of .07%, he went to court to fight his DUII charge. The police were able to testify that they had witnessed the man continuously swerve into the oncoming traffic lane and that the man in question failed all three field sobriety tests. After a two-day trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court late last year, the jury quickly and unanimously found the driver guilty of DUII.
So why set a level of .08% for DUII?
The fact is drivers can be prosecuted for DUII with blood alcohol levels far below .08%; that figure is simply the maximum level anyone can reach. In other words, once blood alcohol levels reach or exceed that figure, the driver is automatically DUII, whether or not they pass the other field sobriety tests. But even with significantly lower levels, police can still prosecute if they feel a motorist is driving while impaired.
One of the main reasons prosecutors no longer rely simply on blood alcohol levels is the increasing awareness that many thoughtless and negligent motorists don’t just drink before getting behind the wheel. They take drugs as well, including prescription drugs such as Prozac, Vicodin and Ambien. In addition, no fewer than 55,000 Oregonians now carry cards which state they can smoke marijuana for medical reasons. According to police, this doesn’t mean they’re permitted to smoke marijuana and then drive. When combined with alcohol, the results can be devastating. Portland personal injury lawyers for victims of drunk drivers see tragic cases in which families have been torn apart and lives ruined because someone thought it was no big deal to pop a few pills and have a few drinks before sitting into their vehicle.
Drunk driving deaths decreased in Oregon
In 2010 (official figures for 2011 haven’t been released as yet), the number of alcohol-related deaths on Oregon roads came to 118 men, women and children. While this figure is still unacceptably high, and one which officials are determined to reduce, it still compares very favorably with statistics from 30 years ago. In 1980, the worst year on record, 330 people were killed in drink-driving accidents in Oregon. This trend seems to mirror results across the country, and while drink-driving deaths continue to decline, the number of people killed in drug-and-drive accidents is creeping upwards year on year.
Anywhere from 21,000 to 25,000 people are arrested for DUII in Oregon every year, so clearly there’s still a lot of work to be done to keep road users safe. Those numbers are particularly worrying in view of the fact that Oregon has one of the more lenient blood alcohol level limits in the country. Not a single state has a higher level than 0.08%, and Colorado has set the national benchmark, at 0.05%. Outside the U.S., even more stringent regulations are enforced. Germany and Australia have the same standard as Colorado, at 0.05%, but in Japan the mark is set at 0.03; Sweden’s is .02%, and Brazil has recently established a complete zero-tolerance policy.
Anyone can drive drunk…even those who should know better
It would be unfair to say that DUII offenders come from a particular demographic. In fact, those that choose to flout the drink-driving laws come from all walks of life. In 2010 and 2011 alone, the following were arrested for driving under the influence:
- Five Portland police officers
- One Gresham detective
- A Marion County sheriff’s deputy
- The principal of Cornelius Elementary School
- A famous former Portland defense attorney
- The Tri-Met Union president
- An operations manager with ODOT, who was fired because it was her third DUII conviction
Portland injury lawyers support crack down on drunk driving
Punishments for DUII convictions are severe, but Portland personal injury lawyers for victims of drunk drivers might say they’re not severe enough. At least a DUII charge cannot be plea bargained down to a lesser charge. The first conviction results in a one-year license suspension; a second conviction brings a three-year suspension, and the third “strike” results in a lifetime driving ban, along with any prison sentence or fine the court may impose.
However imperfect the blood alcohol level and field sobriety tests—and many defense lawyers have argued vigorously against them—the fact remains that driving under the influence of intoxicants is an irresponsible act. Yet it’s a decision literally tens of thousands of Oregon motorists make every year. In the vast majority of cases, no one gets injured, but that doesn’t make DUII right. Portland police are determined to keep drunk drivers off the streets, and while this may be an impossible task, they are at least being given the scope to use their own judgment in determining whether someone is driving in an impaired state. However, if you or someone you know has been injured by a DUII motorist, the first thing you should do after getting the medical treatment you need is contact a firm of experienced Portland personal injury lawyers for victims of drunk drivers. They will fight hard to ensure the person who injured you pays for their extreme negligence, and to get you the compensation you and your family deserve.