I handle all types of criminal cases, from violent crimes to “paper” crimes. Of all the crimes I defend, I firmly believe that DUI cases are the most challenging.
DUI cases frequently involve more complex issues of law, science, physics and mathematics, than most other serious criminal cases. Further, in the past twenty years, the constitutional rights of persons charged with DUI have been severely limited. At the same time, the consequences of a DUI conviction–even a first offense–have become severe. In other words, it ain’t just a glorified traffic ticket anymore.
Posting information regarding Mississippi DUI law on this site could keep me busy for years. I think the best place to start is with what the law says is illegal when it comes to drinking and driving.
What is the crime of Driving Under the Influence under Mississippi law?
Driving under the influence is prohibited by Miss. Code Ann. § 63-11-30. This statute prohibits two (2) specific acts. First, the law prohibits a person from operating a vehicle upon the public roadways if his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or more. This is commonly referred to as the per se DUI law. Second, the law generally prohibits a person from operating a vehicle anywhere in the State (public roadway or not), while under the influence of an “intoxicating liquor” or other substance which has impaired the person’s ability to operate the vehicle.
A person may be charged with violating both parts of the statute. However, he may be punished for only one violation, due to principles of double jeopardy.
If a person is charged under the per se section of the code, all the prosecution must prove is that the person operated a vehicle on a public roadway while having a BAC of .08% or more. That’s it. The prosecution is not required to prove that the person was impaired, that he was driving dangerously, or even that he was actually experiencing any effects from the alcohol. Simply having a BAC of .08% or more violates the statute.
If a person is charged under the general DUI section, the burden of proof for the prosecutor is more difficult. The prosecution must prove (a) that the person was under the influence of alcohol or another substance; and (b) that the alcohol or other substance impaired his ability to operate the vehicle. This section comes into play when the BAC is unknown (usually because the Defendant has refused the test), or where the Defendant is accused of being under the influence of “another substance” (such as marijuana).
Prosecutors typically attempt to prove impairment by showing that the Defendant was driving erratically, and/or that he appeared to be impaired when encountered by law enforcement (swaying, stumbling, falling down, lack of balance, etc.). If the prosecutor does not have this “impairment” evidence, the chances of a not guilty verdict are high.
These are the two (2) ways a person can be charged with DUI in Mississippi. Next time, we’ll talk about the potential penalties if a person is convicted of DUI.
If you’ve been charged with DUI, you need to retain a tough, aggressive Mississippi DUI defense attorney to protect your rights.