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Some states now have two statutory offenses. The first is the traditional offense, variously called driving under the influence of alcohol(DUI), driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI), operating under the influence (OUI), or operating while intoxicated/impaired (OWI).Driving under the influence of alcohol or other impairing drugs is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The second and more recent is the so-called illegal per se offense of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by volume (mass of alcohol/volume of blood) of 0.08% (previously 0.10%) or higher. In most states, the timing of the chemical test is important because the law mandates a result within a given time period after the driving stopped, usually two hours.

Whether your state calls it "driving under the influence (DUI)," "driving while intoxicated (DWI)," or some other name, it is a charge that is taken very seriously and punished accordingly. The first offense requires proof of intoxication, although evidence of BAC is admissible as rebuttable presumptive evidence of that intoxication; the second requires only proof of BAC at the time of being in physical control of a motor vehicle.

An accused may be convicted of both offenses, but may only be punished for one. The differences between state penalties still vary. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that roughly 40 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths are alcohol-related to some degree.

Wisconsin, for instance, is the only state that continues to treat first offense drunk driving arrests as forfeiture.

 Some states also include a lesser charge of driving with a BAC of 0.05%; other states limit this offense to drivers under the age of 21. All states and DC also now have zero tolerance laws: the license of anyone under 21 driving with any detectable alcohol in their bloodstream (BAC limits of 0.01% or 0.02% apply in some states, such as Florida.) will be suspended.

In 2009, Puerto Rico joined these states, setting a limit of 0.02 for drivers under 21, despite maintaining a legal drinking age of 18.

What Does it Mean to be Impaired?
For the purposes of DUI law, generally, you are "impaired" if your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is appreciably affected by having consumed alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications. Since everyone is affected differently by different substances, "per se" laws set measurable limits.

When Did State DUI Laws Become Uniform?

States with impaired driving laws were strongly encouraged by the American Medical Association and federal agencies to set BAC levels at 0.15 percent or lower, but they were free to establish their own guidelines.
This changed in 2000 when Congress passed a law requiring each state to set its BAC limit at 0.08 percent and establish the drinking age at 21.