Drunk driving is dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs. That is why we have DUI penalties, to protect those on the road. Unfortunately, those penalties aren’t always right or fair. If you are fighting a DUI charge, hire a DUI attorney from Dutko Law. We will fight to protect your freedom in court. In the meantime, here is a quick historical overview of how the DUI came to be in the United States.

The First DUI Law

The first law against drunk driving was a state law in New York. It was passed in 1910, and simply made driving while intoxicated against the law. It did not, however, set a limit as to what qualified as “intoxicated”. After New York instituted this law, several other states, most notably California, followed suit.

After Prohibition

From 1920 to 1933 alcohol was illegal regardless of whether you were driving intoxicated or not. It is no wonder that issues of driving while intoxicated came to the forefront during this time. In 1936, a Doctor Harger, professor of toxicology and biochemistry at Indiana University, patented what he dubbed the “Drunkometer”. It was the first sobriety checker. Essentially, it was just a balloon like device which filled when people breathed into it. A chemical solution in the air would mix with the alcohol in a person’s breath, turning the balloon into a different color. However, this just showed if the person had had a drink, and not how intoxicated that person was with any reliable accuracy.

The Legal Limit

By 1938, the first commonly used legal limit for blood alcohol content began to see use. It was set at 0.15 percent, and was based on research by the American Medical Association as well as the National Safety Council. As is usually the case, once there is a mutually respected cited authority making a claim, that claim tends to catch on.

The Birth of the Breathalyzer

The breathalyzer wasn’t invented until 1953. It was made by one Robert Borkenstein, who was both a former police captain as well as a university professor. It used the principles of chemical oxidation and photometry to determine a relatively exact blood alcohol concentration. Because police could now tell blood alcohol level with accuracy, unlike with the drunkometer, the legal limits that had been set became much more enforceable.

The Birth of MADD

We all know the acronym for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But did you know that it was founded in 1980 by one Candy Lightner. This happened after a tragic incident where her 13 year old daughter was killed by a drunk driver with three previous DUIs. Since then, the group has been integral to increasing sentences for drunk and drugged drivers, increasing the legal drinking age, and increasing awareness about drunk driving.

21 and Over

Thanks in large part due to the efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed. In this act, states were required to individually pass legislation that would raise the legal drinking age from 18 (or whatever it was previously) to 21. For the first time in American history, a man could be sent to war, but not legally have a drink.

A New Limit

In 1998, a federal incentive grant called TEA-21 encouraged states to change their legal alcohol limit down to 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. In the next two years, the initiative made a lot of headway, even garnering national attention. In 2000, Congress passed a law making the national alcohol limit 0.08 BAC when driving.

Ignition Interlock Systems

In the current millennium, Alabama has become the last state in the country to mandate an ignition interlock system law for people who have previously been convicted or arrested of drunk or drugged driving. These devices disable a car from starting unless the driver passes a blood alcohol test, preventing drunk drivers from getting out on the road.

 

That is a lot of history for one little article. It took centuries before society decided to crack down on drunk driving, and we are still making changes all the time. If you are fighting a DUI charge, it is important that you have a professional DUI lawyer to represent you. Our Reading criminal defense lawyers will fight for your freedom in court. Give us a call if you have any questions about our law firm. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.