Idaho is best known for its uncommonly beautiful landscapes and its legendarily large potato crops. While those unusual tidbits make Idaho a special place to live or visit, nothing about Idaho's DUI laws suggest that its regulations are out of the ordinary. As in all US states, a Driving Under the Influence violation, or DUI, carries with it strident penalties and in many cases even long-term consequences.
A DUI violation in Idaho is prosecuted as both a criminal case and as an Idaho Transportation Department case. Anyone arrested for DUI in Idaho will be subject to Transportation Department proceeding and may be disciplined by the Idaho Transportation Department separate from and in addition to the state criminal justice system.
It is worth noting that anyone arrested for DUI in Idaho has only seven days from the date of arrest to request a license hearing. If a license hearing is not requested within seven days, the arrestee will be subject to automatic suspension of his or her license, pursuant to Idaho Transportation Department rules. Additionally, if a person is arrested for DUI in Idaho and refuses to take a blood alcohol test, he or she may have his license seized by the arresting officer.
In the event that a court finds against a defendant who refused a blood alcohol test, his or her license will be suspended for at least 180 days, in addition to any other suspension determinations made by the court based on the evidence put forth in the criminal prosecution.
Like many states, Idaho prosecutes DUI offenses under two theories: per se violations and under the influence violations. A per se violation occurs when a person's blood alcohol level exceeds the statutory limit. In Idaho the per se floor is set at .08 percent. Idaho uses the implied consent theory, meaning the state considers anyone driving a car within its borders to have given his or her implicit consent to be tested for DUI alcohol or drug intoxication if arrested for DUI. Thus, most people arrested in Idaho submit to blood alcohol testing and many cases are determined by the per se laws alone.
However, in some instances the state may wish to argue that a person, though not clearly in violation of the per se laws, was under the influence. This argument is generally used in two situations; first, where the arrestee refuses to take a blood alcohol test. Second, where the arrestee has submitted to the blood alcohol test and given results below .08 percent, but he or she still appears impaired by the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prosecution will bring in observations made by the arresting officer in order to prove that a driver was under the influence at the time of arrest. In making its determination of guilt or innocence, a court will consider field sobriety test performance, driving pattern, physical appearance, speech pattern, and general impressions of the officer.
Punishments in Idaho are stringent. A first offense carries with it two days to six months of jail time and a fine up to $1,000. Supervision and alcohol treatment may be required as well. Offenders with extremely high blood alcohol levels at the time of arrest may be subject to harsher penalties.
Idaho DUI's have a five-year washout period, so offenses occurring more than five years apart will each be prosecuted as initial offenses. However, penalties for second and third offenses are increasingly tough. A second offense carries with it punishments similar to those of a first offense, although they are more severe in nature and duration. A third offense is a felony and carries with it a license suspension of one to five years in addition to one month to five years imprisonment.
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