Alcohol-impaired driving has been responsible for a growing number of traffic fatalities in recent years. According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the year 2013 saw a total of 32,719 deaths related to alcohol-impaired driving. As a result, the prosecution and punishment of drunk driving violations have increasingly become more stringent. This is particularly true for a driving while intoxicated or DWI violation.

Drivers are charged with a DWI if they continue to operate vehicles when they have blood alcohol content (BAC) that goes beyond the legally mandated level. All over the United States, private drivers are not allowed on the road if they have a BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher. For drivers operating commercial vehicles, intoxication is defined as having a BAC level of 0.04 percent or higher. Of course, these legally defined blood alcohol levels aren’t the only factors in considering a driver’s level of intoxication.

Penalties for driving while intoxicated differ in every state. However, most of these penalties involve paying a significant amount of fines and spending some time in jail or prison. In Texas, for example, a DWI charge could lead to a financial penalty of up to $2,000 and 3 to 180 days in jail, among a few other consequences. On the other hand, the website of the Law Offices of Richard A. Portale, P.C. points out that New York imposes punishments that are similarly steep. At third offense, a DWI charge can result in a maximum $10,000 fine and up to 7 years in jail.

Some drivers can also experience serious impairment even before they reach or go beyond the regulated amount. Particular reactions to alcohol content differ based on several other factors, such as the driver’s weight or the amount of food take while the drink was consumed. In some cases, having as little as 0.02 percent BAC inside one’s system can lead to a decline in visual and cognitive function. While it might not lead to a DWI charge, certain state laws will still recognize that some serious traffic violation has occurred. For more information, consult with a criminal defense expert.