Police are very aggressive when on patrol for drunk drivers. If an officer
observes a moving violation by a motorist, he or she may decide to stop
the driver and look for signs of impairment. If the driver fails field
sobriety tests, the officer may then make an arrest.
While the consequences of a conviction are severe even for a first-offense
DUI, they increase dramatically for repeat DUI offenders. A second-offense
may bring jail time, which increases with subsequent convictions. A fourth-offense
may be charged as a felony, which can bring 180 days to one year behind bars.
If an offender has been convicted of a DUI or DUI-related offense in other
states, this may be used to enhance the penalties that may be handed down
for a conviction in Nebraska. The Nebraska Supreme Court recently heard
a case that may have an impact for those charged as a repeat offender
due to out-of-state convictions.
In the case, a police officer observed a vehicle suspended on a utility
pole guide wire. As the officer approached, the driver of the vehicle
jumped out. The officer and the man began talking, and the officer detected
signs of impairment. Another officer administered a blood-alcohol test,
and the man registered a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10, above the
The man faced three charges as a result of the stop, including driving
without registration and insurance, and also for a fourth-offense DUI.
He was convicted of the DUI, but acquitted on the other two charges.
During the penalty phase of the trial, the state introduced the evidence
of the man’s prior convictions. This included one conviction for
Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), which occurred in Colorado.
The man objected to this conviction being used to enhance the penalties
he was facing. In Colorado, a person can be charged with DWAI if his or
her BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, and can be charged with DUI if the BAC
is 0.08 or higher. He argued that a conviction for DWAI in Colorado was
not similar to a conviction for DUI in Nebraska because the offenses contained
The Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with his arguments, reasoning that a
DWAI conviction required impairment at the slightest degree, while the
Nebraska DUI laws called for an appreciable degree of impairment. Because
of the difference in the way impairment was measured, the DWAI could not
be used to enhance the sentence he would receive in Nebraska.
This case highlights how important it is to aggressively defend against
DUI charges. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn
about the options that may be available to you. Because the punishments
only increase for subsequent convictions, simply pleading guilty to the
charges may carry significant consequences in the future.