The constantly accelerating (and politically popular) DUI "crack-down," together with the increasing carrot-and-stick presence of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has resulted in a wave of new and ever-harsher approaches to punishment in drunk driving cases.
Fines and jail terms have been raised for the basic offense of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or driving with .08 percent blood-alcohol concentration. License restrictions, suspensions, and revocations are more extensive and easier to obtain. The impact of prior convictions has raised terms of incarceration to felony levels.
One facet of this "get tough" approach has been a proliferation of sentence enhancements: statutes providing for increased penalties where specific criteria exist. While this varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there are a number of such enhancing grounds that appear likely to continue to spread across the country. These include:
High Blood-Alcohol Concentration - Commonly, there is a mandatory higher jail sentence where the BAC is .20 percent or higher. In Ohio the enhancement is for readings of .17 or higher.
Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing - The increased penalty for refusing is often in addition to the administrative suspension for refusing. (Note: If the jurisdiction punishes refusal as a substantive offense, it cannot also use the refusal as an enhancement in the DUI/per se case, as this would constitute multiple punishment.)
Speeding and/or Reckless Driving - This enhancement involves driving in excess of a specified speed while under the influence of alcohol or over .08 percent BAC.
Accident or Injury - In many jurisdictions, the existence of property damage can trigger a more severe sentence; in others, it will define a different offense. Where there is personal injury involved, most jurisdictions elevate the offense to felony status.