Most Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) cases are prosecuted in State Superior Courts. However, arrests that take place on federally owned land such as national parks and military bases are prosecuted in Federal Court. An attorney experienced in defending federal drunk driving cases can explain the difference between state and federal prosecutions, and the potential penalties of each.
The laws that apply in a federal DUI case depend on where the arrest took place. Arrests in national parks fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and are governed by the Code of Federal Regulations.
Under the Code of Federal Regulations, drunk driving in a national park is a Class B misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class B misdemeanor can include up to six months in a federal penitentiary and a fine of up to $5,000. The driver also can be placed on probation for up to five years.
Drunk driving arrests on any other federally owned land fall under the law of the individual state in which the arrest took place, through the Assimilative Crimes Act. DUI drivers arrested on federal land in California that doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service face the same punishment as those prosecuted in state superior court.
Like state cases, federal DUI/DWI cases that involve a refusal to submit to a chemical test carry the possibility of additional consequences. Drivers on federally owned land are subject to a federal implied consent law, meaning that anyone arrested on suspicion of drunk driving must submit to a blood, breath or urine test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC).
Refusal to submit to a chemical test constitutes a misdemeanor under the Code of Federal Regulations and carries a penalty of up to six months in a federal prison, a fine, or both. The driver also will be denied driving privileges on federal lands for one year, beginning on the date of arrest. The Code of Federal Regulations does not provide for mandatory driver’s license suspensions in refusal cases, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) likely will be notified of a chemical test refusal conviction, and will suspend the driver’s license.
Federal drunk driving is a serious charge that can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. A lawyer experienced in handling federal DUI/DWI cases can develop a strategy to fight the charges and keep consequences to a minimum.