By Hugh Duvall Published: Monday, August 14, 2006
Many people are still unaware of these severe consequences. So, if you
ever drink any amount of alcohol and then drive, read every word of this
article. If you know anyone who does, grab a pair of scissors and start
Everyone who drives in Oregon should, at a minimum, be aware of the
The legal limit: It’s not as simple as 0.08 percent. There are two
ways a person is considered under the influence of intoxicants in Oregon.
First, if his or her blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or greater.
However, a person is also considered under the influence of intoxicants
if any one of his or her mental or physical abilities is adversely
affected by intoxicants to a perceptible degree, regardless of the
person’s blood alcohol level.
A person can be guilty of DUII with a blood alcohol content of 0.07,
0.06 or even 0.05 percent! And “intoxicants” includes more than alcohol.
A person is guilty of DUII if he or she drives under the influence of
drugs – even prescription drugs. Oregon’s law is very close to a zero
Two problems for the price of one: Most DUII cases involve two
governmental entities pursuing action independently against the accused:
1) The state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division takes
administrative action, and 2) a city or the state prosecutes the person
If a person blows a 0.08 percent or greater, the DMV will seek a
driver’s license (implied consent) suspension of 90 days to one year, or
if a person refuses a breath or blood test, a one- to three-year
suspension. This DMV action is completely separate from any court
The four poison pills: If a person is convicted of DUII, every court
in Oregon must impose at least these four consequences:
1) Two days in jail or 80 hours of community service,
2) a $1,000 fine,
3) payment for and completion of an alcohol treatment program, and
4) a one-year driver’s license suspension (separate from the DMV
implied-consent suspension mentioned above).
The diversion program: It’s not a guaranteed safe haven. A person
charged with DUII may be eligible for Oregon’s DUII diversion program
1) he or she has not been convicted of a DUII or been in a diversion
program in the past 10 years,
2) the presently charged DUII did not involve an accident in which
anyone but the person accused was injured, and
3) the person did not have a commercial driver’s license (even if that
person was not operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time). If the
person successfully completes this diversion program, then the court
dismisses the criminal case.
So, while the DUII diversion program allows many to avoid a
conviction, if a person has a commercial license, or the matter involved
an injury, this option is unavailable.
The bad news about blackout periods: All DMV implied consent
suspensions have a period during which absolutely no driving is allowed –
none. This “blackout period” lasts at least 30 days, but can be
considerably longer. This can obviously throw the person’s life into
The really bad news is for repeat offenders: Oregon imposes a
“permanent” driver’s license revocation on a third or greater DUII
conviction – regardless of over how long a period those convictions
occurred. For example, if a person had two DUII convictions while in
college 20 years earlier, and is convicted of a third, perhaps because he
or she was ineligible for the diversion program, the court will impose a
A fourth DUII conviction within a 10-year period is a felony. No
driving privileges are available for these individuals for at least 10
years following such conviction.
The bitter truth: An urban myth has evolved that if someone charged
with DUII has enough money, or the right attorney, then he or she can
“beat” the charge. Not in Oregon. Oregon’s DUII laws are some of the
toughest in the country. And the least someone can hope to face in court
is a police officer willing to testify that in his or her opinion the
accused drove under the influence of intoxicants.
Anyone knowledgeable about Oregon’s DUII law thinks twice before
drinking any amount of alcohol and then driving.
Hugh Duvall, a criminal defense attorney based in Eugene, is vice
president of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association.