Find out how to protect your rights if you've been injured by a drunk driver in Delaware
Comprehensive guide to Delaware's drunk driving laws, the DUI arrest process, and the implications for personal injury cases. Know your rights after a drunk driving accident.
Drunk driving is a significant concern across the United States, and Delaware is no exception.
For those who have been injured in a drunk driving accident, it’s crucial to understand Delaware's driving under the influence (DUI) laws and how they can impact a personal injury case. This article offers an in-depth look at the legal limits, arrest process, penalties, and other important aspects of Delaware’s drunk driving laws.
Overview of Delaware's legal alcohol limits
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a crucial factor in determining if someone is legally intoxicated.
In Delaware, different legal BAC limits apply to various categories of drivers:
|BAC legal limits in Delaware|
|Drivers aged 21 and older||0.08%|
|Drivers under 21 years old||0.02%|
Although not as common, you can be charged with a DUI even if you consumed less than the legal limit if you’re “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs while operating a motor vehicle.
Evidence that may be used to support a decision that a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs includes:
- Erratic driving
- Poor performance on a field sobriety test
- Slurred speech
- Odd behavior
- An admission of being impaired
|The effects of blood alcohol concentration (BAC)|
|BAC||Typical effects||Predictable effects on driving|
|.02||Some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood||A decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target) and a decline in the ability to perform 2 tasks at the same time|
|.05||Exaggerated movement, some loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, lowered alertness, the release of inhibition||Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situation|
|.08||Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired||Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception|
|.10||Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking||Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately|
|.15||Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance||Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving tasks, and necessary visual and auditory information processing|
|Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration|
DUI arrest process in Delaware
The arrest process in Delaware typically follows several key steps:
- Traffic stop: DUI is a primary enforcement law in Delaware, meaning a police officer who suspects a driver is under the influence can pull the driver over and request their license and registration.
- Field sobriety tests: The officer may ask the driver to perform specific tests (e.g., walking in a straight line) to assess their level of impairment.
- Breathalyzer or blood test: If the officer believes the driver is intoxicated, they may administer a breathalyzer or blood test to determine the driver's BAC level.
- Arrest and booking: If the driver's BAC is above the legal limit, they will be arrested and booked at the local police station.
Penalties for driving under the influence in Delaware
Driving under the influence is a criminal offense in Delaware, carrying severe penalties. The exact consequences of a DUI conviction depend primarily on the number of prior offenses. However, it’s important to note that penalties can be enhanced based on other factors, such as the driver’s BAC level.
Here’s a closer look at the penalties for driving while under the influence in Delaware:
|Delaware DUI penalties|
|First offense||$500 to $1,500||Up to 12 months||12-24 months|
|Second offense||$750 to $2,500||2-18 months||18-30 months|
|Third offense||$1,500 to $5,000||1-2 years||Up to 3 years|
How does drunk driving impact a personal injury lawsuit?
A drunk driving accident can have significant implications for a personal injury lawsuit. The driver's intoxication can serve as evidence of negligence, thereby strengthening the claim. Additionally, punitive damages may be awarded to the victim to punish the drunk driver and deter similar behavior in the future.
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you can file an insurance claim as you would in any other car accident. You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver if:
- The driver is uninsured (and you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage),
- The insurance company doesn’t offer you enough money to settle your claim, or
- Your damages exceed the driver’s policy limits.
Liability insurance covers car accidents caused by an intoxicated driver even though driving while under the influence is an illegal activity. However, most insurance policies will NOT provide the intoxicated driver with collision, comprehensive, or any other type of coverage.
Tips for spotting a drunk driver
Recognizing the signs of drunk driving can help avoid potential accidents. Common indicators of intoxicated driving include:
- Swerving or weaving between lanes
- Driving too slowly or too fast
- Erratic braking
- Failing to signal turns or lane changes
- Nearly hitting objects or other vehicles
Maintaining a safe distance from a suspected drunk driver and reporting the vehicle to local law enforcement is essential for preventing accidents.
Dram shop laws in Delaware
Dram shop laws hold establishments that serve alcohol (e.g., bars and restaurants) responsible for over-serving patrons who later cause accidents while intoxicated. In a state that has a dram shop law, a drunk driving victim can sue the establishment for over-serving the drunk driver.
Unfortunately, Delaware does NOT have a dram shop law. Delaware does have statutes that make it illegal to sell alcohol to someone who's already intoxicated or under the age of 21, but a drunk driving victim won’t have any recourse to sue the establishment.
Five FAQs about drunk driving in Delaware
To help you better understand your rights and options, we've compiled a list of frequently asked questions about drunk driving in Delaware:
While you can refuse a breathalyzer test, doing so will result in an automatic license suspension and may be used as evidence against you in court.
Unlike some states, DUI checkpoints are legal in Delaware. However, the police must follow very specific laws. If the laws aren’t followed, a DUI charge that results might be dismissed.
Yes, emotional distress can be part of a personal injury claim in Delaware, but proving emotional distress can be challenging. A skilled personal injury attorney can help you build a strong case.
Yes, passengers injured in a drunk driving accident can also seek compensation for their injuries, even if they were in the vehicle with the intoxicated driver.
In Delaware, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file a claim within the 2-year period, you may be forever barred from doing so.
This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of Delaware's drunk driving laws and their impact on personal injury cases. If you've been injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, it's essential to seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney in Delaware. They can guide you through the process and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.