Although Oregon has legalized the possession and consumption of many impairing substances, driving a motor vehicle while impaired is still very much illegal. While often called a "DUI," Oregon officially uses the term "driving while under the influence of intoxicants" (DUII).
This article explains in simple terms what constitutes driving under the influence of intoxicants, summarizes the penalties for a first, second, and third DUII conviction, and includes information about possible options for reducing penalties and avoiding a DUII conviction.
To be convicted of DUII in Oregon, the prosecutor must prove that the accused was:
However, these two "elements" require a bit more explanation.
The driving requirement for a DUII requires evidence that the vehicle was controlled by the accused and was moved or propelled. This does include odd situations such as steering while being towed but does not include inebriated persons who are simply asleep in a parked vehicle.
DUII charges can be based on actual impairment or the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Under Oregon's DUII laws, a person is considered to be under the influence when his or her physical or mental facilities are adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree.
To prove intoxication at trial, the prosecutor will typically use evidence such as the testimony of the arresting officer, blood test results showing what the driver had in his or her system, and expert testimony on the intoxicating effects of the relevant substances.
A driver can also be convicted of DUII if he or she tests with a BAC of .08% or more. This type of DUI charge is often called a "per se" DUII and does not require the prosecutor to prove that the driver was physically or mentally impaired.
The fact that a driver was lawfully permitted to consume a drug or substance is not a defense to impaired driving, regardless of any prescription or legalized statutes.
The range of penalties for drivers convicted of DUII is set by statute and varies based primarily on how many prior DUII convictions the driver has. Within these ranges, the court often has discretion to impose harsher or more lenient penalties depending on the circumstances.
When considering prior offenses, all prior DUII convictions within the person's life are considered. However, more recent DUII convictions can further increase certain penalties.
First and second-offense DUI convictions will be charged as misdemeanors. A DUI is generally only considered a second offense if it occurs within ten years of the first offense. These are the possible penalties for a misdemeanor DUI conviction.
48 hours to 364 days
48 hours to 364 days
$1,000 to $6,250
$1,500 to $6,250
Certain aggravating factors can lead to penalty enhancements for a DUII conviction. These factors include a high BAC and having minor passengers.
A driver who had a BAC of .15% or more must pay a minimum fine of $2,000, regardless of the number of prior offenses.
Where a DUII involves a minor passenger who was at least three years younger than the driver, the maximum fine is increased to $10,000.
In lieu of ordering the maximum jail sentence, the judge will often place the offender on supervised probation for one to five years. Probation generally requires monitored sobriety, random drug tests, attendance at a victim impact panel, and avoiding bars and marijuana dispensaries. Failure to abide by these rules can result in the imposition of additional jail time.
Prior to beginning probation, offenders are generally required to serve at least 48 hours in jail. However, the judge can instead have the offender serve this time in inpatient treatment or through completing 80 to 250 hours of community service.
All DUII offenders are also required to complete a screening interview to determine and assess any alcoholism or chemical dependencies. Based on the screening results, the agency will recommend a tailored treatment program. Completion of the treatment program is required and failure to comply will likely result in a probation violation.
In Oregon, a third DUII conviction within a ten-year period will be a class C felony. Once a person is convicted of a felony DUII, any future DUII conviction—regardless of when it occurs—will be a class C felony.
A felony DUII conviction carries 90 days to five years in prison as well as $2,000 to $125,000 in fines. Offenders are also required to complete an assessment and any recommended treatment program.
A person arrested for impaired driving will generally face driver's license penalties. These penalties depend on the driver's cooperation with the investigation, the driver's BAC, and the number of prior convictions and/or DUII suspensions on the driver's record.
License-related penalties can result from a DUII arrest and/or conviction.
As part of the DUII investigation, the officer will generally request the driver to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test. Oregon law generally requires drivers to agree to testing. Drivers who refuse to complete the requested test will face license suspension.
When a suspected DUII offender refuses a chemical test request, the officer will send a report to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT will then suspend the driver's license for:
A driver suspended for a test refusal will not receive credit towards the conviction suspension (discussed below). In other words, the driver will serve both suspensions back-to-back if also convicted of a DUII.
A driver that completes—but fails—the chemical test will also face license suspension. However, the suspension periods are dramatically lower. For a driver who produced a BAC over .08%, the DOT will suspend the driver's license for:
Any suspension served for a test failure will be credited towards the suspension period for a conviction.
Finally, a driver will also be suspended for the actual DUII conviction. For an Oregon DUII, the driver's license will be suspended for:
A driver convicted of felony DUII can petition for reinstatement after ten years.
Following license reinstatement, the DOT will require the driver to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any operated vehicles. For a first offense, the driver must have an IID for one year. A second or subsequent DUII conviction results in a two-year IID requirement.
Drivers suspended for a DUII conviction, test refusal, or test failure can apply to the DOT for a hardship license. This license allows for the holder to operate during the suspension period but usually requires an IID or other sobriety monitoring. Depending on the circumstances, the driver might be required to complete a portion of the suspension period before obtaining a hardship license.
Oregon has a zero-tolerance law regarding the consumption of alcohol by drivers under the age of 21. However, a zero-tolerance offense is just an administrative violation and will not result in criminal penalties.
Underage drivers who produce a measurable BAC will be suspended for 90 days. An offender with a prior violation will be suspended for one year.
Oregon doesn't allow DUII charges to be pled down to lesser offenses but does permit diversion agreements. These diversion agreements can result in the dismissal of the charges, but the offender must first complete certain requirements. The requirements generally include treatment, participation in sobriety monitoring or testing, IID restrictions, and the like.
A DUII charge that's dismissed through a diversion agreement can still be counted as a prior offense if the offender is convicted of a DUII violation in the future.
The consequences of a DUII are serious and can have a lasting impact. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, you'll want to get in contact with a DUII lawyer. An experienced DUII attorney can let you know how the law applies in your case and help you decide on the best course of action.