Federal DUI Laws

Organized crime, threatening a federal public official, interstate drug trafficking, bank robbery. While these offenses sound like a roll call from a mafia movie, the one thing they all have in common is that they can be charged as federal crimes. But did you know that a run-of-the-mill driving under the influence (DUI) offense can also violate federal laws? Under many circumstances, federal DUI laws will come into play if you are driving on federal lands. Whether you are drunk, hopped up on drugs, or a combination of both -- if you are arrested for a DUI, you may have to answer for your alleged crime in a federal criminal court.

Below you will find information about federal DUI laws, including a definition of what constitutes “federal land,” and the elements of a federal DUI.  

How a DUI can be Charged in Federal Court

A vast majority of driving under the influence offenses are prosecuted under state law. Why? Generally speaking, state courts have jurisdiction over violations of state laws such as DUIs. The converse is also true for federal crimes. If you commit an act that is illegal under federal law, you are subject the jurisdiction of the federal court system. So the question remains – how is it possible to violate federal DUI laws? Simply put, a federal DUI charge is reserved for crimes that occur on federally-owned land or another location that is considered federal property.

What Constitutes Federal Property?

The Federal Government owns millions of acres of land across the United States. Let’s say you’ve been out drinking beers with your military buddies, drive through Fort Bragg in North Carolina, get pulled over, take some field sobriety tests, and are arrested, you will be charged with a federal DUI because you are driving on a federally-owned roadway on a military base. Keep in mind that members of the military may have additional consequences for DUIs(other than regular criminal penalties) under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In addition to military bases, other examples of federal property include:

  • Any lot, building, or parking lot owned by the U.S. government
  • National monuments or historic grounds (Think Rim Rock Drive in Colorado)
  • Courthouses and surrounding property
  • National parks and forests
  • Airports

Federal DUI Charges

Most first-time DUIs are misdemeanors under federal law. A person driving on federal land can be charged with federal DUI under the following circumstances:

  • The person was impaired by illegal or prescription drugs and/or alcohol at the time they were operating a motor vehicle.
  • The person was driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Federal DUI charges are governed by where the incident took place. If you are arrested in a national park, you will be charged pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations. If this happens on other types of federal property, the driver will be tried under the DUI laws of that particular state through the federal Assimilative Crimes Act.

Keep in mind, drivers on federal lands are still subject to the requirements of the implied consent laws and must submit to a chemical test if an officer asks. Refusal could lead to several penalties including loss of your driving privileges and more.

Need Help with a Federal DUI Arrest? Talk to a Lawyer

A driving under the influence arrest and conviction can have a detrimental impact on your life. If you've been caught driving under the influence on federal lands, you're likely in violation of federal DUI laws. Consult with a local DUI lawyer today to get help sorting through the charges and evidence against you.

Next Steps

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