Why is drinking and driving illegal?

Drinking and driving are extremely dangerous since alcohol reduces all of the important skills you need to drive safely. Alcohol goes from your stomach into your blood and to all parts of your body. It reaches your brain in 20 to 40 minutes. Alcohol affects those areas of your brain that control judgment and skill. In a way, alcohol puts good judgment on hold. Part of that judgment is your ability to know whether you have had too much to drink to drive safely. You don’t know when you have had too much to drink until it’s too late. It’s a little like a sunburn; by the time you feel it, it’s already too late.

What is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and what do those numbers mean?

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is expressed in percentage of alcohol to blood. The higher the BAC number, the more impaired a person is. A BAC of .10 means that for every 1,000 drops of blood in a person’s body, there is at least one (1) drop of alcohol. BAC changes with body weight, time spent drinking, and the amount of alcohol consumed.

Drunk driving is the same as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI). In South Dakota , a BAC of .08 (for an adult age 21 or older) or more is evidence that the person was driving under the influence of alcohol, whether or not a person appears intoxicated or impaired during field sobriety tests. In fact, no further proof of impairment is necessary.

For anyone under age 21 in South Dakota, there is zero tolerance for alcohol usage. If a juvenile is driving and the BAC is .02 or higher, it is considered Driving While Intoxicated.

What if I am not drinking, but I am in a motor vehicle that contains alcohol?

Even if you are not drinking but you are in a motor vehicle that contains alcohol, everyone in the vehicle under age 21 is guilty of a crime commonly called “minor in possession.” Not only do you face a possible 30-day jail sentence, a $100 fine, or both, but also your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days. For any second or subsequent offenses, your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of one year or until your 17th birthday, whichever is a longer period of time.

If stopped by the police, must I submit to alcohol/drug testing?

South Dakota has an “implied consent law.” Under this law, anyone obtaining a driver’s license or driving in SD gives consent for a chemical test (breath, blood or urine) when driving on a public highway.

If a driver refuses to submit to such testing, implied consent laws carry penalties such as mandatory suspension of a driver's license, usually for six months to a year. This means you can lose your license just for refusing to take the test even though you may not have been drinking at all. Your license can be confiscated immediately by the officer.