on Impaired driving
NO OPTION OF REFUSAL
Prior to 2011, a person had the option of refusing to submit to a test of his blood,
breath, or urine. There were only administrative consequences for refusing to
submit to a chemical test (driver’s license suspension). Under current Wyoming
law, if a police officer has probable cause that a suspect is impaired, the suspect is
no longer permitted to refuse a chemical test. If a suspect refuses to cooperate,
law enforcement may request a search warrant which allows the proper authorities to force a chemical test, which may include a blood draw. Wyoming law also allows a police officer to request a “remotely
communicated search warrant” which means the officer can submit search warrant
documents to the court by “voice, image, text or any combination thereof.” Many courts now rely on cell phone communication, emails, and fax machines to obtain and order search warrants. Using these methods of communication, judges regularly order search warrants on weekends and after hours. See W.S. 31-6-102(d).
THE BASICS OF WYOMING DUI LAW
In every state, including Wyoming, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense.
In the state of Wyoming, a DUI conviction carries with it the possibility of six (6) months in jail and a fine of up to $750.00. If convicted a second time of DUI within a ten (10) year period, it is statutorily mandated that a convicted party serve at least seven (7) days in jail and the convicted party must pay a fine of at least $200.00. On a third DUI conviction within ten (10) years, a convicted party must serve a minimum of thirty (30) days in jail and the convicted party must pay a fine of at least $750.00. On a third DUI conviction, the court can also order a fine of up to $3000.000. If convicted of a fourth DUI within ten (10) years, it is a felony which could result in up to seven (7) years in prison and a fine of up to $7000.00. See W.S. 31-5-233(e).
WAYS IN WHICH A PERSON CAN BE CONVICTED OF A DUI
In the state of Wyoming, a person is guilty of DUI if he/she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
of .08% or more. A chemical test is used in order to determine a person’s BAC. This requires a
suspect to provide a blood, breath or urine sample. A suspect may request a blood test at his/her
own expense. Most of the time, DUI suspects provide a chemical sample through the use of a
breathalyzer. If a breathalyzer is used, the police are to observe the suspect for a period of time
(15 minutes), before administering a breath test. The purpose of this is to make sure the suspect
has not vomited or put anything in his/her mouth that may possibly affect the results of the test.
A person is also guilty of DUI if, “as measured within two (2) hours after the time of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle following a lawful arrest resulting from a valid traffic stop,” they have an alcohol concentration of .08% or more.
The final way in which a person can be convicted of DUI involves a person being under the influence of alcohol “to a degree which renders him incapable of safely driving.” A DUI charge is sometimes filed under these circumstances when there is no test to determine a person’s blood alcohol concentration. In these types of cases, a prosecutor must show a jury that a DUI suspect was intoxicated to the point where it wasn’t safe for that individual to be driving. A DUI may also be filed under these circumstances even if a suspect’s blood alcohol concentration is less than .08%. See W.S. 31-5-233 (b)(i), W.S. 31-5-233 (b)(ii), and W.S. 31-5-233(b)(iii).
DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSION
If convicted of DUI, the convicted party’s driver’s license will be suspended. On a first DUI conviction, a convicted party’s driving privileges will be suspended for a period of ninety (90) days. On a second or subsequent DUI conviction within ten years, a convicted party’s driving privileges will be suspended for a period of one (1) year. In addition, if the convicted party’s subsequent offense is within two (2) years of the prior DUI conviction, the convicted party’s vehicle registration will be suspended “for the period of the driver's license revocation or suspension.” See W.S. 31-7-128(b)(i), W.S. 31-7-128(b)(ii), and W.S. 31-7-128(c).
YOUTHFUL OFFENDER DUI
It is also illegal in the state of Wyoming for any person under the age of twenty one (21) to operate a motor vehicle while having an alcohol concentration of .02% or higher. A convicted party under the age of twenty one (21) can be fined up to $750.00. If convicted a second time within a two (2) year period, the convicted party under the age of twenty one (21) may be sentenced to up to thirty (30) days in jail. On a third conviction within two (2) years, the convicted party under the age of twenty one (21) may be sentenced to up to six (6) months in jail. See W.S. 31-5-234(b) and W.S. 31-5-234(e).
SERIOUS BODILY INJURY
There are also additional penalties if a DUI results in serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury is
defined as “bodily injury which creates a reasonable likelihood of death or which causes miscarriage or
serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss of impairment of any bodily member or organ.” A
person convicted of a DUI resulting in serious bodily injury faces a fine of at least $2000.00 and can
be fined up to $5000.00. The convicted party can also be imprisoned for up to ten (10) years. On a
subsequent offense of DUI resulting in serious bodily injury, the convicted party can be sentenced to
imprisonment for up to twenty (20) years. See W.S. 31-5-233(h), W.S. 31-5-233(h)(i), and
DUI WITH CHILD PASSENGERS IN THE VEHICLE
There are also additional penalties which will result if a suspect has a child passenger in the vehicle at the time of driving under the influence. A child passenger is defined as any person sixteen (16) years or younger and these additional penalties only apply when the suspect (driver) is eighteen (18) years or older. These additional penalties include imprisonment for up to one (1) year and a fine of up to $750.00. On a second offense within five (5) years, a convicted party can be imprisoned to up to five (5) years. See W.S. 31-5-233(m), W.S. 31-5-233(m)(i), and W.S. 31-5-233(m)(ii).
IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE
If convicted of DUI, the convicted party may also be required to install an ignition interlock device on
his/her vehicle. The Ignition interlock device requires that a person exhale into the device prior to the
vehicle starting. The machine will then measure the resultant breath-alcohol concentration and will only
allow the vehicle to operate upon receiving an alcohol free sample. At random times after the engine has
been started, the device will require additional breath samples to determine breath-alcohol concentration.
A convicted party will be required to install an ignition interlock device on his/her vehicle for six (6)
months if he/she is convicted of a DUI and the convicted party had a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or
above. On a second DUI conviction within ten (10) years, a convicted party will be required to have an
ignition interlock device installed for a period of one (1) year. On a third DUI conviction, the time increases to two (2)
years and on a fourth offense DUI, a convicted party may be required to carry an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for life. See W.S. 31-5-233(f)(ii), W.S. 31-5-233(f)(iii), W.S. 31-5-233(f)(iv), and W.S. 31-5-233(f)(v).
FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS
When a police officer makes a vehicle stop and suspects that the driver may be impaired, the officer
generally will conduct a series of "field sobriety tests” on the suspect. Field sobriety tests usually
involve a police officer asking a suspect toperform several tasks that evaluate any impairment of the
person's physical or cognitive ability. This includes tests designed to evaluate a suspect’s ability to
perform divided attention tasks. Examples of field sobriety tests include having the suspect walk a
straight line, heel to toe; having the suspect stand on one foot with the other foot slightly elevated;
and the officer's use of the "horizontal gaze nystagmus," an eye test.