DUI Glossary

It is helpful if you understand the language used in connection with a DUI arrest, so we have defined the terms (vocabulary) of Georgia DUI Drunken Driving laws for your reference.

Absorption rate: The rate at which alcohol enters the bloodstream. This can be affected by the amount of food consumed, biological factors, and type of beverage.

Administrative license revocation (also administrative license suspension): Confiscation of driver’s license immediately upon refusal of a breath/blood test, or testing above the legal limit for breath/blood alcohol concentration. More than 40 states have some form of administrative license revocation, which may be automatic or at the discretion of the arresting officer.

BAC: Blood alcohol concentration. Often mistaken as blood alcohol content.

Blood alcohol concentration: The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream, measured as a percentage. BAC can be measured by breath, blood, or urine testing and is often used by law enforcement to determine whether a motorist is drunk. All 50 states have a limit of .08 grams of alcohol per 100 ml, and many states have lower limits for commercial vehicle drivers or those under 21.

Breathalyzer or intoxilyzer: A machine used by law enforcement to measure a driver’s BAC.

Burnoff rate: The rate at which alcohol in the body is metabolized. This varies depending on age, weight, medical conditions, frequency of alcohol consumption, and other factors.

Conditional license: A conditional license is a license given in return for something such as completing a DUI course or alcohol treatment program.

DUI: Driving under the influence. Generally refers to alcohol intoxication, but DUI can also apply to the influence of legal or illegal drugs, or toxic vapors.

DWI: Driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. Generally synonymous with DUI, but some states have a lesser DWI charge for certain BAC.

DUI school: Drug and alcohol education programs designed to teach drivers the dangers of drinking and driving and reduce the chance of repeat offenses. Georgia calls it the DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction program.

Dram shop or dramshop: A legal term used to describe a drinking establishment where alcoholic beverages are served.

Dram shop liability: The penalties used to hold dram shops responsible for harm to third parties arising out of the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons.

Drunken driving: A term commonly substituted for DUI.

DWAI: Driving while ability impaired. (No equivalent in Georgia.)

DWUI: Driving while under the influence.

Field sobriety test or FST: A test of physical or mental coordination used to provide an initial assessment of sobriety.  Field sobriety tests are usually performed roadside shortly after an officer stops a driver.  Field sobriety tests include walking in a straight line heel-to-toe, tilting the head back with eyes closed and touching the tip of the nose with the index finger (Rhomberg test), standing on one foot, reciting the alphabet, finger exercises, and horizontal gaze nystagmus (jerking of eyes when following a stimulus to the side).

Ignition interlock device or vehicle lock: A device installed in a vehicle that prevents it from starting if a breath test detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a preset limit.

Implied consent: A legal concept that defines driving as a privilege, and says that the operation of a motor vehicle in and of itself is grounds for requiring a blood or breath test.

Intoxilyzer: A brand name for a blood alcohol breath-testing machine.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus or HGN: One of the three standardized field sobriety tests (SFST).  Nystagmus is rapid involuntary rhythmic eye movement – the eyes moving quickly in one direction and slowly in the other.  Horizontal gaze nystagmus is assessed by lack of smooth eye tracking, distinct jerking at maximum eye angle, and the onset of jerking prior to a 45-degree angle.

MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving: MADD is a national nonprofit organization whose goal is to reduce incidences of DUI through tougher laws and education outreach.

Miranda rights: The formal advisement commonly given to someone arrested prior to questioning.  These rights include the option to remain silent and to have a lawyer present before answering questions. (Not typically required in DUI cases.)

Open container law: A law making it illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

OMVI: Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

OUI: Operating under the influence.

OWI: Operating while intoxicated.

Provisional or restricted license: A license that restricts driving for certain purposes such as for work, travel to a DUI school, or to the court.  Called a limited permit in Georgia.

Restricted license: See provisional license.

Rhomberg test: A field sobriety test where a driver is asked to tilt the head back with eyes closed and touch the tip of the nose with the index finger.

Rising curve defense: A defense to DUI charges based upon the claim that a driver was not under the influence when he or she was driving, but that their BAC rose to that level after arrest because alcohol was still being absorbed.

Sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks: The act of setting up roadblocks in a particular location for a particular time period and systematically stopping vehicles to investigate drivers for possible DUI.

Standard field sobriety test: Field sobriety tests are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Vehicle impound: Towing a vehicle to a designated police impound yard after the driver is arrested for DUI.

Vehicle immobilization: The act of making a vehicle incapable of driving with a device such as a boot or ignition interlock device.

Zero tolerance: Commonly used to describe laws that make it illegal to operate a vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol.  Zero tolerance typically applies to minors that have not reached the age for legally consuming alcohol.  Although in Georgia the limit for persons under 21 is actually 0.02 grams.