While there are many significant differences between state laws on drunk driving, they all make it illegal to drive under the influence. Oregon's drunk/drugged driving laws are found in the Oregon Revised Statutes starting at Section 813. In Oregon, the offense is termed driving under the influence of intoxicants, or DUII, while other states may use the term DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated).
Anyone driving in Oregon needs to know about the specific provisions of the DUII law, including the potential penalties involved for a conviction. A conviction will result in potential jail time, fines and license suspension.
Oregon's DUII Laws
In Oregon, like in most other states, a driver violates the laws on drinking and driving or drugging and driving if they operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Specifically, Oregon Revised Statutes Section 813.010 makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, cannabis, a controlled substance or an inhalant.
What does under the influence mean? It means that an individual uses sufficient amounts of a substance to impair the ability to safely operate a vehicle. But that's only one of the ways a driver can violate the law. A driver also violates the Oregon DUII law if they drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more at the time of driving.
Vehicles Subject to Oregon DUII
To be convicted of a DUII in Oregon, a person must be driving a vehicle in a public space or highway while under the influence of intoxicants. One element a prosecutor must establish to convict a person of a DUII is that the person was in fact driving a "vehicle." Oregon employs a very liberal definition of the term vehicle.
Obviously, a car and a truck are motor vehicles, as well as motorcycles, and any of these vehicles can be the basis of a DUII charge when driving on roads or highways. This is the case in all states. But Oregon law also classifies motorized scooters, mopeds, electric bikes and even a motorized riding lawn mower and wheelchair as vehicles subject to the DUII laws if used in areas open to the public.
Surprisingly, Oregon law also includes regular, pedal-powered bicycles as vehicles under the DUII laws. The statute provides that "Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle concerning operating on highways..." However, DUII laws do not apply to other nonmotorized methods of transport like skateboards, and the law does not apply to any vehicles on private property.
"Driving" Under Oregon DUII Laws
Each state has its own laws about what exactly constitutes "driving" or "operating a vehicle" for the purposes of the laws against driving under the influence. In some states, just being in the front seat is sufficient. In Oregon, the law applies if the person is in the driver's seat of the vehicle, and the vehicle is moving.
However, there is a caveat. In Oregon, it is possible for a driver to commit an attempted crime, and this can also apply to a DUII. This happens when a person intentionally engages in conduct that constitutes a “substantial step toward” committing the crime, in this case, driving under the influence of an intoxicant with a BAC level at or above 0.08 percent or while under the influence. The attempt law is codified at ORS Section 813.405.
Someone might be convicted of attempt to commit a DUII in Oregon if they get into the driver's seat of a car with a high BAC level.
Intoxicants and Oregon's DUII Laws
The Oregon statute specifies four types of intoxicants the use of which can be the subject of a DUII arrest: alcohol, cannabis, a controlled substance and an inhalant, or any combination of these substances. A controlled substance includes not just illegal drugs, but also legal ones. Prescription drugs are often controlled substances, so it pays to read the label and see if it specifies that anyone taking the medicine should not drive or talks about the drug causing dizziness or drowsiness.
Any of these substances can be the basis for a DUII conviction in Oregon. But the question is not whether a driver has used these substances; it is whether their ability to drive has been impaired by the use of these substances. Under the Oregon DUII law, the term under the influence is defined as a driver having their physical or mental facilities adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree. That is, driving under the influence of any of these substances is only illegal if the substance causes some mental or physical impairment, like making the driver buzzed, high, stoned, wasted, sleepy, drowsy or dizzy.
Per Se DUII in Oregon
Another way to get a DUII in Oregon is to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. In general, proof that a driver had a BAC level of 0.08 percent of higher is sufficient, in and of itself (per se), to convict them of a DUII. Different people have different alcohol tolerances, so it is possible that someone can appear unimpaired with a high BAC, but that is irrelevant. If a chemical test shows that the BAC meets or exceeds the legal limit, the prosecution is not required to show any other evidence of intoxication.
A BAC of 0.15 percent or higher will constitute an aggravated DUII with enhanced penalties, and for commercial drivers, the regular BAC limit is not 0.08 percent but 0.04 percent. Young people under the age of 21 are subject to the state's zero tolerance policy, so any discernible alcohol in their system will result in loss of driving privileges.
Chemical Testing for Drivers in Oregon
How does Oregon law enforcement determine a driver's BAC? They do this with chemical testing. The types of chemical testing used in Oregon are breath testing, blood testing and urine testing. A breath test is the most common one.
A driver blows into the breathalyzer machine, and it determines the amount of alcohol in the breath and translates that into a blood alcohol concentration reading. The other type of test requires a sample of the driver's blood and is usually used when the driver is in the hospital following an accident. Urine testing is used to figure out drug use.
Note that in Oregon, there is no similar BAC limit for drugs. An officer trained in detecting drugs can ask the driver to take a chemical test to determine the presence and concentration of illicit substances that can be used as part of the impairment case.
Oregon's Implied Consent Laws
All states have implied consent laws. That means that when a person applies for a driver's license, they consent to taking chemical tests to determine impairment. In Oregon, the implied consent applies to chemical tests, but not to field sobriety tests. A driver who refuses to submit to chemical testing faces automatic administrative license suspension, independent of a criminal conviction, but the refusal can be used as evidence in the DUII criminal case.
Standardized field sobriety tests are physical, not chemical tests. They are not intended to show a person's BAC level, but rather to determine impairment. Many of these tests involve following directions like having a driver walk in a straight line, touch their nose or track an object with their eyes. Both the breath test and the blood test are intended to determine the level of alcohol in a driver's blood, and administrative penalties apply if a driver refuses to take them.
DUII Procedure in Oregon
It's a good idea to get an overview of DUII procedure in Oregon. If a person is driving erratically on Oregon roads, they may be stopped by a law enforcement officer for suspicion of DUII. The police officer is watching closely to see the person's driving behavior before they stop the car, as well as after. Any actions like swerving, speeding, illegal lane changes or wide turns may result in a DUII stop.
When the officer stops a car for a DUII, they usually ask the driver questions about drinking or drug use. Then they may ask the driver to take a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer. The driver is under no legal obligation to do this, although the refusal can be used as evidence at a DUII trial.
But once the officer asks a person to submit to a chemical test, that driver refuses at their own peril. The officer will inform the driver of the penalties for a test refusal and then ask again to submit to a chemical test. The officer may then decide to arrest the driver for DUII.
Administrative Penalties for DUII
A DUII arrest leads to administrative penalties before the person's case is heard in criminal court, and these may apply even if no case is brought or if the person is found innocent. Most of the administrative penalties in Oregon involve suspension or revocation of the person's driver's license. In addition, the fact of the refusal can be introduced as evidence in the criminal trial.
If the person refuses a test and it is a first-time offense, the officer confiscates their license and issues a 30-day driving permit. At the end of that period, their driving privileges are suspended for a year. A driver whose license is suspended for refusing a chemical test (blood, breath or urine test) can request a hearing in writing within 10 days after the arrest to determine whether the suspension is valid. The driver can also be assessed an administrative fine of between $500 and $1,000.
Criminal Penalties for DUII Offenses
If a person is convicted of a DUII in Oregon, the criminal penalties can include imprisonment, fines and driver's license suspension. Penalties go up with each successive offense.
For a first offense, the driver can be sentenced to jail for at least 48 hours and up to one year, although the judge can instead impose community service hours. The fine will be between $1,000 and $2,000, plus court fees. In addition to the administrative license suspension, a conviction will result in a one-year license suspension, plus a one-year period of driving with an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID is a type of breathalyzer that prevents the car's engine from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath.
Second and Third DUIIs
A second offense within five years of the prior conviction is subject to greater punishment. Minimum jail time is eight days with fines up to $3,500. The license suspension is a minimum of three years, with an IID required for two years after driving privileges resume. The driver will also be required to attend a substance abuse treatment program and a victims impact panel class.
The penalties for a third offense depend on whether the prior two offenses occurred within ten years. If so, the crime is a felony that can result in a term of imprisonment of at least 90 days and, potentially, for years.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.