Idahoans use the automobile far more than other modes of transportation. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 74% of motorists in the Gem State drove alone to work in 2021. The same agency notes that 8.20% of commuters carpooled.
The state’s heavy reliance on cars also poses inherent hazards. In the same year, 1,729 crashes involving drivers under the influence occurred. This number represents a 14.28% increase from 2020. Likewise, fatalities from DUI crashes also grew from 92 recorded deaths in 2020 to 108 in 2021.
The relatively high growth of these incidents can be connected to the lack of certain DUI regulations in Idaho. For instance, sobriety checkpoints are illegal in the state. The practice is considered unreasonable search and seizure and, therefore, unconstitutional.
However, the state also implements strict regulations to deter driving under the influence. One of these is the mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices, which applies to all offenders. Another is the complete ban on marijuana use.
These programs can only do so much, though. In the event of a DUI accident, victims must possess knowledge of how Idaho treats these cases. Understanding when to press claims and how much they can recover in damages is critical for plaintiffs seeking restitution. This article also contains information on the DUI-related penalties present in the state.
General DUI Laws in Idaho
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Idaho is illegal. State law also specifies that those intoxicated while maintaining actual physical control of the vehicle may also be charged with DUI. Individuals are considered in control of their cars or vessels if they are sitting in the driver’s position with either the vehicle moving or the engine running.
Law enforcement personnel conduct two types of tests to determine whether someone is under the influence. One is the field sobriety test. Those undergoing this procedure are asked to walk, turn, and then stand on one leg. The police officer can also check the subject for signs of horizontal gaze nystagmus, which are uncontrollable eye movements that indicate that a person is drunk.
The other type is chemical testing. These are procedures that analyze a person’s urine or breath. Sometimes, drivers undergo blood testing. In these cases, state law outlines the situations where police officers can order blood withdrawal. These include instances involving suspected aggravated driving or boating under the influence. Those who cause vehicular manslaughter or boating accident-related deaths are likewise subject to blood tests. Note that the order for blood withdrawal typically requires a warrant. The blood test must also be done only by qualified professionals like licensed physicians, nurses, medical technologists, and phlebotomists.
These tests are done to obtain the blood alcohol content level of the suspected individual. If their BAC level is 0.08%, they are charged with DUI “per se,” or automatically. This limit is quite strict for commercial drivers, set at 0.04%, and even stricter for underage motorists, at 0.02%.
As the term implies, aggravated DUI is a weightier offense than a standard DUI. Under state law, individuals who cause permanent disfigurement or permanent disability commit aggravated DUI. This offense also applies in cases involving actions that lead to great bodily harm to others.
Exemption for Cyclists
Idaho does not consider bicycles to be the same as vehicles. As such, cyclists may not be charged with DUI. Their exemption is because state law defines motor vehicles as self-propelled, quite different from human-powered bicycles. Idaho also does not include e-bikes in its classification of motor vehicles.
However, DUI-like behavior does not go unpunished. Bicycle users who drink and ride can be charged with public intoxication. Those caught for the first time face a maximum fine of $1,000, up to six months in county jail, or both. Second-time offenders, meanwhile, face an increased penalty of no more than a year of jail time. Courts, in their discretion, may order the accused to finish a licensed drug rehabilitation program to avoid jail time.
Underage DUI Laws in Idaho
Based on state data, 8.6% of all DUI-related crashes in 2021 involved individuals ages 16 to 20. Another concerning statistic is that among surveyed Idaho students in 2021, 3.1% said they drove after consuming alcohol in the past 30 days.
Idaho enforces multiple laws to discourage such dangerous behavior. One is its zero-tolerance policy. Drivers under 21 caught with a BAC level of at least 0.02 face penalties. Another way that the state seeks to limit these incidents is through laws that forbid alcohol consumption.
Possession of alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, is legal only in certain situations. According to state law, these conditions include delivering beer or wine as part of their job or to fulfill a parent’s order. Minors can also carry alcohol if they are within their guardian’s or parent’s private residence, given the latter’s consent.
DUI-Adjacent Laws in Idaho
Unlawful Possession of Marijuana in a Vehicle
Idaho is among four states, including neighboring Wyoming, where marijuana for any use remains illegal. The Gem State considers the drug a Schedule I controlled substance. Those caught for the first time under the influence of marijuana in public can be charged with a misdemeanor.
The charge comes with various penalties. These consist of six months in county jail, fines up to $1,000, or both. Meanwhile, third-time offenders face a higher jail sentence that lasts a maximum of one year.
Boating Under the Influence
The Idaho Safe Boating Act makes it unlawful for boaters with a BAC of 0.08% to operate or physically control vessels. Those under 21 are likewise prohibited from boating with a 0.02% BAC level.
Adults with a BAC level less than 0.08% may still be charged with DUI. Police officers can obtain other evidence that the intoxicated adult is also under the influence of drugs to build a case against them. The act also mentions that boaters who find themselves convicted of DUI can have these legal records used against them in civil lawsuits.
Another thing to remember is that Idaho defines vessels as watercraft used for transportation in a body of water. Besides seaplanes and sailboats, those using kayaks may receive a DUI charge.
Open Container Laws
Drivers and passengers cannot open or leave open alcoholic beverage containers in vehicles. However, there are areas in cars where these containers may be placed. One is in the trunk. The other is behind the last upright seat if the vehicle comes without a trunk.
Also, paying passengers and those within the living space of an RV are not subject to Idaho’s open container laws.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI in Idaho?
Individuals charged with DUI face various consequences. The severity of these penalties depends on their conviction history. Those caught for the first or second time are charged with a misdemeanor. On the other hand, third-time offenders have to deal with felony-related penalties. Note that those who must install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles cannot solely claim financial hardship to obtain an exemption for the installation.
Type of DUI Offense
Type of Criminal Charge
Length of Incarceration
Ignition Interlock Device Requirement
Not exceeding $1,000
Maximum jail time of 6 months
Suspension that lasts between 90 and 210 days
Not exceeding $2,000
Maximum jail time of 1 year
Suspension that lasts at least 1 year
Not less than 1 year
Not exceeding $5,000
Prison time that lasts between 5 and 15 years
Suspension that lasts between 1 and 5 years
Not less than 1 year
Individuals who have had their license suspended may apply for a restricted driving permit. This solution only allows drivers to travel to and from work and school. Essential journeys like those related to healthcare can also be permitted. Remember that restricted permits require verification from the relevant school administrator or employer.
Another thing to note is that drivers charged with DUI need to go through a substance abuse evaluation. This process helps those facing the charge receive treatment to address alcohol or drug dependency.
Penalties for Minors
Drivers under 21 charged with DUI face less severe penalties than adults. However, both adult and underage DUI offenders are required to undergo alcohol evaluations.
Type of DUI Offense
Type of Criminal Charge
Length of Incarceration
Ignition Interlock Device Requirement
Not exceeding $1,000
Suspension that lasts at least 1 year and 90 days
At least $500 but not exceeding $2,000
Minimum of 5 days in jail and maximum of 30 days
Suspension that lasts up to 2 years; 1st year with absolutely no driving privileges
At least $1,000 but not exceeding $2,000
Minimum of 10 days in jail and maximum of 6 months
Suspension that lasts up to 1 year or until the person turns 21, whichever is greater
Aggravated DUI Penalties
Individuals whose actions constitute aggravated DUI face harsh penalties. These include up to 15 years on the state’s Board of Correction. Under the court’s discretion, those convicted may not be sent to the state penitentiary. However, they still need to remain in county jail for at least 30 days. This sentence must include 48 consecutive hours of incarceration.
Other penalties include a $5,000 maximum fine and the surrender of the driver’s license to the applicable court. Charged drivers also have to deal with a one-year minimum suspension of their driving privileges. Additionally, they are not allowed to drive for up to five years after their release from prison.
Implied Consent Penalties
Drivers suspected of DUI who refuse to comply with tests will face a range of sanctions, from a $250 fine to a one-year license suspension. In cases involving a second refusal within a 10-year period, the license gets suspended for two years.
They also need to install an ignition interlock device. This item must remain for a year after the license suspension period ends. Those who enroll in a problem-solving court program and serve a minimum of 45 days absolutely without driving privileges may obtain a restricted license.
Dram Shop and Social Host Laws in Idaho
Through state law, legislators seek to limit the liability of dram shops and social hosts in alcohol-related accidents. However, these parties can face lawsuits along with the driver in question. For instance, those knowingly providing alcohol to individuals under 21 may be held liable. Another situation would be if the dram shop or social host gave alcoholic beverages to someone already clearly intoxicated.
The way Idaho limits actions also depends on the individuals seeking damages. An intoxicated driver, for example, cannot file a lawsuit against businesses or individuals. Similarly, the passengers who rode with the drunk driver are not allowed to press claims.
Notably, the Alcohol Beverage Control — a bureau under the Idaho State Police — receives multiple inquiries from those planning to sell alcohol in mobile bars. This type of establishment is currently prohibited in the state.
Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Insurance
Despite the restrictions imposed by state law, lawsuits can and do occur. Note that the Insurance Services Office provides a grade that describes each state’s liquor liability hazard situation. Receiving a grade of 0 means that alcohol vendors in the state face no cause for action. A grade of 10, meanwhile, indicates that liability is imposed harshly on the dram shop.
Idaho has a score of 4. Those looking to purchase liability insurance can obtain lower premiums in the Gem State compared to other states.
Businesses and individuals seeking to decrease their legal risk can obtain two types of insurance. One is social host policies, which help cover alcohol-related damages from events like personal parties. The other is liquor liability policies, which assist dram shops in managing injury-related costs from intoxicated patrons.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Drunk Driving Injury in Idaho?
Plaintiffs need to prove four elements to obtain damages from defendants in a DUI case. These factors are:
Duty. Victims must demonstrate that the intoxicated driver owed a duty of care to others.
Breach. Victims need to show how the driver violated the duty of care.
Causation. Victims must then illustrate how the defendant's actions, like driving under the influence, constitute a breach of their duty of care, which caused injuries.
Damages. Lastly, victims need to exhibit evidence of how the breach caused them to suffer damages.
Plaintiffs who are able to use these four elements to prove that the liability rests solely with the defendants can recover full compensation.
In many situations, though, the victims themselves contribute to the accident. This is addressed by Idaho law, which states that responsibility for an accident does not preclude plaintiffs from receiving damages. However, the final value of damages diminishes depending on their level of fault. Additionally, the state does not allow recovery if the plaintiff’s share of responsibility is 50% or more.
To clarify, suppose a person was hurt after colliding with an intoxicated driver. The accident caused $100,000 in damages. Amidst trial proceedings, the court found out the victim was not wearing a seatbelt when the crash happened. Given this fact, the judge determined that the plaintiff’s fault for the accident was 20%. This percentage is then utilized to reduce the victim’s damages by $20,000 to the final award of $80,000.
Types of Damages
Compensatory damages refer to awards that help plaintiffs deal with economic and non-economic losses from DUI accidents. Economic losses include tangible costs like vehicle repair or replacement expenses, medical bills, and lost wages. Non-economic losses, on the other hand, are intangible. Plaintiffs must prove that they should obtain damages for various losses, including emotional distress and loss of companionship.
Additionally, DUI victims who seek to receive punitive damages need to demonstrate before courts that they are worthy of such compensation. Punitive damages are awards given to plaintiffs that help courts punish defendants. Under state law, such damages can be obtained if the liable party has, through convincing and clear evidence, committed outrageous, fraudulent, malicious, or oppressive acts.
Caps on Damages
There are no caps on economic damages in Idaho. On the other hand, the state does limit the amount of non-economic damages plaintiffs may receive to $250,000. This limit increases annually, though, to account for adjustments made by the Idaho Industrial Commission on the state’s average annual wages.
Meanwhile, punitive damages are capped at either three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.
The Statute of Limitations in Idaho
Idaho allots two years for DUI accident victims to seek damages for their injuries from liable parties. Plaintiffs need to file claims against defendants within two years from the date of the accident. The same timeline applies in cases involving wrongful death.
The two-year deadline varies in some situations. For example, minors may pursue claims after they reach 18 or within six years after the accident date, whichever is earlier. Another scenario is if the defendant is out of state. Lawsuits against absent individuals must be pursued when they return to Idaho or within a six-year period, whichever is earlier.
The timeline is also different in cases involving social hosts or dram shops. Under Idaho law, no claims are allowed against these parties unless they are notified within 180 days from the date of the incident.
Resources for DUI Defendants and Folks Injured by an Impaired Driver in Idaho
The department works to enhance the quality of life for residents across the state through transportation. It handles the issuance of non-commercial and commercial driver’s licenses. It also oversees the reinstatement process for those charged with DUI. Idahoans can pay reinstatement fees and renew vehicle registrations, as well as personalize their license plates, online. Another area that the department manages is crash reports. DUI accident victims should note that it can take a few weeks or more before these documents can be accessed online. Additionally, one must keep in mind that purchased reports are downloadable for a maximum of 24 hours.
The department has been overseeing the insurance industry in Idaho for more than 120 years. It maintains a website that allows Idahoans to request speakers on various topics, including consumer affairs and senior health insurance benefits. It also deals with insurance fraud cases. DUI accident victims affected by fraudulent agents — those who offer fake policies, pocket premiums for personal use, or lie in insurance applications — may file a complaint with the department. One can also send an email through an online form. Additionally, the department helps Idahoans determine whether their excessive or unexpected medical bills should be covered by their insurance provider. In such cases, they can verify these claims by calling (208) 334-4319 or (800) 721-3272.
The organization provides a variety of services to Idahoans affected by drunk driving. One of these is the Victim Impact Panel. This program allows DUI offenders to understand the long-term effects of their behavior. It consists of classes where survivors and victims of DUI share first-person accounts of their experiences. One can check online to find the nearest locations where in-person victim impact panels are held. The organization also operates a 24/7 helpline that assists individuals seeking emotional support, preparing victim impact statements, or looking for other victims. The helpline additionally offers materials that aid Idahoans on topics related to victim care. It can be reached at 1-877-623-3435.
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