Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can have significant consequences for those convicted. Not only can a DUI result in hefty fines and legal penalties, but it can also lead to long-term consequences such as a criminal record, increased insurance rates, and even job loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11,654 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving impaired drivers in 2020, and 32 people are killed in the United States every day in crashes involving impaired drivers. Due to the danger that drunk driving presents, DUI penalties can be severe.
If you are charged with DUI, it’s important to understand what consequences you might face, how penalties can differ depending on the severity of your charge, and how an experienced DUI attorney can help reduce your penalties.
Here’s a closer look at common DUI penalties, consequences, and legal resources for defendants.
Do I Need a DUI Attorney?
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you may be wondering if you need to hire a DUI attorney. While it’s possible to represent yourself in court, it’s generally not recommended. A DUI attorney can help you navigate the legal system and ensure that your rights are protected. They can also help you understand the potential consequences of a DUI conviction and work to mitigate them.
Some potential benefits of hiring a DUI attorney include the following:
Access to legal expertise: DUI attorneys have specialized knowledge of DUI laws and can provide you with the best possible legal advice.
Reduced penalties: A DUI attorney may be able to negotiate reduced charges or penalties, which could help you avoid some of the more severe consequences of a DUI conviction.
Peace of mind: Knowing that you have a qualified legal professional on your side can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety associated with a DUI charge.
Potential Consequences of a DUI
If you are convicted of a DUI, you can expect to face a range of consequences, depending on your state’s laws and your individual circumstances. Penalties typically include fines, jail time, and license suspension, but courts may also impose other punishments like court-mandated traffic school or substance abuse programs.
Here are some of the most common consequences of a DUI conviction.
Jail or prison time
You may face jail or prison time if you are convicted of a DUI. The amount of time you will have to serve will depend on the severity of the offense and whether it is your first or subsequent offense. For a first-time offense, you may face up to six months in jail, while for subsequent offenses, the amount of time can increase significantly.
Felony DUIs carry the harshest penalties and can result in several years of prison time.
In addition to jail time, you may also face fines if you are convicted of a DUI. The amount of the fine will vary depending on your state and the severity of the offense. For a first-time offense, you may face fines of up to $1,000, while the fines can increase significantly for subsequent offenses.
In some cases, subsequent offenses and felony DUIs may result in upwards of $5,000 in fines. Keep in mind that this doesn’t take into account any damages you may be responsible for if you cause an accident while driving under the influence that results in injury or property damage.
Your driver's license may be suspended if you are convicted of a DUI. The length of the suspension will depend on your state’s laws. For a first-time offense, you may face a license suspension of anywhere from 30 days to one year, while for subsequent offenses, the suspension can be multiple years.
To regain your driving privileges, you may need to attend DUI school or alcohol abuse treatment. You may also need to complete community service or pay fines before your license is reinstated.
Ignition interlock device (IID)
You may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle if you are convicted of a DUI. An IID is a breathalyzer that is connected to your vehicle's ignition system. Before you can start your vehicle, you must blow into the device to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
If your BAC is above a certain level, your vehicle will not start. The length of time you must have an IID installed varies between states. For a first-time offense, you may be required to have an IID installed for six months to one year, and for further offenses, you may need to use an IID for upwards of one year.
While not always the case, the court may order you to attend and complete traffic school after being convicted of a DUI.
These programs educate drivers about road rules and safe driving practices. They also emphasize the dangers of driving under the influence to deter drivers from driving while drunk. The length of these programs varies depending on the state.
Alcohol abuse treatment program
You may be required to attend an alcohol abuse treatment program if convicted of a DUI. The goal of the program is to address any underlying issues with alcohol abuse or addiction and to help you make healthier choices in the future.
The length and intensity of the program will depend on your state and the severity of the offense. For a first-time offense, you may be required to attend a program for several months, while for subsequent offenses, the program may be longer and more intensive.
Completing an alcohol abuse treatment program can have a positive impact on your life and future driving behavior. It can also show the court that you are taking responsibility for your actions and working to make changes.
You may be required to complete community service as part of your DUI sentence. Community service is a way to give back to your community while also serving your sentence. The type and amount of community service will depend largely on the severity of the offense.
For a first-time offense, you may be required to complete a certain number of hours of community service, while for subsequent offenses, the amount can increase significantly. Community service can include tasks such as picking up litter, working at a food bank, or participating in community events.
Completion of community service may also be required before regaining your driving privileges.
Increased insurance rates
If you are convicted of a DUI, you can expect your insurance rates to increase significantly. In some cases, your insurance company may even choose to cancel your policy altogether. This can make it challenging to find affordable insurance in the future, which can be a significant financial burden.
To overcome increased insurance rates, you may need to shop around for a new policy or take steps to reduce your risk, such as completing a defensive driving course. However, even with these efforts, you may still face higher rates for several years after a DUI conviction.
A DUI conviction typically results in a criminal record, which can have long-term consequences. A criminal record can make finding employment, obtaining credit or loans, or even finding housing difficult. It can also impact your ability to travel, as some countries may deny entry to individuals with a criminal record.
You may need to work with a lawyer to explore expungement or record-sealing options. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to have your record cleared or sealed after a certain period of time has passed or if you meet certain requirements.
If you rely on your driver’s license for work, a DUI conviction can result in job loss. This is particularly true for individuals who drive as part of their job, such as truck, delivery, or bus drivers. Employers may also choose to terminate an employee’s contract if they are convicted of a DUI, regardless of whether or not driving is a part of their job duties.
Legal Resources for Defendants
If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important to seek legal representation to ensure that your rights are protected and to potentially reduce the severity of the penalties and consequences.
Here are a few helpful legal resources that can help you prepare to defend yourself against a DUI charge.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
The NACDL offers a variety of resources to criminal defense lawyers and DUI defendants. These resources include legal advocacy, education, and referral services. Defendants can also use this website to find information about qualified attorneys in their area.
State Bar Association
Each state has a bar association that can provide referrals to attorneys who specialize in DUI defense. The bar association can also provide information on the state's laws and penalties for DUI offenses. Additionally, the bar association may offer resources for low-income individuals who cannot afford an attorney.
To find your state association's website, visit the American Bar Association.
Public Defender's Office
You may be eligible for a public defender if you cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Public defenders are attorneys appointed by the court to represent individuals who cannot afford their own attorney.
While public defenders may have heavy caseloads, they are experienced in defending DUI cases and can provide legal representation to protect your rights. It is important to note that eligibility for a public defender varies by state and is typically based on income level.
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