DUI Penalties and Consequences Staff Profile Picture
Written By:
Mitchell Sexner Profile Picture
Reviewed By:

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 may also lead to long-term consequences such as a criminal record, increased insurance rates, adverse immigration effects 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 often be severe.

If you are charged with DUI, it’s important to understand what consequences you might face, how penalties may differ depending on the severity of your charge and specific case circumstances, as well as how an experienced DUI attorney can help you to 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 and most judges frown upon it for a variety of reasons.

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 may 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 plead guilty or are found guilty of a DUI, you can expect to face a range of consequences, depending on your state’s laws and your individual circumstances. Penalties may include some combination of fines, court-mandated traffic school, and substance abuse programs, but other punishments like jail time and license suspension may be imposed as well.

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 generally depend on the severity of the offense, taking into account such factors as whether an accident was involved, whether someone was injured, your blood alcohol content, and whether it is your first or subsequent offense. For a first-time offender, although there is always the possibility of jail, most people do not go to jail however. For subsequent offenses and for cases with particularly aggravating circumstances, the possibility of jail time increases significantly.

Felony DUIs carry the harshest penalties and the potential for many years of prison time.


In addition to the possibility of jail time, you will almost certainly also face court fines if you are found guilty or plead guilty to a DUI. The amount of the fine however, will vary depending on the state in which the offense occurred and the severity of the offense. Fines will often depend on whether the matter involves a first-time offense, a subsequent offense, or certain serious circumstances surrounding the traffic violation.

In some cases, subsequent offenses and felony DUIs may result in many thousands of dollars in fines. Keep in mind that this doesn’t take into account any damages you may also be responsible for if you cause an accident while driving under the influence which results in injury or property damage.

License suspension

Depending on the state in which the arrest occurred, your driver's license may be suspended or revoked if you are convicted of a DUI. In other states, such a loss of driving privileges may happen even if you are not technically convicted or even if you're found not guilty of the crime after a trial. Because suspensions vary greatly from state to state, it is always best to consult an attorney to learn exactly how the law applies to your particular case.  

The length of the suspension will also depend on your state’s laws. First-time offenders typically face shorter suspension or revocation periods, while the loss of privileges for multiple offenders can sometimes extend for many years, or in extreme cases permanently.

To regain your driving privileges, you may need to attend DUI school or take part in alcohol/drug 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), also known as a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID), in your vehicle for a variety of reasons. An IID is a small breathalyzer machine 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 IID may also randomly prompt you to blow while you are driving. Then, if you fail to provide an adequate breath sample within a particular time period, the vehicle may become disabled.The length of time you must have an IID installed varies between states.

Traffic school

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 you plead guilty or are found guilty 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 a number of factors including how many prior alcohol or drug related arrests and adverse events have occurred and the specifics of this particular DUI. But the primary factor which determines the extent, length and intensity of treatment is whether the offender is deemed to have a minor issue with alcohol/drugs, a serious addiction requiring inpatient treatment, or a problem somewhere in between. This determination is usually made by having the offender evaluated by a professional first.

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.

Community service

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 can depend on a number of circumstances including the severity of the offense or the person's breath alcohol content.

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 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.

Criminal record

If a DUI is not dismissed, the arrest may result in a conviction, a lesser sentence called a supervision, a deferred prosecution or another type of court sentence depending on the State involved. Most DUIs involve the collection of fingerprints and because of this, typically result 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. In other states, DUIs are not expungeable at all.

Job loss

If you rely on your driver’s license for work, a DUI conviction may result in job loss. This is particularly true for individuals who drive as part of their job, such as truck, Uber, delivery, or bus drivers. Although the legality of this varies by State, employers may also choose to terminate an employee’s contract if they plead guilty or are found guilty 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.

Share Staff Profile Picture StaffAuthor

Step into the world of, your go-to hub for credible insights. We don't take accuracy lightly around here. Our squad of expert reviewers, each a maestro in their field, has given the green light to every single article you'll find. From rigorous fact-checking to meticulous evaluations of service providers, we've got it all covered. So feel free to dive in and explore. The information you'll uncover has been stamped with the seal of approval by our top-notch experts.

Mitchell Sexner Profile Picture

Mitchell SexnerReviewer

A graduate of Northwestern University and Chicago Kent College of Law, Mitchell Sexner is a former criminal prosecutor and founder of Sexner & Associates LLC, a team of experienced attorneys defending criminal/traffic matters as well as representing clients in multi-million dollar injury and medical malpractice cases. Visit: