Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime with some particularly severe consequences.
At best, you get arrested and convicted. At worst, you may kill someone. If you’re convicted more than once, you’ll face more severe penalties than if you’re only convicted once.
Whether it’s your first offense or the most recent of multiple, most of the time you’ll be able to post bail with the help of a bail bonds company so that you can await trial at home rather than in a jail cell.
What is a DUI?
The first thing to understand is that driving under the influence does not apply purely to driving drunk. It is driving while impaired by drugs as well. It can also be called driving while intoxicated (DWI).
What are the penalties for a DUI?
Each state has its own laws regarding the specific punishments for a DUI. In general, most states allow for a fine, incarceration for a period of time, the revocation or restriction of your driver’s license, and taking and completing a class on drunk driving or alcoholism. Probation is also often a punishment for a DUI.
Other potential penalties for DUI include:
- Ignition Interlock Device: This is a device that is installed in your vehicle. In order to start your vehicle, you must breathe into the device. If the device detects a BAC higher than a certain level (usually .02 or higher), it will not allow you to start your vehicle.
- Vehicle impoundment: Typically, this is reserved for habitual offenders, or those who have multiple DUI convictions. The purpose of impounding the vehicle is to deter you from driving under the influence in the future by removing the vehicle from your control.
If your license is revoked
If your punishment includes having your license revoked, you may be required to enroll in a DUI school or a drug and alcohol treatment program as a condition for getting your license back. This could be as simple as attending AA meetings, or as complex as seeking in-patient treatment in a rehab center.
Successful completion of a school or treatment program may get your license restored. Failure to complete the school or treatment program, on the other hand, will prevent you from getting your license back and may also result in your return to court for further penalties.
Habitual offender penalties
Habitual offenders are typically those who have been convicted of three or more DUIs, and many states have passed more severe penalties for habitual offenders. Some of those more severe penalties could include:
- License revocation: It is possible to lose your license even for a first time offense. However, it tends to be reserved for those who are convicted more than once, and if it does occur with a first time offense, the length of time for which it is revoked for habitual offenders is usually much longer.
- Harsher penalties: You may be subject to longer jail sentences, larger fines, having your vehicle confiscated, or other harsher punishments such as losing your right to vote or own a weapon.
- Automatic felony DUI charges: While a DUI can sometimes be charged as a misdemeanor if you’ve been convicted before, you may find that even if the conditions are exactly the same as your previous offense, you are charged with a felony in the future.
Vehicle confiscation for habitual offenders can be a temporary (though lengthy) impoundment, or it can be a complete forfeiture of the vehicle. If you’ve been convicted multiple times, the state may require you to sell your vehicle.
In some situations, you may also be subject to enhanced punishments for a DUI. For example:
- If your BAC was .20 or higher
- If you refuse to submit to chemical testing (blood testing)
- If you were speeding or driving recklessly while drunk
- If you had a child under the age of 14 with you while driving drunk
- If you had a car accident or caused another person injury while driving drunk
If you drive while under the influence, you may find that the legal penalties are the least of your worries. If you cause property damage or injury, you may also be facing civil lawsuits.