The Legal Consequences of a DUI or DWI

If you’ve been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), it’s important to know what the possible repercussions are. A DUI or DWI charge, like all other criminal charges in the U.S., is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means you will respond to the charge with a plea, and if you choose “not guilty,” you will go through a jury trial to determine the outcome. If you are found guilty, either by your own plea or after the trial, the penalties will be different based on the law of the state, the circumstances surrounding the case, and how well you cooperated with the police.

Serving Time

Every state classifies first-offense DUI or DWI as a misdemeanor, which can result in up to six months of jail time. This time is also subject to increase based on different circumstances. Certain states, for example, dole out harsher punishments for offenders whose blood alcohol content (BAC) levels were extremely high, such as .15% or .20% over the legal limit, which is .08%. Certain states also sentence first-time offenders to at least several days in jail, while subsequent offenses will require months or a year of jail time. When a DUI or DWI is classified as a felony, which can happen when the driver is responsible for another’s death or injury, or when the driver has had 2 or 3 previous offenses, the offender can be sentenced to several years of jail time.

Paying Fines

In addition to jail time, the courts often charge DUI or DWI offenders with high fines, ranging anywhere from $500 to $2,000.

Licensing Issues

If you’re charged with a DUI or DWI, you will most likely have your license suspended for a long period of time. This suspension can be mandated either by the court or by the state’s department of motor vehicles. The length of time usually varies based upon the number of offenses. For instance, several states suspend a first-time offender’s license for 90 days, a second-time offender’s license for a year, and a third-time offender’s license for 3 years.

There are also other circumstances that influence whether or how long your license will be suspended. If you are unwilling to take a blood, breath, or urine test, for example, you can get your license suspended even if you are not found guilty. You also might incur other penalties depending on the state. If you do have your license suspended, it is sometimes possible to get a hardship license” that will allow you to drive yourself to work and school.

Your state also might take extreme measure to make sure that you aren’t able to get back behind the wheel, especially if it’s not your first offense. This involves confiscating your car, canceling your car registration, or ordering an ignition interlock device (IID) to be placed onto your car. The device will require you to blow into a Breathalyzer and will not let you drive if your BAC level is above around 0.2%.

Other Consequences

Sometimes, a state will order the DUI or DWI offender, especially if it’s their first offense, to enroll in a state prevention program, alcohol education program, or treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. The offender might also have to do community service instead of serving jail time or paying fines. It’s important to know that legal percussions are not the only consequences for at stake. Your driver’s insurance company might cancel your policy since your driving record is taking a hit. Because a drunk driving charge marks your personal record for many years, you might have trouble getting a job or enrolling in school.

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