Drunk driving is among the most commonly charged criminal offenses in the United States. The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that nearly one in every 200 drivers nationwide are arrested on DUI or DWI charges each year. When determining what your next step should be––i.e., to fight the charge or not––you should consider the possible penalties for a DUI conviction.
Keep in mind that each DUI case is unique, and any conviction, including one obtained via a plea deal, will be accompanied by a sentence corresponding to the facts and circumstances of the case. With that said, below is an overview of penalties often associated with DUI or DWI convictions.
Punishment for a DUI Conviction: Know the Basics
Here are three key things to know about DUI convictions and possible punishment.
1. DUI penalties vary from state to state.
Drunk driving and drugged driving are state crimes. As already said above, the punishment for a DUI conviction varies from state to state. While there are many similarities across jurisdictions, the reality is that some states have more strict DUI laws.
2. Prior DUIs (or lack thereof) matter.
In all U.S. states, DUI penalties are based (in part) on a driver’s prior history of DUI/DWI offenses. The maximum penalties for second-time DUI convictions are generally more severe than a first-time DUI conviction. Subsequent DUI convictions are subject to even harsher penalties.
3. Aggravating Factors Could Result in Increased Penalties
You could face more severe DUI penalties if a so-called aggravating factor is present. Some notable examples of aggravating factors in DUI cases include extreme intoxication, a child in the car, or causing an accident while under the influence.
An Overview of the Penalties You are Likely to Face
The punishment for a DUI conviction will vary based on many things, including the state where the offense occurred, your prior history or lack of history of DUI offenses, and whether or not any aggravating factors are present. That being said, all drivers charged with a DUI are likely to face some or all of the following three categories of penalties––the difference will be in the extent of the penalty (e.g., driver’s license suspension is for a shorter period after a first-time DUI conviction compared to a subsequent DUI conviction).
1. Loss of License
The overwhelming majority of DUI convictions result in a license suspension or license revocation. How long you will lose your driver’s license depends on the specific circumstances of your case.
2. Monetary Sanctions
DUI convictions typically also carry monetary sanctions. Financial penalties may include direct civil fines, court costs, insurance surcharges, and the cost of covering an alcohol education course and/or installing an interlock ignition device.
In most states, you can face jail (for misdemeanor DUIs) or prison time (for felony DUIs) for any type of DUI offense—even a first-time drunk driving charge where the alleged offender has a clean record.
A Note on Other Types of DUI Conviction-Related Penalties
Aside from the above, you could be sentenced to community service or required to attend substance abuse classes or to install an ignition interlock device into your motor vehicle, among other state-specific requirements.
A Note on Administrative Penalties
You could face DUI penalties without a conviction. As noted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 42 U.S. states have administrative license suspension programs in place. Your license could be suspended by the DMV (or your state’s respective motor vehicle department) at the administrative level based on a DUI arrest alone—before you get your day in court.
Do Not Plead Guilty to a DUI/DWI Without Speaking to an Attorney
A DUI conviction can carry harsh criminal penalties. If you plead guilty to a DUI offense, you will be convicted. You should not plead guilty to a DUI/DWI charge without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. You may have a number of different options for fighting the charges, saving your license, and/or protecting yourself against the most severe punishment.
Get a Complete Plan to Fight Your DUI Charge Today
A DUI conviction can carry stiff criminal penalties, potentially including the loss of your license, large fines, and even jail time. You do not have to fight against DUI charges on your own. Contact Restorify by DUI.org for a free, confidential initial consultation. We will connect you with a local DUI defense lawyer who can handle your case at the best possible rate. We also offer many other services to help you navigate your way through the DUI/DWI criminal and administrative processes.