In addition to embarrassment and family disappointment, there are legal consequences of getting a DUI. Of course, many factors will determine the actual punishment if convicted of drinking and driving, such as any prior DUIs, other criminal charges, the city where you were arrested, blood alcohol level, whether injury and/or death was involved, and so on.
Suspended Driver’s License
One of the hardest-hitting consequences is having your driver’s license suspended by the state’s motor vehicle department or the court. If found guilty of being under the influence while driving anywhere in the United States, you will lose your license. Depending on the exact circumstances, driving privileges may be reinstated after paying associated fines and/or attending a court-ordered DUI school.
If this is your first DUI offense and there are no extenuating circumstances, there is a good chance your license will be reinstated within 90 days. On the other hand, if you have a prior DUI, your license will be suspended for a minimum of one year.
Ignition Interlock Device
You may also be required to have an interlock device installed on your vehicle. Formally known as an Ignition Interlock Device, or IID, this mechanism works much like a Breathalyzer designed to deter you from drinking and driving. To start your vehicle, you would have to provide a breath sample into the device for analysis. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle will not start.
In addition to losing driving privileges, there are a number of consequences that go hand-in-hand with a DUI conviction.
- Temporary impoundment of your vehicle
- Court fines that could reach thousands of dollars
- Community service
- Substance abuse classes or treatment at your expense
- Possible jail time
Being Charged with a Felony
As expected, if you have more than one prior DUI or if someone was seriously injured, there is also the risk of being charged with a felony. Even if there was no accident involved, this is still a possibility. However, if someone was killed because you were drinking and driving, you could also be charged with manslaughter or vehicular homicide, which results in long-term prison time.
Each state is slightly different when it comes to DUI laws. For instance, in the state of Florida, someone arrested for a third DUI within a 10-year period can be prosecuted for a felony. The bottom line is that repeat offenses or accidents with injury or death take consequences to an entirely different level.
Seeking Legal Advice
Even if you have only one conviction, it is imperative to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney. This professional will review police reports, talk to witnesses, and conduct a full investigation on your specific situation and then devise the right strategy. Based on this, you may end up with a not-guilty verdict or the penalties may be significantly reduced.
Depending on the state in which you were convicted, a good criminal defense attorney may also file to have your criminal record expunged. If this is your first DUI and there are no prior criminal convictions of any kind, this would erase the file completely from public records.
Because there are so many factors involved and the stakes are high, you need to have a qualified criminal defense attorney in your corner. Every case involving a DUI is unique; therefore, a respected attorney will never provide a cookie-cutter solution. The attorney will understand mandatory punishments and consequences for your state, as well as applicable laws to help you out of a very difficult situation.