Everyone should know that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. If you are pulled over by law enforcement officers and they believe you have been drinking, you may find yourself arrested and possibly spending the night in jail. Additionally, if a blood test or Breathalyzer test demonstrates that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit of 0.08 percent or other evidence exists that you were impaired, you will likely find yourself facing criminal charges of DUI.
Too many people are under the mistaken impression that a DUI is not a “big deal.” Perhaps you have had friends or family members who faced DUIs and seemed to have few consequences. In reality, a DUI conviction can have a surprising amount of potentially long-lasting effects on many aspects of your life. It is important to be aware of the many different possible consequences of a DUI conviction to help you make an educated decision whether or not to plead guilty if you ever face DUI charges. The following is a brief overview of only some examples of common DUI consequences in the United States.
If you are convicted of DUI, the court will almost certainly impose a fine. Unlike other traffic-related fines, DUI fines can easily be thousands of dollars. In additional to fines imposed, you will be responsible for court costs and any costs related to any other penalties that are imposed. Such costs may continue for a year or more and can have a significant effect on your finances.
Many DUI offenders receive probation as part of their sentence. Probation can be supervised or unsupervised. Supervised probation involves regular meetings with a probation officers, conditions on where you can travel, and regular fees. Unsupervised probation does not require you to check in with a probation officer, however there can still be conditions attached to your probation. For example, you cannot be arrested or charged with another crime. If you do find yourself facing another criminal charge, you risk having your probation revoked and spending time in jail.
Whether or not you will spend time in jail for your DUI depends on many factors including the following:
- The laws in your state for mandatory DUI sentencing
- Whether you have prior DUI convictions on your criminal record
- Whether you caused an accident that resulted in injury or death of another person
Jail sentences for DUI can range from a few days to several years in prison for repeat offenders or offenders who caused serious accidents. For example, in Pennsylvania, there is no minimum jail time for a first offense DUI, however a second offense requires five days to six months in jail, and a third offense means 10 days to two years depending on the circumstances of your case.
Loss of driving privileges
In many states, you will lose your driving privileges for a period of time if you are convicted of DUI. You may also lose your driving privileges if you refused to submit to a breath or blood test at the time of your arrest. Loss of driving privileges, even for a short period of time, can prevent you from getting to work, school, or other important engagements if you do not have another form of transportation.
Ignition Interlock Device
In many cases, DUI offenders will be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their vehicle. An IID is a small device (about the size of a deck of cards) that is installed on the dashboard of your vehicle. The device prevents you from starting the vehicle until you have provided a breath sample by blowing into the device. If the device detects a certain alcohol level in your breath sample, it will interrupt the signal to the ignition of your car to prevent you from starting the engine. If no alcohol is detected, you will be able to begin driving, however the device will continuously require breath samples at regular intervals while you are driving.
Ignition interlock devices often allow you to receive your driving privileges back sooner, though an IID does not come without its own consequences. For example, you must have the IID installed, regularly inspected, and regularly calibrated by an approved installer. You will be responsible for the costs associated with installation, calibration, and any other maintenance required. Additionally, an IID is not discrete. Any passenger in your vehicle will be aware of the device and the regular need for you to provide breath samples. This means that family members, friends, or even coworkers that ride with you will know that you have received a DUI conviction.
Conviction on your record
Aside from the other penalties imposed by the court, simply having a DUI conviction on your criminal record can have a significant effect on your life. For example, you will likely be disqualified from any professions that require a clean driving or criminal record. Numerous jobs require employees to drive, including delivery services, construction workers, utility workers, and more. Commercial drivers will lose their commercial driver’s license (CDL) due to a DUI and, therefore, their ability to earn a living in their chosen profession for a period of time. Even after a driver receives his CDL back, trucking companies may be reluctant to hire that driver due to future liability concerns.
Furthermore, if you hold a professional license, a DUI may put that license in jeopardy. DUI convictions must be reported to the licensing board and the board may opt to suspend your license or even revoke it completely after multiple offenses. You may be required to attend mandatory substance abuse evaluations and treatment in order to have your license reinstated and be able to work again.
The above are only some of the many consequences of a DUI, some of which can be long-lasting. For this reason and more, it is important to avoid a DUI conviction on your record whenever possible.