State DUI Penalties

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 What is a DUI?

The term “DUI” usually stands for “driving under the influence.” In most states, this refers to a person who is caught driving or operating a motor vehicle while drunk. However, it can also include situations where a person is under the influence of other substances besides alcohol, such as drugs or prescription medications. 

Due to the dangers of drunk driving, states typically enforce very strict penalties for persons who are found to be in violation of DUI laws. Such punishments tend to be strict, as they are intended to deter people from committing drunk driving violations and potentially placing people in danger. 

States may have different penalties for drunk driving or DUI violations. They may also have different names for such violations, such as “DWI” (driving while intoxicated).

What Types of State DUI Penalties Are Currently in Place?

As mentioned, DUI penalties may vary from state to state. The following is a general list of some of the types of DUI penalties in place throughout the country: 

  • Jail Time: A person can face some jail time for a DUI conviction. The amount of jail time usually depends on dangerousness of DUI event and history of behavior. Repeat offenses may result in longer jail sentences;
  • Fines: These can sometimes involve a minimum of $2000 or more depending on jurisdiction;
  • Community Service: This is typically set by individual judges although may be subject to state regulations and the person’s driving history;
  • Traffic School: This may be an option, especially for first-time offenders. It may also be used in conjunction with other penalties;
  • Administrative license suspension and/or revocation;
  • Mandatory alcohol education and/or abuse assessment/treatment;
  • Vehicle impounding or confiscation; and.or
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (like a breathalyzer that will turn on the engine only if the driver is able to pass the test).

As mentioned, the person’s driving history can have a great impact on DUI penalties. For instance, a first-time DUI offender is more likely to be eligible for community service options compared with a second- or third- time offender. Also, repeat DUI offenders will usually face more severe punishments, such as higher monetary fines and longer jail sentences.

What is an Administrative License Suspension or Revocation?

Some laws require that the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) take away or suspend the license of a DUI offender. This penalty is typically separate and distinct from any jail time or fine the offender may face. These penalties are often imposed for those violators that fail to submit to mandatory consent testing. 

Most states will revoke or suspend a license from 90 days to a year for a first offense, nine months to one year for a second offense, and one to four years for a third offense. The general reasoning here is that a person who is continually committing DUI offenses may be a hazard to others on the road. 

What Does Mandatory Alcohol Education and Treatment Mean?

Some state DUI penalties require DUI offenders to attend alcohol and/or treatment programs. These classes educate the offending driver about alcohol dependency and the consequences of DUI. These classes can also assist people with alcohol and drug addictions, and can help them medically get over their dependency. 

Sometimes attendance of the programs replaces, reduces, or is a condition to avoiding more serious DUI penalties. About 60% of states require both education and treatment. The rationale behind such programs is that education on the subject will make more people aware of the dangers and impacts of driving while drunk, thus reducing the number of DUI cases.

What is Vehicle Impounding or Confiscation?

Vehicle confiscation or impounding laws typically only apply to repeat DUI offenders. Such laws allow the local DMV or local police department to seize a DUI offender’s car and prevent them from using it. 

Depending on the severity of the DUI crime committed, this confiscation can be permanent, or it may last only for a limited period of time. Offenders must usually pay all the monetary costs associated with the confiscation. Half of all states prohibit vehicle confiscation on various constitutional grounds. A quarter of states allow vehicular impounding or confiscation only on a third offense. 

If you want to know what your state law says about confiscating a DUI offender’s car, then be sure to check with a local criminal defense lawyer to find out if this could happen to you.

What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

A vehicle ignition interlock is a type of breath-testing device which measures a vehicle operator’s BAC. This device prevents operation of a vehicle if more than a certain level of alcohol is detected when the operator blows and tries to start the vehicle. Roughly 65% of states allow installation of these devices. Some states reject the required use of these devices as unconstitutional. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with DUI Penalties in My State?

As you can see, state DUI penalties can be serious and may be very costly, especially for repeat offenders. Such laws are also complex as they differ from state to state. You may need to hire a DUI lawyer in your area if you need help with any type of DUI charge or penalties. Your attorney can provide advice on how to proceed and can explain your legal rights in connection with the offense.

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