Although most states are going to categorize your first DUI offense just as a misdemeanor, it is important never to underestimate how serious this arrest or conviction can be. When you are charged with a DUI, you must understand some of the mandatory sentencing that are associated with these charges, and what could happen in the long-term with one of these convictions.
What are my consequences?
Whenever you pick up your first DUI offense, you may think all you will receive is probation. While this is true for some individuals, it is still possible that the court will order you to serve time in jail as part of the probation. Depending on the laws in your state, even misdemeanor offenses can require you to serve time. Also, almost all states will suspend your driver’s license, even if this is your first DUI offense.
Depending on the type of history you have, it is possible for you to apply for either a hardship license or an occupational driver’s license so that you can make it to school or work. You may also have to pay a fine, probation fees, court costs and more. Many courts will ask you to do community service hours as well as alcohol and drug counseling in your area.
Punishment for a first DUI offense
In most cases, your first charges of DUI will be considered a misdemeanor, and you may have to deal with probation, license suspension, community service, and fines. There are various factors that can come into play that will change the nature of your charge and can increase your penalties or sentences.
For example, if there is an open container in the vehicle, you would still have a misdemeanor, but the jail sentence or fine would be increased. If there is a child in the vehicle while driving intoxicated, it could increase your charges to a felony, regardless of past convictions.
Conditions of losing your license for a DUI offense
If you would like to get your license back quickly after you lose it from a DUI, you will need to deal with two different types of judges: a criminal law and an administrative law judge. While you wait, it is important that you do not try to drive while the license is suspended. If you do decide to drive and then you are caught, it will result in more fines and charges.
There are some cases in which will require you to pay for and install an ignition interlock device until the case is done pending. This device alone can cost you $200 a month. If you fail to comply with this requirement, it can result in you getting sent back to jail.
Long-term consequences of more than one DUI offense
The things above are conditional on this being your first DUI offense. The long-term consequences of the DUI, especially if you are caught drinking and driving again, can be worse. The information about your first DUI will be placed on your record, and it can easily be used against you at a later time. If you end up with a second, or a third, DUI charge, that first DUI is going to cause the penalties and the sentences to increase the second time around.
Each state is going to react to this a little bit different. However, if you are arrested multiple times for DUI, then the DUI conviction can then be elevated to a felony offense. Where you are arrested will determine whether this second or third offense is a felony. For example, in New Mexico, your fourth DUI is a felony while in Texas, it is your third DUI that is a felony. However, you should never assume that you are safe from higher convictions just because you are only on your second DUI.
Getting a DUI attorney
If you are charged with a DUI, it is important to talk to a DUI attorney right away. They will be able to help you out, whether it is your first or a later DUI charge. A DUI conviction, regardless of whether it is your first one or not, could cause harm to your employment opportunities, your finances, and your criminal history. Even if it is your first DUI offense, it is important to not take these charges lightly. A good DUI attorney will be able to stand by your side and get the charges thrown out, or at least reduced so that you can get back to your life.