This articles by Nima Haddadi, a Los Angeles DUI lawyer. The penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) vary depending on the circumstances of your arrest and your state, but in every state, penalties are much more severe if you already have prior DWI arrests on your record.
While every state classifies a driver’s first DWI as a misdemeanor, it could classify subsequent DWI offenses as felonies. There may be a jail sentence, and if your offense was particularly severe or you have multiple prior DWIs, that sentence could be several years in length. The length of time that the state suspends your driver’s license is significantly longer after your first offense. For example, a state that suspends a driver’s license for 90 days or 6 months on their first DWI offense may suspend it for 1 year on a second offense and 3 years on a third. Driver’s license revocation is also a possibility.
Fines increase with each subsequent DWI. The state may put you on probation for several years and require that you attend DUI classes. It’s also likely that the state will require you to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car before you can drive again.
An ignition interlock device is an in-car breathalyzer that requires you to provide a breath sample before you’re able to start your car. If your breath sample has a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the limit that’s programmed into the device, then your car will not start. The programmed limit is usually a BAC of .02. These devices also have rolling retests, which are required retests while you’re driving to ensure that you don’t drink after starting your car or have someone else provide a breath sample for you. If you fail to provide a breath sample or your breath sample is at or above the programmed limit, the device will cause your horn to honk and your lights to flash until you pull over and shut your car off.
If you are being charged with a DWI and you already have one or more on your record, it’s imperative that you hire a skilled defense attorney. Each state takes repeat DWI offenders very seriously and has severe punishments in place. Without a strong defense, you could end up with large fines or jail time.
A defense attorney can examine the prosecution’s case to see if there are any weaknesses, such as a lack of probable cause to pull you over, or any issues with the testing method used to obtain your BAC. DWI cases are complex, and there may be issues with the evidence against you, but it requires an intricate knowledge of arrest and testing procedures to find those issues. That’s why you need a DWI defense attorney who has handled these types of cases before. While it’s rare for DWI charges to get dismissed, your attorney may be able to secure you a plea deal for a lesser charge if the prosecution isn’t completely confident in the evidence they have against you.
Keep in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to DWI cases. No attorney can promise that they’ll get your charges reduced, and if they do then they’re lying to you. However, a defense attorney gives you the best chance at minimizing the damage that a DWI causes to your life. They may be able to work out a deal where you complete a DUI education program instead of serving jail time, or install an ignition interlock device on your car instead of having your license suspended. A defense attorney can make the difference between spending a year in jail or being put on probation. You should hire an attorney any time that you’re charged with a DWI, but it’s even more critical when you already have one or more previous DWI charges on your record.
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