While the laws for driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances are clear, outcomes are far less predictable. After being charged with a DUI, people are often overwhelmed by how complex the process can be. However, it’s reasonable to consider how most arrests work out in the real world to set a goal. Here are a few reasonable outcomes for DUI cases.
Medium-Term Probation and No Jail Time
In most cases, those who are charged for DUI for the first time receive some period of probation. State laws vary, but most don’t require jail time, and judges are typically reluctant to send people to jail for first-time offenses. While on probation, however, even minor infractions can lead to probation violations, which frequently require jail time. Those who stay out of trouble, however, will typically have no further penalties once probation ends. In most cases, those facing DUI should set a goal for no jail time but understand that probation is likely.
Increasingly, states require that those convicted of DUI have their full driving licenses revoked for six months or even longer. However, many states also provide restricted licenses allowing people to drive for essential tasks, including work and school. Driving is considered a privilege, so drivers have little leverage against these laws. By attending court-ordered DUI courses, drivers can improve their odds of getting a restricted license and having their full driving rights restored. When facing a DUI conviction, drivers can often still set a goal to maintain limited driving privileges.
Technology has changed the nature of DUI convictions. New tools require drivers to blow into an in-car alcohol monitor before the vehicle starts, ensuring that the driver is not intoxicated when starting the engine. While these tools aren’t yet ubiquitous, they are required in many states for those who wish to continue driving after a conviction. The amount of time drivers need to use this tool will vary based on the state.
Dealing with a DUI conviction typically requires paying several fines. The conviction itself often requires payment, sometimes around $1,000. Driving agencies might levy fees as well, and having a driving license fully restored can cost hundreds of dollars. DUI courses, which are sometimes required, can also result in de facto fines. DUI is considered a costly offense in most states, so those working through the process should save up as much as possible to pay off these fees in a timely manner.
Potential for a Criminal Record
In most states, typically DUI cases are misdemeanor crimes, which are permanently recorded. This can be difficult for job applicants, who typically have to admit to misdemeanors committed during a certain time period. There are, however, exceptions to this; the state of New Jersey, for example, considers most DUIs as traffic violations, so they’re not categorized as misdemeanors. Although New Jersey is an exception, there are situations where people can avoid having a DUI listed as a crime. On the other hand, there are cases where a DUI can be considered a felony.
Prosecutors and judges take repeat DUI convictions far more seriously that first-time offenses, and those who’ve committed the act in the past can expect harsher sanctions. Jail time is fairly common, even for those convicted a second time, and fines can be much higher as well. Drivers will often see their licenses revoked for extended periods of time, and probation periods are typically far longer. Repeat convictions can lead to having a felony record, which can even restrict voting rights.
Facing the potential of a DUI conviction can be stressful, and there will almost certainly be some consequences. Determining a realistic goal can be difficult as state laws vary significantly, and both prosecutors and judges have significant latitude when it comes to deciding on charges and sentences. However, most drivers can expect to receive some form of probation and potentially other driving restrictions, and, in most cases, it’s reasonable to set a goal of spending no time in jail. When faced with repeat convictions, however, it’s important to talk to a lawyer to determine a reasonable goal.