DUI Convictions: Criminal Penalties
A DUI conviction may carry criminal penalties including fines, jail time, probation, and community service. Some state laws impose certain minimum penalties for first-time offenses, then designate increased penalties for each offense thereafter. Severity of criminal penalties will vary according to the circumstances of the offense, including:
Whether the driver has a history of DUI violations;
• Whether the driver was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI;
• Whether the DUI violation occurred while there was a child in the vehicle;
• Whether the DUI violation occurred simultaneously with another dangerous moving violation, such as reckless driving;
• Whether the DUI violation involved a car accident in which property damage occurred;
• Whether the DUI violation involved a car accident in which another person was injured or killed;
• Whether the driver was under the legal drinking age at the time of the DUI violation.
DUI Arrest and Conviction: Driving Privilege Penalties
In addition to potential criminal penalties, a DUI arrest or conviction will have an immediate negative impact on driving privileges.
Most state laws allow a motor vehicle department to immediately suspend the driver's license of any person operating a vehicle with a BAC above the state limit for intoxication, or any driver who refuses to submit to BAC testing. The driver's vehicle may also be confiscated or impounded, and the DUI offender will likely incur significant administrative costs. This loss of driving privileges can normally occur even before a DUI conviction. Most states allow a DUI arrestee to obtain a temporary license and request an administrative hearing at which he or she may argue against license suspension, or for restoration of limited driving privileges.
As with criminal penalties, the impact of a DUI arrest or conviction on driving privileges will vary according to the driver's history of DUI violations and the severity of the offense. An increasingly popular DUI penalty, especially for repeat offenders, is mandatory installation of an "ignition interlock" device on the offender's vehicle. This breath-testing device measures the vehicle operator's BAC, and will prevent operation of the vehicle if more than a minimum amount of alcohol is detected, such as BAC level of .02. Where this punishment is utilized, most states require the DUI offender to pay costs of installation, rental, and maintenance of the ignition interlock device. Rental fees alone can amount to as much as three dollars per day, so a DUI offender's expenses can add up quickly when an ignition interlock device is required.