Driving under the influence is a crime, but the idea of getting arrested for DUI for the very first time may not faze many people. After all, it’s a first-time offense, and the law is quite lenient on first-time offenders. While most states categorize first-time DUIs as a misdemeanor, the consequences, both short-term and long-term, remain serious. If ever you’re arrested for a DUI, you will need to fully understand not just the punishments that come with a DUI conviction, but it’s possible long-term impact on your life as well.
Here are the things that will happen when you’re arrested for DUI for the first time.
• You Will Be Booked: As with any other crime, you will be brought to the nearest police station or jail, where your mug shots and fingerprints will be taken. If you’re allowed to post bail, and someone pays for it, you can be released immediately.
• You’ll Be Ordered To Appear In Court: A ticket or a summons will be handed to you at the time of your arrest to inform you of the date you must show up in court for your DUI hearing.
• Your License Will Be Suspended: Depending on the state, your driver’s license will be suspended immediately after the arrest if you say no to a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer or blood test, or it will come as part of your sentence once you’re convicted of DUI.
• You Can Go To Jail: Some people believe that first-time DUI convicts are only given probation. The truth is, jail terms for first-time DUI offenders are now mandatory in an increasing number of states. As first-offense DUI is classified as a misdemeanor in all states, a conviction could mean up to six months in jail. The sentence, however, may be lengthened if there are aggravating circumstances. Typically, however, first-time DUI offenders serve shorter jail terms and spend the rest of the time on probation or performing community service.
• You Will Pay Fines: The fines that courts hand down for DUI convictions may vary from state to state. For a first-time DUI offender, you could be looking at fines of up to $1,800 depending on the state where the offense was committed.
• Your Car Insurance Rates Will Soar: Expect to see a sharp increase in your car insurance premiums once your provider learns of your DUI arrest and conviction. The hike could be a few hundred dollars, but it’s not unheard of for insurance rate hikes to reach thousands of dollars. Finding a car insurance company at an affordable rate is going to be tough if you have a DUI conviction haunting you.
• You Have To Undergo An Alcohol And Drug Education Program: A first-time DUI convict often gets ordered by the court to complete an alcohol and drug education program. Finishing this program is typically a prerequisite to getting one’s driver’s license reinstated. Under the program, you have to attend hours of drunk driving prevention classes and pay for them as well. Your drinking habits will also be assessed under this program, with a trained counselor performing the evaluation to determine if you are suffering from alcohol abuse disorder. Once the evaluation shows that you have an alcohol problem, the counselor may recommend a court-approved alcohol treatment program before your driving privileges are restored.
The legal and financial consequences of getting arrested and convicted for a DUI are bad enough, but one thing first-time DUI convicts should think about is what it might be telling them about their own health and well-being. If you find yourself at the receiving end of a first-time DUI, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a substance abuse problem. It’s possible that you are just a light to moderate drinker who made a bad decision to drink and drive. Nevertheless, a DUI arrest and conviction is a serious sign that you need to contemplate your alcohol consumption. It would be great if you, like most drivers arrested for a first-time DUI, make adjustments to your behavior regarding drinking and driving. However, if you continue to drink and drive and become a repeat offender despite the negative consequences, then you are waving a big, red flag. While it’s not irrefutable proof of addiction, it’s a tell-tale sign that you may have an alcohol problem on your hands, and you will likely need professional help. Should you ever get arrested on suspicion of DUI, waste no time in hiring a skilled and experienced DUI lawyer to represent you. As a specialist in laws that covers driving under the influence offenses, a DUI lawyer is the best-equipped person to help you get the best possible result for your first-time DUI case.
Difference between a DUI charge and a DUI conviction
There’s a misconception that being charged with a DUI is the same as being convicted of DUI. If an officer pulls you over on the suspicion of being intoxicated and you are arrested, you have been charged with a DUI but you have not been convicted in a Court of law. If you have been charged with drunk driving you are facing serious consequences negatively impact your life. But, you can fight the charges you are facing and, with the help of an aggressive, experienced DUI defense attorney you may be able to win your case and avoid a costly DUI conviction. Here are some of the defenses your lawyer can use in court.
• Field Sobriety Tests – There are many issues surrounding Field Sobriety Tests that can provide several potential defenses for your lawyer to use in court. FSTs are often misinterpreted, meaning the results aren’t an accurate depiction as to whether or not you’re intoxicated. When it comes to a field sobriety test, it is often almost impossible for you to “pass” meaning that, if you participate, you’ll more than likely be charged with a DUI.
• Breathalyzers: While typically considered more effective than FSTs when it comes to determining your BAC, a breathalyzer isn’t a perfect science. Breathalyzers are subject to error for many reasons. One of the biggest issues is that it doesn’t necessarily distinguish between ethyl alcohol (the type found in alcoholic beverages) and alcohols in the methyl group which is a huge distinction. Breathalyzers can be thrown off simply by what you had for lunch, depicting a higher than actual BAC level. What’s more diabetics and people who suffer from GERD can also show false levels due to their physical conditions.
• Blood and Chemical Tests: While more accurate in determining the amount of alcohol in your blood, these tests also have their own shortcomings. Mishandling a blood sample can cause it to coagulate, congeal or decay which will taint any results. What’s more, is the sample can be contaminated by the alcohol swab used to clean the area before they take the blood sample causing a false reading.
While these are some of the more basic defenses they are, by no means, the only ones. Being charged with a DUI doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be convicted. However, from the moment you get pulled over, you have a limited amount of time in order to prepare for your day in court. The first thing you should to do is to hire the most experienced DUI defense attorney you can afford. A DUI charge, while not a conviction, is still a very serious issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Getting stopped for drunk driving (commonly referred to as “DWI” – driving while intoxicated or “DUI” – driving under the influence) is a serious offense and can have different consequences depending upon where you live. All 50 states have “per se” laws defining it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above the prescribed threshold. At this time, every state has set this maximum BAC level at 0.08 percent. However, some states have enacted zero tolerance laws that lower that level for underage drivers and high BAC laws that impose harsher penalties for those caught with levels of 0.16 to 0.20.
Getting Stopped for Drunk Driving
When you’re stopped for drunk driving (or for something else and a police officer has reason to believe you’ve been drinking), you will generally be required to take a sobriety test (blood, breath or urine) to determine your BAC level. Most states have implied consent laws which means that you must comply with a test or face fines and/or license suspension – sometimes right on the spot – for refusing to take the test. Some states have abandoned the urine test due to reliability issues. The driver usually gets his choice of the available tests. Which test should you choose? That depends. A breath testing machine may be easier to fault for accuracy than a blood test, but a breath testing machine cannot test for the presence of drugs. You must remember that a DWI can also be “under the influence of drugs.” If you refuse the test or are found to have a BAC over the state limit, chances are you’ll be taken into custody and brought to a police station where you’ll be held until someone can pick you up, or until next morning when you have sobered up. In addition, your license may be temporarily suspended and your vehicle may be impounded for a period of time after the incident. However, these penalties seldom apply to refusing to perform FST’s (field sobriety tests), which are the physical coordination tests an officer has you perform.
Going to Court for a Drunk Driving Charge
Aside from a possible administrative hearing that reviews the circumstances surrounding your arrest to see if your license should be administratively suspended (as opposed to suspended by the Court), you must generally go to court where a jury or judge will decide your fate. In any criminal case, including DWI’s, you have the right to a jury trial, but once convicted, it is up to the judge what punishment you will receive. In many states there are mandatory punishments and consequences that deny the judge any discretion as to the punishment if your BA is of a certain level, or if you have refused to take a mandatory test. Generally, for each prior conviction of DWI within the previous 5-10 years, the punishment will become progressively severe, and these may also be mandatory minimum sentences.
If you’re found guilty, most courts will:
• impose fines (and some add on an additional driver responsibility tax)
• suspend or revoke your license (Motor Vehicle Departments may do so even if a court does not)
• require participation in a drunk driver education program
• add points to your license (and your insurance will most likely increase)
• sentence you to jail or require community service work as an alternative
• put you on parole (called “probation” in some states)
• impose various statutory fees intended to offset the state’s budget expenses on DUI/DWI cases
In addition, some judges and some states may require you to participate in alcohol or drug treatment programs as part of a parole program or have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle. You may also receive as a condition of parole (probation) that you not drink any alcoholic beverage while on parole, or not even enter a tavern.
Getting Your Drivers License Back
Some states allow for provisional, conditional, hardship or temporary licenses. This varies greatly by state, judge and circumstances and is often granted only with participation in an education program or by showing a family hardship. You may also have to show proof of liability insurance to get your license back.
Many DUI and DWI offenders face stiffer penalties than mere fines. As with any criminal charge, a person charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If guilt is established (often through the defendant’s own plea or after a jury trial), the penalty will depend on state law, as well as on any aggravating circumstances (such as the presence of an open bottle of liquor in the car) and the defendant’s cooperation with the police. In all states, first-offense DUI or DWI is classified as a misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in jail. That jail time may be increased under certain circumstances. For example, some states mandate more severe punishments for DUI or DUI offenders whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest was particularly high—for example, 0.15% or 0.20%, very high considering the legal limit of 0.08%.
Many states also require minimum jail sentences of at least several days on a first offense. Subsequent offenses often result in jail sentences of several months to a year. For a DUI or DWI that’s been classified as a felony—either because the driver killed or injured someone or because it’s the driver’s third or fourth DUI—jail sentences of several years are not uncommon. Again, this depends on state law, the facts of the case, and the discretion of the judge at trial.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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