What Are the Consequences of a DUI?

by Leigh A. Morgan
Drunk driving concept. Young man driving car under the influence of alcohol. Empty bottle of wine on front seat. Going away from party late at night. Traffic safety risk.

Every state has at least one law that prohibits driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Your state may refer to this offense as driving under the influence, operating under the influence or operating while intoxicated.

Read More Legal Articles

In some states, you don't even have to be driving to be charged — simply having the keys in the ignition while you're intoxicated may be enough to convict you. Learn more about the potential penalties for DUI and the factors that go into determining an appropriate sentence for this crime.

What Are the Potential Consequences of a DUI Conviction?

At best, a DUI conviction may cause you to lose your driver's license for a few months. At worst, it may lead to a prison sentence.

License Suspension or Revocation

One of the most common DUI consequences is the suspension of your driver's license. This is when you're prohibited from driving for a certain amount of time. If you have multiple DUI convictions, the judge may even revoke your license permanently, making it extremely difficult to go to work, run errands, attend your child's school functions or travel for leisure purposes.

Jail or Prison Time

Another potential consequence of driving under the influence is a jail or prison sentence. Although many people think jail and prison mean the same thing, there are some subtle differences. Jails usually house people sentenced to less than one year of confinement, while prisons house people who are serving longer sentences. In lieu of incarceration, the judge may decide to sentence you to house arrest. This is when you're confined to your home instead of a correctional facility.

Fines and Court Costs

It's common to owe fines and court costs after a DUI conviction. How much you have to pay depends on where you live and other factors. For example, there's no fine for a first offense in New Mexico, but the fine ranges from $500 to $1,000 for a second offense. California has stricter laws, so even a first offense comes with a fine of $390 to $1,000. Court costs also vary based on where you live and what laws your state has.

Increased Insurance Rates

A DUI conviction makes you a high-risk driver, so you may be required to purchase an SR-22 certificate. This certificate verifies that you have the minimum amount of auto insurance coverage required by your state. Even if you don't need an SR-22 certificate, you can expect your premiums to increase once you have a DUI conviction on your record.

Requirement to Install an Ignition Interlock Device

In some states, you also have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This device is similar to a breathalyzer, except it's wired into the ignition of your car or truck. Before you can start the vehicle, you must blow into the ignition interlock device. If there's any alcohol in your breath sample, the vehicle won't start. The purpose of this device is to prevent people from driving while they're under the influence of alcohol.

More Related Articles:

Delivery VanHome
Talk to a Pro
(877) 580-3371

What Factors About the Case Could Influence the Penalty for a DUI?

Number of Offenses

A first offense is usually treated as a misdemeanor, but if you have multiple DUI convictions, you may be charged with a felony. In many cases, DUI consequences get more severe with each new conviction. For example, Colorado has a minimum jail term of five days for a first DUI offense. That penalty increases to 60 days for a third offense.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood alcohol concentration, or the percentage of alcohol circulating in your blood, also affects the penalties for a DUI conviction. All U.S. states, with the exception of Utah, have a BAC limit of 0.08% for most drivers. Utah has a limit of 0.05%. Your state may have lower limits for drivers with commercial licenses. If your BAC is much higher than the legal limit, you may face harsher DUI consequences than if you’re just over the legal limit.

Severity of the Offense

Judges usually consider aggravating factors when determining how to sentence people convicted of driving under the influence. An aggravating factor is something that warrants additional punishment. Here are some examples:

  • Multiple DUI convictions
  • Extremely high BAC
  • Reckless driving while under the influence
  • DUI resulting in injury or death
  • Poor driving record

Is Jail Time Always a Consequence of DUI?

No. Although some states require a jail term, even for a first offense, others don't. For example, Louisiana law allows judges to impose community service and court-ordered substance abuse treatment in lieu of a jail term.

Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is formed by use of the Editorial Content. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options or strategies. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of the Blog is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.