Whether you plead guilty or are found guilty by a court, the consequences for a DUI conviction are significant. All states provide that DUI convictions are misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and the imposition of substantial fines.
Actual sentences are much less in first time non‑injury DUIs. A number of states provide for a minimum number of days to be served in jail (typically from one to three days), while many others have no minimum sentence. Most states impose large fines, and in most states you also have to pay a lot of money to attend mandatory DUI school. Licenses are typically suspended for up to a year, although most states will allow you to drive to and from work and medical care especially if you agree to an ignition interlock. Finally, most states put you on information probation for up to three years. This usually means that you will do additional jail time if you violate the terms of your probation, which in some states include zero tolerance for blood alcohol content. Finally, your conviction will be available to the DMV.
If you have prior DUI convictions all bets are off. Judges are much more likely to look at the individual case when priors are present than when it’s the first time. If your BAC is just a little above .08, or your driving and field tests didn’t indicate serious impairment, the judge will sentence you to the minimum required by your state’s laws. But if the BAC is .15 or more, or you clearly evidenced bad driving that might have hurt someone if you hadn’t been stopped, he or she may throw the book at you.
Finally, you will be required to attend DUI school. They say that in every crisis, there is an opportunity. Such is the case with DUI school. When you are convicted of a DUI, you are set up for much harsher sentence and fine if you are convicted of a subsequent DUI within the next 7 to 10 years. In that case, there will be no reasonable question about attorney representation—you will need it. But the best way to handle a second DUI is to not get one. That’s what DUI school is all about. If you take it seriously, the likelihood of a repeat offense will go way down.
Interstate Consequences of a DUI Conviction
It used to be that you could move to a different state and escape the consequences of a DUI conviction, but those days are long gone. Now, thanks to the Interstate Driver’s License Compact and the National Drivers Registry, a DUI in one state is available to the computers in all states and so your DUI will continue to haunt you in any state.
Excerpted and adapted from Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court & Win, by David W. Brown (Nolo).