What Should I Expect If I Get a Third DUI?

When does a DUI count as a third offense? And what are the penalties if I’m convicted?

Drunk driving is illegal in all 50 states. You can get a DUI based on “impairment” or having a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more, a “per se” DUI.

And the consequences of being caught driving under the influence are always severe. For a third DUI, however, the penalties are typically even more serious than those for a first or second offense. In many states you can avoid doing a substantial amount of jail time on a first or second offense. But your chances of dodging jail on a third DUI are slim. And the fines for a third DUI are likely to be well into the thousands. Many states also require drivers with third-offense DUIs to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in their vehicles.

In some states, DUI convictions stay on your record forever: A third DUI will count as a third offense regardless of how long ago you got your first and second DUIs. Other states count prior DUIs for sentencing purposes only if they occurred within a certain period of time (the “look-back” period) of the most recent offense. For instance, with a look-back period of ten years, a DUI will generally count as a third offense only if the driver has two other DUIs convictions that occurred within the past ten years.

DUI laws vary by state, including those for third-offense DUIs. See our state-specific articles to learn about the laws for third-offense DUIs in your state. 

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