First-Offense DUI in Delaware

The penalties—including license suspension, fines, and possible jail time—for a first DUI conviction in Delaware.

A first DUI (driving under the influence) conviction is a misdemeanor in Delaware. A DUI is considered a first offense in Delaware if the driver has no prior DUI convictions or only one prior conviction that occurred more than ten years ago. First offenders typically face possible jail time, fines, and license revocation and restrictions. This article discusses the specific penalties you’ll face if convicted of a first DUI in Delaware.

Criminal Penalties

Generally, the maximum jail time for a first offense DUI is 12 months. A first offender will have to pay a mandatory fine of $500 to $1,500. The judge is permitted to issue any sentence within these guidelines.

Treatment. First offenders must complete a drug and alcohol abuse evaluation. Based on the result of the evaluation and the circumstances of the DUI, the judge is permitted to order the driver to complete a state-approved treatment and rehabilitation program.

Minor passengers. A DUI offender who was transporting a passenger under the age of 17 will be subject to increased penalties. In addition to the DUI penalties stated above, the driver will be fined $500 to $1,500 and be required to serve 40 hours of community service.

Driver’s License Consequences

The court reports all DUI convictions to the Division of Motor Vehicles. For most first-offense DUIs, the state will revoke the driver’s license for 12 months. A driver who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .16% but less than .20% will be revoked for 18 months, and a driver with a BAC of .20% or more will be revoked for 24 months.

IIDs. After 30 days of license revocation, a driver enrolled in treatment can apply for an ignition interlock device (IID) license. This license permits the holder to drive during the revocation period, but only in a vehicle equipped with an IID.

BAC test refusals. Drivers who refuse BAC testing are subject to an additional one-year license revocation. But the driver can still apply for an IID license. Refusal of a chemical test can also be used against the accused to prove a DUI in court.

License reinstatement. Prior to license reinstatement, the driver must complete a state-approved treatment and rehabilitation program and have an IID installed for at least four months. A driver with a BAC of at least .15% but less than .20% must install the IID for 17 months, and a driver with a BAC of at least .20% must maintain the IID for 23 months before reinstatement.

First Offense Election

Some first offenders have the option to avoid trial and conviction entirely through the “first offense election.” The accused is eligible if he or she:

  • had a BAC that was less than .15%
  • had no more than three moving violations in the last two years
  • did not drive without a license
  • did not transport a child under the age of 17
  • did not cause an accident
  • waives the right to trial, and
  • waives the right to appeal the license revocation.

If accepted into the program, the driver must pay $250 and any court costs and complete probation, including a state-approved treatment and rehabilitation program. The driver’s license will still be revoked for one year, but the driver is immediately eligible for an IID license (there’s no 30-day waiting period). Upon successful completion of the program, the DUI charge will be dismissed. However, the first offense election can be counted as a prior DUI if the driver is subsequently charged for driving under the influence.

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