Delaware Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties—including fines, jail, and license consequences—for a DUI conviction in Delaware.

Delaware law prohibits driving:

  • while under the influence of alcohol or any drug
  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more, or
  • when the driver’s blood unlawfully contains any amount of illicit or recreational drugs.

“Driving,” as it relates to a DUI, includes the operation or actual physical control over a vehicle. “Actual physical control” does not require a running engine or a moving vehicle to result in a DUI conviction—the driver just needs to have the ability to easily become a danger.

A driver is under the influence when he or she is less able than normal to exercise due care in driving. Alternatively, a BAC of at least .08% can result in a DUI conviction. Our BAC calculator and BAC table can give you an estimate of where your BAC might be at after a certain number of drinks.

Delaware DUI Penalties

When a person is convicted of a DUI, the judge decides the jail time and fines to impose but is required to stay within certain parameters. These guidelines are based upon how many prior DUI convictions a person has—including out-of-state convictions. A DUI is considered a second offense if it occurs within ten years of the first offense.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense (felony)

Jail

Up to 12 months

60 days to 18 months

1 to 2 years prison

Fines

$500 to $1,500

$750 to $2,500

Up to $5,000

First Offense Election. For a standard first offense (involving no aggravating factors), offenders with no criminal history can opt to waive their trial and appellate rights and accept a probation period under the First Offense Election program. The person will need to complete treatment and a one-year license revocation and pay certain fees but will avoid a DUI conviction. However, a First Offense Election still counts as a prior offense for determining whether a DUI charge in the future is a second or subsequent offense.

Court of Common Pleas Driving Under the Influence Treatment Program. Delaware has an optional intensive supervision program that requires community service, treatment plans, and monitored abstinence. Completion of the program can reduce the penalties for a second offense to only 30 days of jail, with 30 days of community service. Those who do not enroll in the program can still be ordered by the judge to complete an alcohol evaluation and treatment.

Third offenders who participate in the Court of Common Pleas DUI Treatment Program must serve a minimum three months in prison before being released on probation. A third or subsequent DUI conviction is a felony and requires 90 days of monitored abstinence.

Young passengers. A DUI offender carrying a passenger under 17 years old will receive an additional $500 to $1,500 in fines and 40 hours of community service. For a subsequent offense involving an underage passenger, there will be an additional $750 to $2,500 in fines and 80 hours community service.

Driver’s License Sanctions

A Delaware driver can lose driving privileges due to a DUI arrest or DUI conviction.

Conviction Revocations

For a DUI conviction, the state will revoke the driver’s license for the following periods.

BAC Level

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

At least .08% but less than .16%

12 months

18 month

24 months

At least .16% but less than .20%

18 months

24 months

30 months

.20% or more

24 months

30 months

36 months

Arrest Revocations

An officer with probable cause to arrest a driver for a DUI is supposed to submit a certification to the state to revoke the driver’s license. Assuming the driver doesn’t successfully fight the suspension, a DUI arrest will result in revocation for three months for a first offense, one year for a second offense, and 18 months for a third offense.

Refusal Revocations

All Delaware drivers are considered to have “impliedly consented” to tests of their breath, blood, or urine for the presence of alcohol and drugs. A lawfully arrested driver who refuses to submit to a requested test will face license revocation. Upon receipt of the officer’s refusal certification, the state will revoke the driver’s license for one year, 18 months with a prior DUI conviction, and two years with multiple prior DUI convictions. These revocation periods are in addition to any DUI conviction penalties.

The fact that a driver refused testing can also be used in court for a DUI conviction.

Restricted Licenses

A driver enrolled in a treatment or rehabilitation program can request a restricted license during the revocation period. With a restricted license, the motorist has limited driving privilege but must install an ignition interlock device (IID). A driver who’s enrolled in the First Offense Election is immediately eligible for the license, but all other offenses require completion of a minimum number of days with a revoked license. A first offense requires at least 30 days revoked (45 days if .15% or greater BAC), 60 days for a second offense, and 90 days for a third offense.

License Reinstatement

Prior to requesting license reinstatement, the driver must complete a treatment or rehabilitation program and maintain an IID for the following minimum periods.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

At least .08% but less than .16%

4 months

16 month

21 months

At least .16% but less than .20%

17 months

22 months

27 months

.20% or more

23 months

28 months

33 months

Any violation of the IID restriction can result in cancellation of the license or an extended IID duration.

Underage DUI

Drivers who are under the age of 21 at the time of arrest can be cited for an “underage DUI” for driving after consuming alcohol or for having a BAC of at least .02%. This prohibition applies to the operation of motor vehicles, off-highway vehicles, and mopeds. Convicted drivers will be required to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment. Upon conviction, the driver’s license will be revoked for two months (six to 12 months for a subsequent offense).

As with other drivers, an underage driver can be revoked for refusing a lawfully requested chemical test. The driver’s license will be revoked for an additional three months for a first violation, one year for a second violation, and 18 months for a third violation.

Plea Negotiations

Persons charged with a DUI violation are not precluded from pleading to a reduced charge, such as reckless driving. However, all options and negotiations should be evaluated with the help of a licensed attorney.

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