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.
Another thing to think about is the criminal classification of a third DUI. Generally, a first or second DUI is a misdemeanor. But in many states, like Utah and Virginia, third DUIs are classified as felonies.
In some states, such as Indiana, 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 DUI "look-back" period) of the most recent offense. For instance, with a look-back period of ten years like California has, 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.