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Drunk Driving Sentencing

A person who is convicted of a driving under the influence (DUI) crime will most likely face some or all of the following in terms of punishment: a fine, time in jail, restriction or revocation of the defendant's driver's license, probation, and enrollment and completion of a course in drunk driving or alcoholism. In addition to these, states have also developed other penalties or requirements that drunk drivers may need to fulfill.

Keep in mind that "drunk driving" is not the actual name of the charge and that impairment is not limited to just alcohol. Most states call it "driving under the influence" (DUI), "driving while intoxicated" (DWI), or something similar. The following is a general overview of drunk driving sentencing.  

Ignition Interlock Device

One requirement that has become more common throughout the nation involves the use of an ignition-interlock device. Such a device captures a driver's breath and analyzes the breath alcohol content (BAC) of the driver. The device only allows the driver to start the vehicle when the breath analyzer reads below a certain level, such as .02 percent.

DUI Schools and Alcohol or Drug Treatment

In cases involving license revocation, to get a driver’s license back most states now require that offenders complete some form of a DUI school or education and treatment program. This may include attending Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings (AA) or more intensive treatment such as in-patient therapy.

DUI offenders who successfully complete the terms of their alcohol education or therapy program may often, but not always, have their driving privileges restored. Conversely, offenders who fail to comply with the terms of their program are not eligible for license reinstatement and may be returned to the courts for further action.

Habitual Offender Penalties

Many states have passed “Habitual Offender” laws, which provide felony penalties for three (3) DUI convictions. These offenders lose many of their civil rights -- like being able to vote or own a weapon -- as well as their driver's license permanently or for many years.

Examples of habitual offender penalties may include:

  • License Revocation: While a license revocation may come even with a first-time DUI offense, it is far harsher for those with multiple DUIs and for habitual offenders. In some states, such as Oregon, you can lose your driving privileges for five (5) years if you're a habitual offender.
  • Harsher Penalties: In many states, being a habitual offender can lead to harsher sentences including increased jail time, higher fines, possible vehicle confiscation, just to name a few.
  • Automatic Felony DUI Charges: If you have prior DUI convictions, you could automatically face a felony DUI charge if you're caught driving drunk again.

Vehicle Impoundment

Another form of punishment is the impoundment of a drunk driver's vehicle for a certain period of time. A more serious form of this punishment is forfeiture of your car. Simply put, a court can order the defendant to sell his or her vehicle after the person has had multiple convictions for drunk driving.

Sentencing Enhancements

States have also modified their laws to provide for enhanced sentences under some circumstances. These sentence enhancements may apply when one of the following events occur:

• The defendant's BAC is very high, such as above .20 percent.
• The defendant refuses to submit to chemical testing.
• The defendant greatly exceeds the speed limit or drives recklessly while drunk.
• A child under the age of 14 is in the car when the defendant is driving drunk.
• Drunk driving is accompanied with a car accident or injury to another person.

Concerned About Drunk Driving Sentencing? An Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one is arrested for a DUI, you may need an experienced DUI lawyer. A skilled attorney who specializes in defending DUI cases can help ensure that your legal rights are protected. However, it's often helpful to speak to a lawyer familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. Consider contacting an experienced DUI attorney near you.

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