Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Drunk Driving Sentencing

You'll likely face sentencing if you're convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). The penalties can include:

  • A fine
  • Time in jail
  • Restriction or revocation of your driver's license
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Enrollment and completion of a course in drunk driving or alcoholism

In addition to the above possibilities, states have also developed other sentencing penalties or requirements that drunk drivers may need to fulfill.

This article offers a general overview of drunk driving sentencing. Discussion includes ignition interlock devices, DUI schools, alcohol or drug treatment, and habitual offender penalties. The article also addresses vehicle impoundment and sentencing enhancements.

Ignition Interlock Device

Suppose you're convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or driving while intoxicated (DWI). You may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on your motor vehicle to prevent impaired driving.

An IID captures your breath and analyzes your blood alcohol content (BAC). The device only allows you to start your car when the breath test registers below a certain level, such as 0.02%. The goal of an IID is to prevent you from driving with an impairment. If you're underage, no amount of alcohol in your system is legal. Most states have zero tolerance laws for minors.

DUI Schools and Alcohol or Drug Treatment

A DUI case may also result in revocation of your driver's license. To get a driver's license back, most states require you to complete some form of a DUI school or education and treatment program. This might include attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or more intensive treatment such as inpatient 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. Offenders who fail to comply with the terms of their program aren't eligible for license reinstatement and may be returned to the courts for further action.

Habitual Offender Penalties

Many states have passed habitual offender laws. These laws provide felony penalties for three DUI convictions. Habitual offenders may lose many of their civil rights, such as being able to vote or own a firearm. They may also lose their driver's license permanently or for many years as a result of subsequent offenses.

Examples of habitual offender penalties include:

  • License revocation: While a license revocation or license suspension may come even with a first-time DUI offense, it is far harsher for those with multiple DUIs. In some states, such as Oregon, you can lose your driving privileges for five 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, vehicle confiscation, or license cancellation.
  • Automatic felony DUI charges: If you have prior DUI convictions, you may face an automatic felony DUI charge if you're caught driving drunk again.

Vehicle Impoundment

Another form of punishment for a DUI offense is impounding a drunk driver's vehicle for a set period. A more serious form of this punishment is forfeiture of your car. A court can order you to sell your vehicle after multiple convictions for drunk driving.

Sentencing Enhancements

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

  • Your blood alcohol concentration is very high, such as above 0.20%.
  • You refuse to submit to chemical testing.
  • You greatly exceed the speed limit or drive recklessly while drunk.
  • A child under the age of 14 is in the car when you're driving drunk.
  • Your drunk driving is accompanied by a car accident or bodily injury to another person.

Concerned About Drunk Driving Sentencing? An Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one is arrested by a police officer or other law enforcement for driving under the influence or another alcohol-related offense, speaking with an experienced DUI lawyer can help you understand drunk driving laws. A skilled attorney with experience in defending DUI cases can help you protect your legal rights, whether this is your first, second, or third offense.

If you've taken a blood test or breath test, and your blood alcohol levels are higher than the legal limit, having an attorney on your side can be invaluable. Contact an experienced DUI attorney near you to learn more about DUI laws and penalties.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified DUI attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate DUI penalties
  • A lawyer can help get your license back

Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options