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DUI Sentencing Overview

Being convicted of, or pleading guilty to, drunk driving leads to a variety of penalties and sentences. These penalties can range from license suspension to incarceration. It's essential to remember that the criminal sanctions against you as a driver are entirely separate from those taken at the administrative level.

For instance, refusing to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results in the automatic suspension of your driver's license in most cases. This is true even if actual impairment isn't affirmatively established.

This article provides an overview of the various types of driving under the influence (DUI) sentences and penalties. This article addresses criminal versus administrative DUI penalties. Finally, the article also discusses factors that influence DUI sentencing.

DUI Sentencing: Criminal and Administrative Penalties

Suppose you're convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI). In that case, the appropriate legal punishment is determined at the sentencing phase of your legal proceeding. There are a variety of penalties that may apply to you.

Prison or Jail Time

You may be subject to a shorter jail sentence if you're a first-time offender. This depends on your state, however. Some states punish first DUIs harshly in an attempt to deter driving under the influence of alcohol.

If you're a repeat DUI offender, were convicted of aggravated DUI, or your DUI caused injury or death to another, you may face a much stiffer prison sentence.

Vehicle Impoundment and Driver's License Suspension or Revocation

Laws in many states allow or require vehicle impoundment in DUI cases. This is especially true in cases involving repeat DUI offenders. The time your motor vehicle will be unavailable to you varies but often ranges from 30 to 90 days. There are also fees associated with getting your car out of an impound lot.

Additionally, states often suspend, revoke, or restrict your driver's license following a DUI conviction, regardless of whether it's your first offense. The duration of a suspended or restricted license varies widely by jurisdiction and by the nature of the crime. The suspension period likely will be longer, for instance, if there were aggravating factors or you're a repeat offender.

Vehicle Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDS) and SCRAM Bracelets

In many states, drunk driving laws permit or require the use of vehicle ignition interlock devices (IIDS) following a DUI offense. These devices lock your car's ignition until you provide a sober breath sample. These breath test devices aim to deter repeat DUI offenses.

Similarly, some state laws allow for the use of SCRAM bracelets as a penalty or a condition of probation. SCRAM bracelets are alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets that evaluate your sweat to detect the amount of alcohol in your system. One of the benefits of SCRAM devices is that they don't require frequent in-person check-ins since they usually employ continuous alcohol monitoring.

Probation, Community Service, and Suspended Sentence

Probation is an alternative to prison or jail following a DUI conviction. Probation is a set period during which you must adhere to certain restrictions and requirements. This might include performing community service and having a restricted driver's license.

A sentencing judge may impose a wide range of community service on you as a DUI offender. You're more likely to be ordered to perform community service if you're a repeat offender or committed an aggravated DUI offense. The number of hours of community service also varies based on your jurisdiction and the nature of your offense.

Suppose you violate the terms of your probation. In that case, any suspended sentence imposed following your DUI conviction will go into effect. This is an excellent incentive to ensure you complete the terms of your probation.

DUI School

Many states require or allow for the completion of drug or alcohol education programs or coursework before your driving privileges can be restored after a DUI conviction. These programs almost always include an educational component but often have a treatment component, too.

Factors That Influence DUI Sentencing

Sentencing usually takes place almost immediately after a DUI conviction. Sometimes, the sentencing judge receives input from the prosecutor and the defense. The sentencing judge will consider punishments and sentencing ranges identified in applicable vehicle or penal code statutes. The judge will also consider some case-specific factors, including:

  • Your DUI record and criminal history
  • The impact of your DUI on any victims (such as whether there were injuries or death)
  • Your personal, economic, and social circumstances
  • Regret or remorse expressed by you as the defendant

Get Legal Help With DUI Sentencing Concerns

Many factors go into the sentencing phase of a DUI case. A defense attorney can help you better understand DUI laws, criminal law, and the criminal charges against you. An attorney can advocate on your behalf if you're facing DUI charges, whether for a misdemeanor or felony crime.

Ensure your rights are protected by having a local DUI attorney examine your DUI case. Whether this is your first offense, second offense, or third offense, an attorney can be hugely valuable in crafting your criminal defense following a DUI arrest.

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Next Steps

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

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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.


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