In 2021, at least 30% of fatal car accidents in Delaware resulted from drunk driving. Because of how deadly drunk driving can be, Delaware has toughened its driving under the influence (DUI) laws and raised awareness about its impact.
A DUI conviction carries serious penalties and will impact your life for a long time to come. Learn more about Delaware DUI laws and how you can prevent a charge below.
Delaware DUI Laws at a Glance
Note: State laws are always changing through legislative, judicial, or other means. While FindLaw works hard to ensure the accuracy of its legal resources, it is a good idea to thoroughly research the law or check with an attorney to ensure you have the most recent information.
Delaware DUI Laws in Detail
The state of Delaware prohibits driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, illicit drugs, or even legally prescribed medications that alter your mental state.
Delaware courts have explained that you do not have to be driving or have a motor vehicle in motion for a DUI charge. If you are in the car and would be able to turn it on and drive, you are considered to be in actual physical control of the vehicle.
Blood Alcohol Concentration
Delaware DUI laws have a per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08%. If you are operating a commercial vehicle, the BAC limit is 0.04%. Per se laws allow for your arrest if your blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit. Law enforcement does not need to document additional evidence of your intoxication.
Law enforcement can still arrest you on a DUI charge if your BAC is 0.05% or more if the police officer has additional evidence of your impairment. This can be weaving while driving, slurring your words, or difficulty performing field sobriety tests.
Certain aggravating factors can enhance your charges and your penalties. These include having a BAC of 0.15% or more or you were transporting a child aged 17 or younger at the time of your DUI stop.
Delaware has an implied consent law, meaning a police officer can request that you submit to chemical tests. You agree to follow the law when you get your driver's license. One of these laws expects you to cooperate with law enforcement when they suspect intoxication and ask for chemical tests.
Chemical tests may include a Breathalyzer or breath test, blood test, and urine analysis. A breath test can determine your BAC level, while blood and urine look for alcohol and drugs in your system.
You have the right to refuse chemical testing. However, test refusal will result in an immediate one-year license suspension. If you are under 21, your license revocation is for two years. This revocation period is separate from your DUI charge and does not depend on your conviction.
Delaware has a zero-tolerance approach for underage impaired driving. If you have a BAC of 0.02%, an officer can arrest you on a DUI charge. Underage DUI cases go through family court.
First-offense underage drinking penalties often include:
- Driver's license revocation for two months
- $200 fine if you do not have a license
- Completing a substance abuse treatment and education course
If you are under 17 and your BAC at the time of your arrest is 0.08% or more, you won't have a driver's license until you reach 21.
A first offense DUI with a BAC of 0.08% but less than 0.15% is a misdemeanor. If your BAC is 0.15% or greater, or if you are transporting a minor aged 17 or younger, the office will enhance your charges.
- All persons convicted of a DUI must complete a drug and alcohol evaluation and substance abuse treatment program.
- The court may assess a fine of up to $1,500 for a first-time offender.
- You may face up to 12 months of jail time.
See the section below on Delaware's first offense election program.
Conviction for a second offense within 10 years can lead to:
- A minimum of 60 days in jail, with up to 18 months possible
- A fine of up to $2,500
- 30 days of community service
- A comprehensive substance abuse treatment program
After a third DUI offense, you face the following:
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- One to two years in jail, with a minimum of three months required
- Substance abuse treatment program
- Mandatory 90 days of sobriety, monitored by an alcohol monitoring device, or through periodic breath tests and urine analysis
A third or subsequent offense will be a felony charge, with severe penalties.
Law enforcement will confiscate your driver's license during your arrest. You have 15 days to contact the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to request a hearing.
At this hearing, the DMV will examine the circumstances of your DUI arrest. They decide if there is probable cause to believe you were driving while intoxicated. They will revoke your driving privileges if they find probable cause for the charge.
Ignition Interlock Devices
You may apply for a conditional license with the DMV after you have served a minimum license suspension period. You must install an ignition interlock device (IID) as part of this conditional license reinstatement.
An IID is a breath test you must breathe into before starting your vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol, your car will remain disabled.
As of 2015, all Delaware DUI offenders must have an IID installed in their vehicle.
Delaware First Offense Election Program
You can ask to participate in the First Offense Election program at your arraignment rather than stand trial. You can also ask for the First Offense Election program's ignition interlock devise option, allowing limited driving privileges after serving 30 days of license revocation. You must install an IID on your vehicle at your own cost.
Through this program, you waive your administrative hearing with the DMV. You will undergo a comprehensive drug and alcohol evaluation with the state. The results of this evaluation will determine which classes and treatments you need to complete.
You will serve one year of probation. The DUI may still appear on your driving record and will still count as a DUI with subsequent offenses. However, as long as you complete the probation requirements successfully, you will not have a conviction on your record. Plus, you avoid the risk of jail time.
To qualify for the First Offense Election program, you must:
- Have no prior DUIs
- Have no more than two moving violations or tickets within the prior two years
- Have not refused chemical testing
- Have an active and valid Delaware driver's license
- Have had a BAC less than 0.15%
- Not have caused injury to another
- Not have been transporting a minor 17 or younger at the time of your arrest
Delaware DUI Resources
Need Help? Contact a Delaware DUI Lawyer Today
Even if you are not contesting charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or intoxicants, many variables could impact your fate. Contact a Delaware DUI attorney to learn more about your legal options and get legal advice.