Every state might have its own definition of what constitutes a DUI, but it doesn’t matter which one you reside in; driving while under the influence will have significant consequences, both now and down the road.
If you’ve been pulled over and charged with a DUI, you need to understand the severity of the situation, as well as what a conviction could mean to you, your family, and your future.
Six Consequences of a DUI
According to a survey conducted by Amy Jewett and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4 million U.S. adults admit they occasionally drink and drive … a shocking figure in itself that may well be an underestimate.
“Alcohol-impaired driving crashes account for approximately one-third of all crash fatalities in the United States,” Jewett writes in the report. “In 2013 [alone], 10,076 persons died in crashes in which at least one driver had a blood alcohol concentration of (at least) 0.08 grams per deciliter, the legal limit for adult drivers in the United States.”
Drunk driving is a serious problem, which is why it’s addressed in a severe manner. If convicted, you’ll face an array of consequences that may include any or all of the following.
Most states have stiff fines attached to a conviction for DUI. Depending on where you live and how many past DUI convictions are on your record, the fine could range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
2. Jail Time
Aside from a fine, you may be required to serve jail time — particularly if you’ve been charged with a DUI in the past. Some states require a minimum of 24 to 48 hours, even for first-time offenders. The sentence could add up to weeks, months, or even years for those who have a record of other criminal activity and repeat offenses.
3. Driving Restrictions
First-time offenders will likely have their license suspended for a minimum of 30 days. In most states, the minimum is closer to 90 days. Repeat offenders can face suspensions of multiple months or years. But that will depend on the state you’re in.
4. Insurance Hikes
Car insurance companies adjust rates based on the relative risk of their policyholders. If you have a DUI on your record, they read this as a signal that you’re a major risk.
According to CarInsurance.com, “You can expect an increase of 80 percent, on average, though car insurance rates after a DUI conviction may jump as high as 371 percent, depending on what state you live in.”
5. Problems on Background Checks
A background check is often conducted when you apply for a job, fill out a lease application for an apartment, or apply for a scholarship program. A DUI conviction will show up on this check and could prevent you from getting the job, apartment, or financial aid you seek.
6. Strained Relationships
On the personal side, a DUI charge may often disrupt relationships and create friction between husbands and wives, dating partners, parents and children, and friends. Of all the consequences in the list of six, this one has the potential to create the longest-lasting wounds.
Hire a Talented DUI Lawyer
Getting charged with a DUI is unfortunate, but you still have time to fix the matter. Until your charge turns into a conviction, hope remains. But don’t try to fix this on your own.
If you’re going to fight the charge, you need an aggressive and experienced DUI attorney on your side. A good lawyer will help you formulate a solid defense and fight your charge every step of the way.
“In some cases, your DUI defense might include admitting that you were drinking at the time but proving that you shouldn’t be found guilty of a crime,” Hersem Law explains. “This is called an ‘affirmative defense.’ Essentially, you’ll need to show that you were trying to avoid a worse situation, that you were under duress, or that you were entrapped or involuntarily intoxicated.”
Other DUI defenses may challenge the legality of the stop, the reliability of the field sobriety tests, or the way in which you were questioned. Literally dozens of different defenses are possible, and a skilled attorney will help you explore the potential for each of them, to ensure you avoid a DUI conviction and the costly consequences it can bring.