Driving under the influence is a hazardous, illegal activity. Yet, thousands of Americans get caught driving drunk every year. A drunk driving arrest can mark a difficult time in one’s life, but this hardship does not exclude you from living life normally.
If the police have caught you drunk driving and charged you with driving under the influence, do not panic. A DUI defense attorney can help you build a solid legal defense that allows you to ensure that the consequences are not too heavy. You may worry about what penalties you face if convicted of a DUI.
Keep reading to learn which penalties the law can impose on you if you get convicted of a DUI.
DUIs are serious crimes that often incur significant penalties, especially if you have offended multiple times. Yet, knowing the penalties can help you understand why you must hire a lawyer to help you defend yourself from the prosecution.
Here are the most common penalties levied against DUI convicts.
Driver’s License Suspension
More often than not, someone convicted of a DUI will lose their license
. A suspended license can prevent you from working or attending school. This limits opportunities and can substantially decrease someone's quality of life. That's why it is sometimes possible to get a hardship license that allows driving under specific circumstances.
If you fear a license suspension following your DUI case, have a lawyer help you acquire a hardship license. The process is not easy, but it is often worthwhile. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, trust that they will submit the appropriate paperwork and file the actions necessary to get you your hardship license as soon as possible.
If a court convicts you of a DUI, the courts will assess a fine or fee that you must pay for you to reinstate your license. When you do not pay these fines, they may multiply, or a court may send them for collections. This is a headache, so it is best to pay any fines associated with your conviction as soon as possible.
The court's fines will depend on how often you have offended and where you live. People on their first through third offense can expect penalties ranging between $300 and $4,000.
People who have offended more than three times can face far higher fines. The fines in these cases are ordered at the judge's discretion, though states typically impose maximum limits on such penalties. If you want to keep costs low, consider hiring a lawyer. While it may cost money to retain legal counsel, the amount you save on fines and fees can make up for it.
Nobody wants to go to jail, but sometimes a jail sentence is required by the judges in DUI cases. Depending on how many times a court has convicted you of driving under the influence, jail time may even be mandatory. Although jail time may be compulsory, the amount of time you are required to spend imprisoned does vary depending on what the judge orders.
If you want to minimize your jail sentence, work with a lawyer to implement a robust legal defense. Defendants who can present their case effectively have the opportunity to get less time in jail. Sometimes, they can even volunteer to participate in a rehabilitation program instead of going directly to jail.
For first-time offenders, the jail sentence is likely to be short, if any—just a couple of days. Aggravated charges and repeat offenders can receive much longer sentences. A skilled lawyer can reduce or eliminate jail time.
Mandatory Rehabilitation or Education
Authorities prosecute people for driving under the influence to encourage them not to offend again. Therefore, convicted individuals will often be required to participate in alcohol education and assessment programs.
Through these programs, staff will assess participants for alcohol use disorder. Depending on the evaluation results, they may need to enter an alcohol treatment program to control their drinking. In some states, a DUI convict must attend other programs before the state reinstates their license.
Higher Insurance Costs
Being convicted of a DUI will always cost you. One of the costs associated with conviction is the higher cost of auto insurance. When a court convicts you as a DUI offender, you must purchase SR-22 insurance rather than traditional auto insurance. SR-22 insurance is an insurance policy that offers a certificate stating that you have the mandatory minimum level of liability insurance. Unfortunately, this type of coverage can often be two or three times the cost of standard auto insurance policies.
With this in mind, the cost of having a lawyer defend you from the law is appropriate. If you manage to beat your conviction or minimize the charges, there is a chance that you can get out of paying for SR-22 insurance. Therefore, getting in touch with a lawyer today makes sense.
If a court convicts you of a misdemeanor DUI, you may not need to spend time in jail. The court may order probation instead. While under probation, you must follow strict rules that encourage good behavior.
The conditions for DUI probation vary, but some rules that may apply include:
- Attend courses that cover the danger associated with alcohol abuse
- Participate in counseling that improves your mental health
- Submit to random drug tests regularly and at random
- Do not leave the city or state that you live in unless the courts approve that travel
- Do not engage with people who may encourage you to participate in illegal activities
- Do not get arrested for any crime
How to Avoid DUI Penalties?
Right now, it may seem impossible to avoid the penalties listed above. Yet, the reality is that many people manage to beat DUI charges every year. Though, few can do so without a skilled attorney representing them.
When you engage with a lawyer to build your case, here are some defenses they may leverage to help you avoid severe penalties.
Defense 1: Breathalyzer Inaccuracy
The most common sobriety test is the Breathalyzer test. This test relies on a small device called a Breathalyzer. Drivers exhale into the Breathalyzer, then the device measures their blood alcohol concentration and provides a reading that officers use to judge one's sobriety.
Breathalyzer results are often inaccurate and inadmissible in court.
Breathalyzers may provide inaccurate readings because they assume a 1:2,100 ratio of alcohol to blood. The breath serves as a sample, then multiplies what it finds by the ratio. This does not always provide an accurate reading of how much alcohol is in someone's system. While the device may use a 1:2,100 ratio, people can have breath-blood alcohol ratios across a much broader range.
This range can be anywhere from 1:1,300 to 1:3,000. Someone's ratio will depend on unique characteristics. For example, someone with a different breath pattern or abnormal body temperature may get higher readings on a Breathalyzer test. Likewise, someone with a smaller ratio of red blood cells can also get inaccurate readings.
Thus, not all Breathalyzer test results are valid. Therefore, it makes sense that your attorney might use this defense to dismiss your case.
Inaccurate Blood Tests
Sometimes, a DUI arrest leads to blood tests at the police station. They perform these tests to measure the alcohol in your system when they arrested you. Unfortunately, these tests are often inaccurate.
For example, many police stations leave blood samples sitting for days before testing them. Considering that blood is an organic material, it will decompose over time. When this decomposition occurs, bacteria propagate, and enzymatic reactions occur. These reactions often lead to alcohol being produced in the blood while it sits.
Studies have shown that an alcohol-free blood sample can register a 0.25 percent BAC after sitting for several days. This proves that sometimes DUI blood samples are not reliable. That's why courts offer the option to file for a blood split, where another lab can test your blood sample again. When a court orders a blood split, you learn how the lab managed and stored your blood sample.
The court may dismiss your case if you find errors following a blood split order. Even if the court doesn't dismiss your case, discovering the mistake will severely weaken the prosecution's case. So, don't take any chances. If the police corrupted your blood sample, you deserve to know. A lawyer can help you find the truth and seek justice.
No Probable Cause
To pull over a driver, officers need probable cause for the stop. It is not legal to pull someone over for no reason. Therefore, if the police pulled you over without probable cause, a judge can dismiss the evidence obtained during the traffic stop.
Using this defense is difficult because the courts and officers often assume that they had probable cause simply because they discovered you were drinking. If you did not break any traffic laws or drive erratically, they might have lacked a reason to pull you over. Understanding that this type of defense is difficult to use, you can see why a lawyer is essential.
Hire a DUI Defense Attorney to Minimize Consequences
You drove drunk, and it was a mistake. Or police charged you improperly. The criminal justice system now seeks to rob you of opportunities just because you, or it, made a mistake.
Don’t let them win.
Fight these charges to the best of your ability by hiring a criminal defense attorney. With the right lawyer on your side, you stand to benefit greatly. Reach out to a Chudnovsky Law attorney near you today.