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Today, more than 1.5 million people are arrested yearly for drinking and driving. It’s an offense that carries plenty of risk, which is why the court system levies stiff penalties for people who violate.
You’ll have the most leniency for a first-time DUI offense when compared to repeat offenders. What is the penalty for a first DUI conviction? We’re happy to explain. Keep reading to learn more about DUI charges.
What Is the Penalty for a First DUI Conviction?
First, you should understand that each state has its own laws on the books for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions. To know the exact penalty for DUI charges, you should consult the laws in your state.
However, there are some commonalities between states that you can use as a rule of thumb. In the majority of states, the blood alcohol content (BAC) for a drinking and driving offense is .08% for anyone that is 21 years old or older. You might also be charged with drinking and driving if you refuse a breathalyzer or fail a field sobriety test.
Some of the most common outcomes for your first offense include:
Potential Jail Time
The main DUI punishments that you should worry about is the potential for time behind bars. When you get charged with your first DUI, it’s generally considered a misdemeanor. Depending on the state, you may face upward of 30 days behind bars – and some states have even harsher penalties.
Time in jail means time away from your family, work, and the things that you love most. The courts are more likely to give you jail time on your first offense if the terms of the case showed reckless disregard for human life, or if you damaged property during the course of the incident.
Getting Your License Revoked
You will need a DUI defense lawyer to help you protect your rights after you get charged with this offense. One of the main things you should consider is the fact that most courts will revoke your license after the charge, at least temporarily.
The main protocol is to take away your license pending the outcome of the case. In the meantime, the judge might allow you to get a restricted temporary license that lets you get to and from work or other important engagements, such as taking care of a child or an elderly loved one.
Interlock Ignition Device Installation
Another matter to consider is the possibility of an interlock ignition device. An interlock ignition device is a breathalyzer machine that is hooked up to your vehicle. It won’t start until you blow into it and register a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than .08%.
If you blow over the limit, the machine will notify a probation officer, and a warrant can be sent out for your arrest. In many situations, the courts might require you to get an interlock ignition device installed once the suspension period runs out on your license.
Consider the Nature of the Charge
Even if it’s your first DUI charge, you need to consider the nature of the incident to have a better understanding of what kind of penalties you might face. This starts by assessing whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor.
Understanding DUI felony vs misdemeanor charges lets you know how much jail time and other penalties you might get. A DUI is considered a felony if the amount that you blow in a breathalyzer is extremely high, or if the courts deem it a particularly reckless incidence.
This can mean that you get convicted to more than a year in jail, in addition to probation when you get out, and a series of stiff fine penalties.
Court Sanctioned Fines
When you are charged with your first DUI offense, you will almost always have to pay some fines. In South Carolina, for instance, you can receive a fine as high as $400 to $500 for your first conviction, in addition to getting your license revoked for upward of 6 months.
The fine can reach limits of $1,000 if your blood alcohol content is .16% or higher.
Find Out if a Plea Deal Is Possible
You’ll also want to consider whether or not your state allows for DUI plea deals. With a plea deal, you are cooperating with the court and admitting guilt. In exchange, they will allow you to plead guilty to a lesser charge, typically referred to as wet reckless.
This means that it will go down into the record books as a reckless driving penalty that involved alcohol, rather than DUI conviction. It allows you to protect your criminal record since it is downgraded to a moving violation instead.
The Court Will Consider Your Prior Background
All matters are considered when it comes to the way you’re treated by the courts. Though it is your first DUI conviction, the judge or jury might have less leniency if your background shows other criminal charges, especially those that involve drugs, or incidents where you are putting other people’s lives in danger.
It’s important that you reach out to attorneys such as those at the Price Law Firm to make sure you’re protected from a legal standpoint. Professionals can help you come up with a strategy that protects your freedom and makes sure that you are treated with fairness.
Get Legal DUI Help
What is the penalty for a first DUI conviction? These tips are worthwhile whenever you’re facing a charge and want to know the landscape of the case.
A DUI isn’t something that you want on your permanent record, so do everything in your power to get the help that you need. Check out our other articles to understand more about DUIs and other legal cases.