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D.U.I. and out-of-State Drivers

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Which State Can Take Away My License?

The Interstate Driver’s License Compact is an agreement between 45 states to share information about DUI arrests in other states. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Michigan, and Georgia are not part of this compact. The arresting state does not take away a foreign license, but simply suspends driving privileges in that state. Then it is up to the suspect’s home state to take away the license.

Do I Have to Return to the State Where I Was Arrested?

Most likely. Most states are not sympathetic about out of state people who break the law within their state. The logic is that if the defendant can’t pay for airfare to the state of arrest, the defendant should have considered that before drinking and driving in the state.

If the convicted DUI driver fails to show up in court or any required hearings, the state may permanently revoke driving privileges there. The state can also extradite the driver back to the state, although for most cases, the cost of extradition would make that unlikely. The arresting state can also issue a warrant, which will show up on the record in other states. Eventually, the driver’s home state would find out about the arrest and suspend her license.

How Do out-of-State DUI Arrests Differ from DUI Arrests in State?

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) involves civil and criminal proceedings. In civil proceedings, the department of motor vehicles decides whether the driver’s license will be suspended and for how long. Suspension will occur if there is a "preponderance of the evidence" (a low level of proof) that the driver was driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater.

Criminal proceedings then begin in the arresting state. Attorneys can handle most of the case while the client is back in her home state on bail. However, the judge will order the client to attend at least the trial in the county where arrested, and possibly even pre-trial hearings. Then, any jail time will probably have to be served in the arresting state pursuant to court orders and the trial verdict. Jail time for first time offenses can be up to a year, but a common sentence is 1 – 2 weeks.

After jail time, and depending on the circumstances of the crime, the judge may allow probation to be transferred to the home state, including any community service and alcohol abuse education that is required. The person should file an application for transfer of probation.

What If I’m Not Considered Legally Drunk in My Home State?

Congress established the blood alcohol concentration level at or above .08. This means if the amount of alcohol in your blood while you are driving is over .08%, you are considered legally drunk. Almost every state in the country has adopted .08 as the standard at which a person is legally drunk, so if you are considered drunk in the state of arrest, you will most likely be considered drunk in your home state.

What If the State of My Arrest Has a Greater Punishment?

Punishment for DUI differs between states. Some states punish DUI more harshly than other states. Conversely, some states will have lighter sentences for DUI than other states. It might seem unfair that drivers who are convicted of DUI in one state could be punished more severely than drivers in another state for the same crime. However, states have the right to punish offenders in the manner they see fit.

As a quick example, 42 states suspend driver’s license if the driver fails a chemical test, even on the first offense. 19 states mandate ignition locks, even for first time offenders. Ignition locks are devices which analyze the breath of the driver and disable the vehicle if alcohol is detected.

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Unlike many civil law cases where money or property may taken away from you, people charged with violating DUI laws often face serious jail time and/or driver's license revocation. A good criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI cases will help you defend against the DUI charges.

Photo of page author Jason Cheung

, LegalMatch Legal Columnist

Last Modified: 11-07-2016 11:31 AM PST

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