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DUI First Offense

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What Is a DUI First Offense?

A DUI first offense occurs when a person is charged with DUI (drunk driving) for the first time. Unlike other types of charges, DUI first offense charges are treated very strictly and can lead to some very serious legal consequences

With other types of crimes, especially lighter misdemeanor crimes, the defendant may be treated somewhat more leniently for a first offense. For example, the judge may consider the circumstances that the defendant might be going through, and offer a reduced sentence or alternative options like probation. 

However, in comparison, a DUI is considered a very serious violation, and even first-time offenses can lead to a number of legal consequences. Driving under the influence is sometimes called “DWI” (driving while intoxicated”).

What Are Some Consequences for a DUI First Offense?

First of all, a first-time DUI offense can lead to very serious criminal penalties. Depending on the state and the jurisdiction, these can include:

  • A criminal fine usually up to $1,000
  • A sentence in a county jail, usually up to 6 months

In addition, various other consequences related to driving privileges can result from a first offense. These may include:

  • A license suspension (usually about 4 months) by the DMV
  • Required completion of alcohol awareness/drunk driving courses
  • Required maintenance of additional SR22 insurance (a type of automobile insurance policy for high-risk or DUI drivers - often very expensive to maintain)

Finally, if the DUI incident resulted in harm or injury to another driver or passenger, it can result in civil liability for the defendant. In that case, they may be required to pay damages for the plaintiff’s losses. Repeat DUI offenses will lead to stricter consequences.

What Is Needed to Prove a DUI First Offense?

The state prosecutor has the burden of proving a first-time driving under the influence offense. In a DUI case, the state would have to prove some basic facts. These are:

  • The officer who conducted the DUI arrest had probable cause to do so;
  • The arrest was lawful
  • The defendant violated DUI laws by driving with an illegal BAC (blood alcohol content), OR the defendant refused to take a chemical or breath test

Thus, proving a DUI offense can be somewhat straight-forward.  Most of the evidence will be coming from the results of the chemical test, and through the testimony of various witnesses.

Are There Any Alternative Sentencing Options for a DUI First Offense?

Yes- in some cases DUI diversion may be available for first-time offenders. A diversionary program may involve alternative sentencing methods such as mandatory counseling, community service on weekends, or other methods meant to substitute for jail time. 

These are not available in all circumstances and may need the assistance of an attorney when requesting such a program. However, they can ultimately be very helpful in terms of keeping the defendant’s record clean and helping them keep their driving privileges. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for a DUI First Offense?

Handling a DUI case can be a challenging experience, especially for a first-time offender. It’s in your best interests to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you need help with DUI charges. Your attorney will be able to provide you with sound legal advice and can determine whether any alternative sentencing options are available for you. Drunk driving laws vary by state, so be sure to inquire with your attorney if you have any specific questions. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-24-2018 08:38 PM PDT

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