Penalties for driving under the influence can be very severe. Those people who have never been charged with drinking and driving in the past will be considered first time DUI offenders. The penalties for DUIs become increasingly harsh as they increase in number. 

This means that a person who receives their third DUI charge will be punished much more than someone who receives their first charge. Still, even for first time offenders, the penalties can be extremely serious. DUI laws will vary according to the state where an individual is charged with the crime. There are, however some commonalities across these jurisdictions.

What are Some Common Penalties for First Time DUI Offenders?

First time offenders will almost certainly face numerous penalties for their crime, regardless of what jurisdiction it was committed in. There are, however, some common factors among various states’ laws. Some of these factors may include: 

  • Monetary fines: Each state has its own range of fines. They may be a few hundred dollars, or they may go up to a $2,000 or more. The fine given will depend on the extenuating circumstances of the case. For instance, if the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches a certain level beyond what is considered legally intoxicated, for purposes of DUI, the fine may be higher. Many states increase penalties for DUI offenders who had children as passengers at the time of the offense. Having an open container in the vehicle at the time of offense can also increase penalties;
  • Probation: This is almost always a penalty for the crime of DUI, regardless of the state in which it is committed. Jail time and fines may be conditions of the probation;
  • Jail time: As stated previously, even first occurrences of DUI are treated extremely seriously. They may be punishable by jail time. How much time will depend on the state. In some states, only a couple of days in jail will be required, but there are some that require up to six months. A judge has discretion, with certain minimums and maximums, as to how much jail time to give;
  • License suspension: The states have a pretty wide range of how long licenses are suspended for a first offense DUI. In some states, only a few months of suspension are given, while in others, it may be six months. Extenuating circumstances can increase the amount of time of suspension;
  • Drug and alcohol counseling: Most states require that DUI offenders complete this type of counseling as part of their sentence; and
  • Community Service: This is often required of DUI offenders.

A first time DUI will generally be classified as a misdemeanor. However, for DUIs that are combined with other serious crimes, such as cases where someone died or was injured as a result of the drunk driver’s actions, the offense may be categorized as a felony. This may also occur when the offender has multiple DUIs. 

Can I Get a Restricted Driver's License?

This also varies greatly from state to state. Some will allow first time offenders to retain hardship licenses, in order to get to work or school. In other cases, the driver may be allowed to continue to drive if they have a device (an ignition interlock device) installed in their car. These devices usually use a breath-test to prevent the car from starting if the driver is intoxicated. The offender must bear the cost of the device.

How else can a DUI impact my life?

A DUI will remain on your record. Should you receive a subsequent DUI, your record will show that this is not your first offense. Penalties for subsequent DUIs are even more severe than those for a first offense. The record may also be consulted by potential employers, which could make it more difficult to find employment. A record with a DUI can also affect your car insurance rates.

DUIs are also very costly. In addition to any fines that must be paid, and, likely, increase insurance rates, there are other fees involved. The cost of an ignition interlock device will fall to the offender. There may also be court costs and attorney fees, and a fee to have your driver’s license reinstated. Even drug and counseling counseling will likely be paid for by the offender.

Should I Consult an Attorney for Help with DUI Laws?

Penalties for a first-time offense DUI are clearly quite serious. A good criminal defense attorney can be very important. This lawyer can evaluate a case and review the evidence the police have from the time of arrest. This includes evaluating whether the arrest procedure was followed properly, to include field sobriety tests. 

The lawyer will understand the DUI laws in the state where the offense was committed and will know the local court systems. They will also be able to use their experience to attempt to have penalties reduced for first time DUI offenders.