Because drunk driving is a threat to public safety, DUI laws in every state in the country are strictly enforced. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction for a first DUI offense may result in fines, a suspended license and other penalties. A subsequent DUI arrest and conviction will result in more severe penalties, however, including imprisonment. This article is a brief discussion of the consequences of multiple DUIs.
The Perils of Drunk Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one-third of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers; accidents caused by driving under the influence (DUI) claimed 10,551 lives in 2018. This is why driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher is illegal in every state; the BAC limit for commercial drivers is. 04. In states that prohibit minors under the age of 21 from consuming alcohol, there is zero tolerance for DUI by minors — driving with any detectable level of alcohol can result in a DUI charge and a license suspension.
While driving with a BAC of .08 is the threshold for DUI in all states, some jurisdictions also prohibit “driving while ability impaired” or DWAI, which can be charged for operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of at least .07. In addition, you can also be arrested for DUI based solely on observations of the police, such as the odor of alcohol on your person or an open container in the vehicle. Finally you may also face DUI charges for driving under the influence of street drugs, prescription medications and over-the-counter medicine.
What does implied consent mean?
Most states have what is known as an implied consent law, which means that all licensed drivers agree to submit to blood alcohol level tests if stopped by law enforcement for suspicion of DUI. Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test can lead to a license suspension in an administrative proceeding that is separate and apart from the criminal DUI case.
What happens if I am facing multiple DUI charges?
In most states, a first DUI offense is considered a misdemeanor. While not as serious as a felony, a misdemeanor DUI is not be be taken lightly. A conviction for a first DUI may result in jail time, fines, and the loss of your driving privileges. More than this, a misdemeanor conviction means that you will have a permanent criminal record, which could have lasting repercussions in terms of employment and housing opportunities.
Once you are convicted for a first DUI offense, subsequent DUI convictions will result in sentencing enhancements and more severe penalties. A second DUI, for example, is punishable by longer prison sentences, mandatory community service, a revocation of your license (as opposed to a suspended license), participation in an alcohol education/treatment program and more substantial fines. If your license is revoked, you cannot apply to have it reinstated until the revocation period ends. You will also likely be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IDD) on your vehicle after the revocation period expires.
The penalties for third and subsequent DUI conviction become more severe. Depending on the state that you’re in, multiple DUI offenses are often classified as a felony, punishable by longer prison sentences and higher fines. A felony conviction will also result in a permanent criminal record; however, you will also forfeit some of your civil rights, including the right to vote and the right to own or possess a firearm.
Bear in mind that prior DUI convictions are not the only factor which will trigger sentencing enhancements. Other so-called “aggravating factors” may also apply, such as driving under the influence with a suspended or revoked license or causing property damage or personal injuries while driving under the influence. In short, the consequences of multiple DUIs are quite serious, from the loss of your freedom and driving privileges, to having a permanent criminal record and lasting damage to your reputation.
What should I do If am facing multiple DUIs?
If you have been charged with a first DUI defense or multiple DUIs, it is crucial to have proper legal representation. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can conduct an investigation to determine if law enforcement made any errors during your arrest. Did the police have probable cause to suspect you of driving under the influence? Did the arresting officer fail to read you your Miranda rights? Was the breathalyzer test improperly administered?
Ultimately, the best way to prevent a DUI conviction is not to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the first place. Of course, good people make mistakes by driving after drinking. If you are facing multiple DUI charges, working with the right DUI defense attorney can mean the difference between going to jail and preserving your freedom.