Being charged with driving under the influence, commonly known as a DUI, can have serious consequences. DUIs are not just limited to alcohol—being under the influence of drugs can also lead to being charged with a DUI. Neither is a DUI limited to driving a car. A DUI charge can also be brought against an inebriated person who is operating any motorized vehicle or vehicle with a drivetrain. This includes bicycles, lawnmowers, all-terrain vehicles, boats, and even tractors. Exactly what constitutes being under the influence can vary from state to state, although the usual measure is having a blood alcohol content over 0.08. For substances other than alcohol, it isn’t nearly so clear-cut. Some states have specified limits for the presence of drugs in one’s system, while others simply have a zero-tolerance policy.
The chain of events leading to a DUI conviction typically begins when a law enforcement officer observes that an individual is driving erratically. He or she will then initiate a traffic stop to determine if the driver is under the influence. The law enforcement officer may ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test such as standing on one foot and touching their nose with their eyes shut. The driver may also be asked to take a Breathalyzer test. Refusing a Breathalyzer test has its own serious consequences. This can result in having one’s driver’s license revoked from three months to a full year!
If an individual is indeed found to be under the influence, they will be arrested for a DUI. A DUI charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Takajian & Sitkoff can help. A misdemeanor DUI is typically for a first-time offender. A felony DUI is for those who have a history of driving under the influence, or those who have caused injury to others while driving under the influence. It’s also a felony to drive under the influence with a minor child in the vehicle.
A misdemeanor DUI conviction can result in a jail sentence from a few days to six months. For those convicted of a felony DUI, they may face a much more severe sentence of several years in jail. Convictions for both misdemeanor DUIs and felony DUIs can additionally result in fines and probation. Fines for either DUI conviction are fairly straightforward, generally ranging from $500 to $2,000. Probation can be a bit more complex, depending on the circumstances of the incident.
Probation can take the form of house arrest, community service, mandatory driving education, and mandatory substance abuse counseling. Community service often involves performing manual labor. Mandatory education and counseling can be quite expensive. Beyond these standard consequences of a DUI conviction, individuals may also find that they will have higher car insurance rates or become ineligible for car insurance altogether.
Besides the legal and financial consequences of being charged with a DUI, there can be a significant emotional toll as well. Individuals dealing with the consequences of a DUI charge can find themselves experiencing shame, guilt, and embarrassment, since the stigma of drinking and driving is very pervasive. Additionally, as DUI arrests and convictions can both show up on background checks, individuals may feel a sense of hopelessness about their future. However, for some people a DUI can instead be a pivotal moment. A DUI can be perceived as hitting rock bottom, which then propels the person to work hard to improve their life. Whether they choose to become sober or simply to develop a better sense of caution and maturity, a DUI can actually improve a person’s life.