Driving under the influence is illegal in every state. Generally, you can get a “per se” DUI for driving with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. You can also be convicted of an “impairment” DUI if you drive while actually impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Consequences and Penalties for a First-Time Conviction
The consequences of driving under the influence are serious. Penalties for a first-offense DUI often include fines, license suspension, and substance abuse education courses. Some states also require mandatory jail time and ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for first DUIs. And even if you aren’t ultimately convicted of a DUI in criminal court, the Department of Motor Vehicle might still take away your license if there’s evidence that you drove with a BAC of .08% or greater.
Also, there are lots of costs of a first-offense DUI like attorney fees and insurance rate increases that can significantly increase the amount you’ll actually end up paying.
Is a DUI a Felony?
DUI type offenses may or might not be felonies. In most jurisdictions, an individual who is getting a first-time DUI will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor. However, an individual who severely injures or kills someone while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs will be charged with a felony. Some states now also charge individuals with felonies even for first-time offenses if they have a very high BAC; the level can vary from state to state, but as an overall standard, a BAC of 0.15 or higher is a red flag to most legal authorities.
If an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense while their driving privileges have been suspended or restricted, they may be charged with higher-level offenses. The trend in numerous states is also to charge individuals with multiple DUI offenses with felony convictions after they have been arrested many times for DUIs or similar offenses (most often, three times or more). Thus, in many states, after an individual has two (or three) DUI convictions on their record, any subsequent arrests for DUIs are felony convictions.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record
Once an individual is convicted of a DUI offense, there is a record of it somewhere. In many cases, individuals are required to report these offenses on job applications and for other purposes, such as when applying to the military, applying to certain colleges, etc. Insurance companies often investigate an individual’s driving record for as far back as 5-7 years, and when offenses are uncovered by insurance companies, they will tend to charge higher premiums for services or will not cover the individual.
Individuals subject to background checks for employment or other purposes often experience a DUI resulting in complications for certain types of employment. Even though it may not appear in some types of background checks or searches years after an individual has committed the offense, there is always a record of it somewhere.
Individuals who have multiple DUI convictions, who have seriously injured or killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, or who committed significant property damage while under the influence may have these convictions follow them around for the rest of their lives.