One of the most common DUI convictions is known as a first-offense DUI, sometimes referred to as a “wet reckless” in some places. Depending on the circumstances, a first-offense DUI can include charges such as an open container violation, a minor in possession of alcohol, or reckless driving in addition to the DUI charge itself. Those convicted of this offense typically face fines, court costs, and often jail time.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can have far-reaching consequences. DUI involves operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08%, or while impaired by drugs or alcohol, regardless of BAC level. Driving while intoxicated can lead to accidents, injuries, and even death—and it carries significant penalties for those convicted. As such, it’s important to understand what could happen if you’re facing DUI charges in your state.
Consequences for a First-Time Violation
The penalties for a first DUI conviction vary from state to state, but typically include:
- Fines ranging between $100 – $500
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle
- Completion of a drug and alcohol education program
In some states, jail time is also mandatory for those convicted of their first DUI offense. Additionally, vehicle insurance rates may increase significantly after being convicted of driving under the influence. It is important to understand the specific laws in your jurisdiction so you are aware of what potential consequences you face if charged with a DUI.
Across all 50 states, license suspension or revocation is almost always imposed upon conviction for a first-offense DUI. Depending on the severity of the offense and other factors specific to each case (such as any prior offenses), license revocation can last anywhere from six months up to one year, or more. In some cases, a driver’s license could even be revoked indefinitely until the driver has met certain criteria set forth by the court.
In addition to license revocation/suspension, additional licensing consequences may include restricted driving privileges (such as only being allowed to drive during specified times of the day or limited distances), and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for a specified period of time. The latter comes at your own expense and applies to any vehicle owned or operated by you. Finally, insurance rates may increase if points are added to your record following your conviction(s).
If you were charged with DUI enhanced by lesser charges, such as open container violations or reckless driving, you may receive separate fines related to the lesser charges as well as your DUI violation. These fines can range from hundreds up to thousands of dollars depending on where you live and whether aggravating circumstances were present at the time your arrest was made. Aggravating circumstances include a BAC level above the legal limit (generally 0.08%), having minors in your car at the time of the arrest, or refusal to cooperate when suspected by law enforcement officers.
For those convicted of a first-offense DUI, jail time is a real possibility depending on the severity of the offense and factors specific to the case. In some states, jail time can be mandatory for those found guilty of a first DUI offense and the length of the sentence may vary from several days up to one year or more.
Even if no jail time is mandated after the prosecution and sentencing of a first-offense DUI, community service hours must generally be completed while the offender remains under probationary status. Usually, this ranges between 10–100 hours depending on the judicial district’s governing regulations.
The offender is responsible for maintaining regular contact with the supervising probation officer, ensuring progress is being made toward fulfilling the imposed terms. This could include the payment of restitution or fines owed, and demonstrating that the program requirements are completed to satisfaction in a timely manner.
Penalties for a Second DUI Conviction
A second DUI conviction typically carries heavier penalties than the first. Depending on your state and local laws, a second offense could result in:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Mandatory jail sentence of several months
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
- Installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
Depending on the severity of the offense, you may also be required to take part in a drug and alcohol education program or treatment program. In addition, having two DUI convictions on your record can make it difficult to find employment or housing opportunities as this charge is seen as a major criminal offense.
Factors Impacting Your Sentencing When You Get a DUI
The severity of criminal penalties associated with the conviction can depend on a variety of factors, including prior convictions, the circumstances surrounding the offense, and whether any aggravating factors were present at the time you were pulled over by law enforcement.
Blood Alcohol Content Level
The legal limit of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08% in most states. If your BAC was higher than this at the time you were arrested, this could result in harsher sentencing since it’s illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This could also provide circumstantial evidence that proves intent to drive while intoxicated which often leads to additional or higher punishments imposed upon those found guilty.
Prior Convictions & Criminal Record
The state where your charges are being assessed may take into consideration any prior convictions when deciding upon how harsh your sentence should be — especially if any such prior convictions involved driving offenses such as underage drunk driving or reckless driving.
Moreover, if you have current criminal charges pending against you within the same court or jurisdiction – and these charges are deemed connected with the latest DUI incident to at least some degree – judges will generally factor these into the overall penalty as well.
“Aggravated” factors taken into account during sentencing – particularly when determining a jail time requirement – include but are not limited to the presence of minor passengers during the arrest and the number of passengers in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.
Facts About DUI in the U.S.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI) is a serious problem in the United States, with an estimated 1.4 million drivers arrested for DUI every year. This figure has been steadily increasing in recent years, and it comes as no surprise that drunk driving continues to be one of the leading causes of death on U.S. roads.
In fact, according to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10,000 people were killed by impaired driving crashes in 2018 alone—a number that’s risen steadily since 2014 when 8,847 fatalities resulted from DUI-related incidents.
What’s more shocking is that nearly three out of four individuals involved in these crashes are male drivers between 21 and 34 years old—showing just how easy it can be for young men to make mistakes and endanger their lives behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
If you have been charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), the consequences could be severe and long-lasting. Fines, jail time, probation, and other penalties are all possible outcomes of a DUI conviction. No matter how minor or major your charge may seem, you should never go through this process alone. Consult an attorney to help you understand what the potential penalties are for a first DUI conviction.