Written by attorney Jason Chase Beahm

Typical DUI Penalties: An Overview

Despite the downward trend in incidents of drunk driving in recent years, statistics show that there is a DUI-related fatality every 45-60 minutes in the US. This may be why most states have cracked down on drunk driving by increasing statutory penalties, especially for repeat offenders. If you’ve been charged with DUI and you’ve hired a lawyer, keep in mind that your lawyer will not be able to obtain reduced sentencing below the mandatory minimums as set forth in your state’s laws. This means that a judge has to sentence you with the penalties outlined by law if you’re found guilty. Here’s an overview of the typical DUI penalties an offender can be sentenced to.

License suspension

A license suspension is almost guaranteed to accompany a DUI conviction no matter what state you’re in. For first time DUI convictions, license suspensions can last anywhere from one month up to one year. If you decline to take a blood or breath test, (which in certain cases may be strategically advantageous to your criminal case), there is typically a mandatory license suspension of one year or more. For second DUIs, the suspension period jumps to six months up to three years, and it gets even worse for third DUIs--one to three years on average, with some states imposing suspension for five to eight years. Additionally, most states require DUI offenders to get a SR-22 form to remove their license suspension. The form is obtained from your auto insurance carrier, so your insurance rate will probably rise since you'll be labeled as a higher risk driver.


Fines for DUI convictions vary significantly from state to state. For a first conviction, fines can be as high as $2000, and continue to rise each year. A repeat offender can face fines of $1,000 - $10,000, depending on the circumstances of their case.

Community service

DUI related community service can take many shapes and forms. Some examples include: speaking engagements regarding the dangers of drunk driving, removing litter from highways, or volunteering at a charity. DUI offenders are assigned a set number of community service hours they have to perform within a given amount of time; non-completion risks violating probation, which can have serious consequences.

Alcohol classes and medical treatment

A court can order an offender to attend an alcohol education class, DUI prevention program, or other medical treatment such as rehabilitative clinics as appropriate. These are often offered as a way to avoid jail or stiff fines if an offender chooses to attend the class and/or treatment. Most treatment programs are inpatient programs, meaning you will likely have to take time off of work to participate.

Ignition interlock device

Almost every state requires a DUI offender to have an ignition interlock device installed on their car at their own expense by the first or second DUI conviction. The device requires the offender to test their breath in order to be able to start the car, and it often requires continued breath tests intermittently throughout a trip in case someone else was used to trick the device. The BAC limit for this device is usually 0.02%.

Jail time

The amount of jail time imposed depends on the laws of the state you’re in. Usually first time offenders don’t have to worry about serving jail time unless they injured or killed other people while driving drunk. Otherwise, jail time is most often reserved for those who are repeat DUI offenders, have excessively high BAC levels while driving, caused an accident and injured others while driving drunk, or had a minor as a passenger while under the influence. A DUI jail sentence will also affect your car insurance and your background check, which can make it difficult to gain employment in the future.

Vehicle confiscation

Almost half the states have laws that allow a DUI offender’s vehicle to be confiscated for a period of time. In these states, vehicle confiscation only happens to repeat DUI offenders. Typically, the offender has to pay extensive fines to get their car back.

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