What you can (and can’t) do while on probation for DUI
As part of a DUI conviction, you may be sentenced to probation. Much like a binding contract, a probation sentence comes with a list of mandatory promises that you must meet, not only to avoid jail, but to possibly benefit from a reduced sentence. Violating any of the probation terms will land you back in court, and the judge may then impose the maximum possible sentence allowable by law—which could include incarceration and heavy fines.
Terms of probation
For a DUI conviction, probation terms can include any of the following:
Prohibition against driving
Use of an ignition interlock device
Participation in substance abuse or alcohol awareness classes
Alcohol intake monitoring (e.g., ankle bracelet)
Avoidance of additional criminal violations
Payment of fines
Payment of restitution to victims
Depending on the severity of the DUI, the presence of any aggravating factors, and your history of prior DUIs (or other crimes), probation may last anywhere from 6 months to 10 years. During this time, you must report to an assigned probation officer who is tasked with monitoring your progress on the probation terms. If not all of the terms are met, or a violation occurs, the officer is required to inform the court in a timely manner.
What is a probation violation?
A probation violation occurs when any of the required terms of a sentencing order are not met, even if this happens unintentionally. Some violations are minor (such as missing half of a substance abuse class) while others are much more serious (like committing another DUI). For this reason, jurisdictions often maintain a predetermined protocol for probation officers to follow when reporting violations. For instance, a major violation must generally be reported to the court right away, whereas a defendant may have to commit two or three minor violations before a report about them is entered.
A probation violation is a criminal infraction in and of itself, and can lead to more fines and penalties for the offender. Again, the severity of the violation will dictate the nature of the punishment, and more serious violations may cause the judge to impose the full sentence allowable by law, including putting the offender behind bars.
Other consequences for a probation violation may be an extension of the original probation term, imposition of additional requirements, or revocation of probation altogether in favor of a jail term.
Living on probation
DUI probation may cause certain lifestyle restrictions, including limitations on travel or social activities. As a general principle, if you are on probation, you must obtain permission from your officer before embarking on a trip outside of the jurisdiction. If you have proven to be reliable and trustworthy, out-of-state travel may be approved. However, if you have failed to adhere to the terms of the probation, you will likely not be permitted to leave the state.
Many times, particularly for repeat offenders, the terms of a probation order will require abstinence from alcohol and drugs, even when not behind the wheel. In some states, if you are on probation, you will be required to wear an alcohol-monitoring device which can detect the presence of alcohol through the skin. Other jurisdictions rely on random drug and alcohol testing to determine compliance. Regardless, keeping a safe distance from intoxicating substances during DUI probation is usually a safe bet, and will help increase the chances of a successful completion.