Statistics show that on average, 28 people die in the U.S. every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve drivers who are alcohol-impaired. This translates into a preventable death every 51 minutes. Alcohol-related crashes result in annual costs of over $44 billion. Approximately one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the US in 2015 were due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. 209 children died during the same year because of an alcohol-impaired driver. Not only that, 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence. This highlights the extent of the problem and the consequences – economic and social – related to DUI.
Around 16% of motor vehicle crashes involve drivers who are under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. The use of marijuana has increased among weekend drivers and those driving at nighttime and these drivers are 25% more likely to be involved in an accident as compared to those who are not under the influence of any drugs.
All U.S. states have laws that prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The first thing to remember is that whoever is charged with operating under the influence (OUI), driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), the consequences can be quite severe. No court is going to take this lightly in view of the large number of accidents and fatalities that occur each year.
While each state has its own laws and penalties, in general the penalty for this crime may include fines, license suspension, jail time or placement of an ignition interlock device.
License suspension: Even if you are a first time offender, driving under the influence in most states will result in license suspension. Even if the court does not find you responsible or guilty, the department of motor vehicles will assess the case. If you were driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more, chances are that your license will be suspended. If the court finds you guilty of a DUI, then the punishment set by the court will be added on top of what the department of motor vehicle determines it to be.
Luckily in most states, if the two suspensions overlap, you only have to complete one suspension. In some states a first time DUI offense may mean that license is suspended for 30 days but in other states, it may be a year or more. If you have more than one DUI on your record, then the suspension time is usually more than a year. Even if you refuse a blood alcohol test when asked by the police office, the penalties can be just as severe. In many states if you have a record of more than 3 DUIs, your driver’s license is permanently revoked.
Jail time: In more than half of the states, there is mandatory incarceration for a first time DUI. From the time you are arrested, there is no question that you will be going to jail. The length of incarceration can vary from 24 hours to 7-10 days. If this is your second or third offense, then all states have minimum mandatory jail time which varies from 2 days to many months/years. If the repeat offense is committed within ten years of the first offense, then the jail time is usually increased.
Monetary penalties: In almost every state, a conviction for a DUI generally carries a monetary penalty. In most cases, a first time DUI offense carries a monetary penalty of $500 which is just the beginning. Usually, there are other fees that are added on. For example, you will also have to pay a fee to get your license reinstated; there will be court fees and if you are using the services of a lawyer, you will be charged by them as well. By the end of the day, you will probably have to pay anywhere from $1,000-$10,000 in fees.
Ignition Interlock Devices: In most states, drivers who have been convicted of DUI have ignition interlock devices (IID) installed on their motor vehicle. An IID is a device that can detect alcohol much like the breathalyzer device. You need to blow into the tube for it to start. In fact, the car will only start with an alcohol free breath. Once the car is operating, the IID will ask for random breath samples or what are known as ‘rolling’ samples. If the IID detects any alcohol on a rolling sample, the car will not be disabled, but the positive record will be sent to the probation officer or the court. The IID is mandatory in states like Hawaii and Arkansas even after a first time DUI. In other states an IID is recommended if the BAC level is more than 0.15%. But by far the majority of states require an IID for repeat offenders. The driver has to pay for the cost of installing and maintaining the IID. When you go to get your driver’s license renewed, do not be surprised for a random check on the IID to make sure that it had not been tampered with.
Extra Penalties: There can be additional penalties for drivers convicted of DUI which resulted in a fatality, injury or property damage. The offender can be sued by the injured party and may have to pay restitution for all the damages. In addition, one may not be able to get car insurance again or if they are able to get it, the rates could be astronomical. Penalties also increase if one has other prior DUI convictions and have an under-age passenger.
DUI is not a trivial crime and it can cost the offender not only money but also lead to incarceration and loss of driving privileges. The best strategy is to avoid drinking while driving. However, if you are in a situation where you need somebody to help you out of a driving under influence situation, consulting an experienced legal service provider like The Jeffcoat Firm may save you from unnecessary penalties and fines.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.