Being arrested and convicted of a DUI can result in some serious penalties, but most people believe that the 1st offense DUI is not as serious as it might be, should a person offend multiple times. While it’s somewhat true that the first offense likely carries less penalties than repeat offenses, that first offense is still more serious of a situation than most people realize. Particularly with recent changes to DUI laws that make the penalties more strident, some people are surprised at the effects of that first charge, even for those with clean criminal pasts.
Consequences of a 1st Offense DUI
In a typical situation where a person is either charged for the first time, or has had a DUI in the past but several years have gone by since, the penalties tend to fall in the following areas:
- Misdemeanor conviction, typically 1st degree.
- Possible jail time, with an average of anywhere from three days to six months in jail.
- Driver re-education classes and intervention programs, often offered as an alternative to jail time and typically packaged with probation for a few months.
- Hefty fines and fees, ranging from a few hundred dollars to over one thousand.
- Suspension of drivers’ license, for months ranging into years depending on the seriousness of the offense.
The good news for first offenders convicted of DUI charges is that the penalties are relatively minor compared to those given to repeat offenders. Thus, there is the possibility of avoiding the harshest of the above consequences by, quite simply, not getting another DUI. Those who receive fairly mild sentences, such as $300 fines, community service, and perhaps intervention class, should consider themselves lucky, as low-tolerance rules are going into effect constantly across the nation that demand harder crack-downs on offenders, even those who’ve never had a DUI before.
In short, dealing with a DUI is no joke. Many people assume that hiring a good lawyer will help them “get off easy,” or at the very least reduce their penalties to below the typical minimum, and rarely is this true. The truth is that if there were lower legal penalties for DUIs, they would be the legal minimums. Your odds of getting a penalty below the minimum in your local region are not good, and no amount of help from a lawyer will change that. Certainly get a lawyer, but expect that person to protect your rights and help you negotiate a legal, minimal penalty: don’t expect any special treatment from a system that wants to make sure your first DUI is also your last.