You've rubbernecked past horrific pile-ups and seen countless commercials for DWI lawyers, but do you really know the consequences for driving while intoxicated? In most states, driving while intoxicated includes operating any motorized vehicle: cars, trucks, boats, or even all-terrain vehicles. Depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC) when charged, as well as previous offenses, you could face serious penalties that range from loss of driving privileges to jail time. Here's the down and dirty on typical penalties.
Fines and Fees
Driving while intoxicated can lead to severe financial consequences. If your BAC is between 0.08% and 0.1%, you could face up to $400 in fines plus fees to supplement drunk driving funds, community service, and alcohol education programs. If you are over the 0.1% BAC limit, these fines increase significantly. In many states, you will also be responsible for paying an annual surcharge of $1,000 or more, and these costs don't even begin to address the legal fees you will rack up. The bottom line is that drunk driving can lead to ongoing, and sometimes unpredictable, financial costs.
In most states, a DWI conviction means a mandatory suspended license. For a first offense, the suspension could last from three months to one year. Second offenses could yield a two-year suspension, and a third offense could result in the loss of driving privileges for ten years. Your eyes do not deceive you-even with an experienced DWI lawyer, you still face harsh penalties.
Ignition Interlock Device
This may seem like an urban legend to some, but the ignition interlock device (IID) is very real. Once you have paid your fines, fees, and surcharges, and stopped driving for the requisite period, you may be ordered to install an IID in your vehicle. The IID is a device incorporating a breathalyzer test. Before you start the vehicle, you blow into the device. If you are under the legal limit, the engine will start. If you are over the limit, the engine will lock, preventing you from operating the vehicle while intoxicated. This may seem intrusive, but if the alternative is jail time, it is advisable to sign up for the IID.
Of all the penalties for driving while intoxicated, jail time is the one where an experienced DWI lawyer can make a difference. Unlike the license suspension, jail time is not mandatory in most situations. Nevertheless, sentences for drunk driving could range from 48 hours to up to 180 days, depending on the BAC, number of offenses, and other circumstances.
Some may think that 180 days in jail is nothing. If, however, you are continuously involved in drunk driving, it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured. If this happens, you may face additional criminal charges that could result in decades in prison.
Many DWI convicts avoid jail time by completing community service. This could include alcohol education courses, cleaning up local highways, or speaking at public events. Work with your DWI lawyer to find the community service options that will place you and your case in the best light.
No matter how you get there, having a DWI on your record can affect aspects of your future life ranging from employment and child custody to renting a home. Because of the seriousness of the offense, you must secure the services of an experienced DWI lawyer to help you navigate the web of repercussions.