When a driving under the influence (DUI) charge puts you behind bars, it can be a sobering moment. Particularly for those not familiar with what to expect, it can be all too easy to assume that first-time offenders get an easier ride than repeat offenders. It might be more accurate to say, however, that first-time DUI offenders are in for some extremely harsh punishments and that repeat offenders are in for some devastating punishments. To help you make sense of what to expect when it comes to first-time DUI charges, read on to learn more about common sentencing possibilities.
Mandatory Incarceration – An arrest for DUI means jail in all cases. The potential for being bailed out depends on the exact circumstances of the arrest, the offense, and your criminal record. Bail is far from guaranteed and you could find yourself remaining in jail until you are sentenced or freed. As far as jail time for a conviction might go, it varies by state. Some states have mandatory sentencing guidelines that mean automatic jail time, even for first-time offenders. The best you can hope for is that your lawyer can persuade the judge to give you probation rather than jail.
Loss of Driving Privileges – You will most certainly suffer from an automatic suspension of your driver's license immediately upon your arrest. The department of motor vehicles won't wait for your case to come to trial – they act fast. You may be able to have your defense attorney argue for the need for a hardship license so that you can drive for limited periods of time and for only certain destinations.
The Financial Consequences – DUI charges can result in some extremely punitive financial obligations. Here is just a partial list of what you will owe before you finally are free of the charges:
- Probation fees – paid monthly or weekly to help cover the cost of your supervision.
- Driver's licenses – having any type of license reinstated after a DUI can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.
- Legal fees for your defense attorney
- Court costs
- Fines as part of the sentence
- Drug and alcohol classes and counseling
- Ignition interlock device and/or sweat ankle monitoring costs
The List Goes On – Unfortunately, the above three potential punishments are only the beginning. Depending on where you live and the seriousness of your arrest, you might also need to endure the following forms of punishment for a first-time DUI:
- Cancellation of auto insurance (or your rates will rise astronomically)
- Loss of a job that requires you to drive
- Loss of a security clearance needed for a job
- Community service hours
To avoid the more heinous extremes, it's vital that you get help from a criminal defense lawyer. Everything is negotiable if you have someone on your side to advocate for you.