After being arrested for a DUI, jail time is often the most concerning consequence. Waiting to find out if you or your loved one will have to serve time in jail is nervewracking. As with most laws, the penalties of a DUI depend on that state your charges are in, but there are some facts that hold true in all 50 states.
Many factors can have an effect on whether or not you will be sentenced to jail for your DUI, including how many times you have been arrested for driving while intoxicated and whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. This guide will help you understand what to expect as far as DUI jail time goes.
First Offense DUI
In all U.S. states, the First Offense DUI is a misdemeanor. Don’t misunderstand the ramifications of a misdemeanor charge, though. Many people think that the seemingly lesser charge means that they are only looking at probation. But this is not the case. Even a First Offense DUI is serious enough that you may still be required to serve time in jail.
In addition to the possibility of jail time, you will almost certainly lose your license after you are arrested for a DUI, even if it is your first offense. In some cases, you might be able to obtain permission to drive to work on school. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as your blood alcohol content (BAC) is especially high or you have an open container in your car, these charges (and the associated penalties) may be enhanced.
Types of DUI Charges
What charges you will face as a result of a DUI vary by state, but there are a few things that can cause you to be charged with a felony as a result of driving under the influence.
- Multiple past DUI arrests
- Operating a commercial vehicle at the time of DUI
- A child in the vehicle
- Another moving violation occurring at the same time, such as reckless operation
- Involved in an accident that causes property damage
- Or involved in an accident that causes injury or death
- Under legal drinking age
- Driving on restricted/suspended/revoked license
Felony DUI Charges
These factors can result in felony charges rather than a misdemeanor. A felony DUI charge means that you are facing harsher penalties than if you were only charged with a misdemeanor. It is worth noting that in addition to prison and hefty fines, being convicted of a felony DUI also makes you a felon, which comes with its own unique set of consequences. For example, felons cannot own a firearm and in many states, they are unable to vote. Clearly, DUIs don’t just affect your driving, they affect every aspect of your life.
Are You Facing Jail Time?
Now, for the real question on everyone’s mind: Is DUI jail time in my future. Unfortunately, the answer to this depends on the judge, jury, and skill of your attorney, but yes, you are likely going to have to serve at least a few days in jail after being arrested for driving under the influence. While jail time isn’t always mandatory for the first offense, subsequent DUIs will almost always result in time spent behind bars. Even when jail time isn’t mandatory, judges usually have the option of sentencing a defendant to jail time and often do so because driving while intoxicated is such a serious offense. When choosing a sentence, the judge will take all the factors into consideration, including the factors listed above. Put simply, if you drive drunk, you should be prepared to go to jail when you are inevitably caught.
Other DUI Penalties
DUI jail time is not the only penalty you could be facing after being arrested for getting behind the wheel after drinking. As mentioned previously, your license will most likely be revoked or suspended. Other penalties for DUIs include drug and alcohol counseling, DUI school, having your car impounded, community service, hefty fines, and probation.
Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are another common penalty for drunk driving. With these devices, are essentially a personal breathalyzer. The car cannot be started until the driver blows into it, thus proving they are sober enough to drive. Judges usually have the discretion to require an IID as they see fit, but in some states, these devices are mandatory under certain circumstances, such as having multiple drunk driving convictions, having a minor in the car at the time of the incident, or having an elevated blood alcohol content level
Dealing With a DUI
As you can see, a DUI is no laughing matter. DUI jail time is a very real possibility, and if you are facing felony charges, it is pretty much a guarantee. If you have been charged with a DUI, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, you should find an attorney who specializes in these types of cases as soon as possible. If you are unable to afford an attorney, the courts will appoint a public defender to handle your case. But if at all possible, you should hire your own lawyer. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Seeing as the outcome of your DUI charges will affect the rest of your life, especially if you are facing felony charges. This is not the time to pinch pennies. Having a competent attorney on your side can make all the difference.
Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarayuth Pinthong/Released