Why do both the law and insurance companies punish a DUI so harshly? Unfortunately, DUI offenders are often repeat offenders. Considering the toll impaired driving can take, society has an interest in discouraging people with DUI convictions from re-offending. What are the recidivism rates for DUI? And just how much steeper are the penalties for repeat offenders? The results may surprise you.
Recidivism means committing a crime after finishing punishment for a previous crime. A recidivist is another name for a repeat offender. You might also hear it described as a relapse into crime. The purpose of punishment is to convince an offender that the crime is not worth it. For this reason, the state often punishes repeat offenders more harshly. Unfortunately, despite steeper penalties, DUI still has one of the highest recidivism rates of all crimes.
Recidivism Rates and Penalties for DUI Convictions
In a study of data from forty states, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that on the average, one-third of impaired driving convictions were repeat offenses. In addition, DUI repeat offenders have a higher chance of being involved in a fatal alcohol-related car crash. And that chance increases with every DUI conviction. Those are some sobering facts. And these facts are the reason that states continue to crack down on drunk driving offenders. In addition, these are the reasons penalties for repeat offenders get harsher and steeper with every offense. Here are some common penalties for DUI convictions for both first-time offenders and recidivists.
Driver’s License Suspension
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, most states will suspend a driver’s license following a first DUI conviction. The suspension period may last as little as 15 days (West Virginia), or it may last up to a year. For repeat offenders, the suspension period gets longer. A lot longer. One year appears to be the minimum, but many states will suspend the licenses of repeat offenders for ten years or even permanently.
Ignition Interlock Device
Many states will require a driver to install an ignition interlock device after a first DUI offense. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that attaches to the ignition of an automobile. Before the car starts, the driver must pass the breathalyzer test.
A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that state laws requiring interlock devices resulted in a 7-8% decrease in alcohol-related fatal car crashes. The study estimates that’s 1,250 fatal car crashes prevented. The study also concluded that laws requiring interlock devices for repeat offenders may reduce alcohol-involved fatal crashes after two years of implementation. The U.S. National Highway Transport Safety Administration has found that installing an ignition interlock device prevents reduces recidivism rates by 50 to 90 percent.
Substance Abuse Counseling and Treatment
In many places, to get their license back, a repeat offender must undergo assessment by a substance abuse counselor. That counselor may require the driver to complete some sort of counseling or substance abuse rehab before getting their license back. The treatment may be as little as attending an alcohol education class, or as much as entering a residential treatment program. It all depends on the severity of the offense. Also, it depends upon the assessment of the offender’s relationship with alcohol or another substance. In some cases, substance abuse treatment is an alternative to jail time. And most people would agree that it’s preferable to jail.
In a number of states, a repeat DUI conviction may result in the state taking your car away. In addition, some states will confiscate a vehicle for a first DUI offense.
In all states, a first DUI offense may result in up to six months in jail. For repeat offenders, that term can extend to a year. Third and fourth DUI offenses are considered felonies, and can incur a jail sentence of several years — especially if the driver injures or kills someone.
Rogues Gallery: Some Celebrity DUI Repeat Offenders
It’s hard to stay on the straight and narrow — as many celebrities can attest. Have a look through our Rogues Gallery of Celebrity Repeat Offenders. Even some of the most famous and familiar faces can hide dark secrets. Some of them have served time in jail. Others have spent time in court-ordered rehabilitation centers. All have paid fines and / or done community service. But the important thing about the people in this gallery is that they’ve learned from their mistakes and come back from them. And you can, too. Whether you’ve received your first conviction or your third, you, too, can make your amends and get back on the right track.
1. Justin Bieber
2014 was a rough year for “The Beeb.”
On January 23 of that year, Miami Beach police arrested him for DUI, driving with an expired license, and resisting arrest. Later, in July, police charged him with misdemeanor vandalism. His neighbor in Calabasas had accused him of throwing eggs at his house. And in September, Ontario, Canada police arrested Bieber for assault and dangerous driving, after Bieber’s all-terrain vehicle collided with a minivan. Police also said that after the collision, Bieber engaged in a physical altercation with someone in the minivan. And then in November, Argentina ordered Bieber to appear to testify regarding an alleged assault on a photographer the year before.
He seems to have kept his nose clean since then. However, his criminal behavior has earned him a ban from the Chinese government.
2. Robert Downey, Jr.
In June of 1996, police arrested Robert Downey, Jr. when they found him driving his Porsche (Tony) stark naked. Although he had no clothes, he did have heroin, cocaine, and a gun. A month later, police arrested him on another narcotics charge.
In November of 2000, he was arrested for cocaine again. This time, he was wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Downey served time in prison for his repeat offenses. He also attended a court-ordered drug treatment program. After that, though Downey’s life took a turn for the better, and he hasn’t looked back. Downey has since racked up an impressive filmography, most memorably playing Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. In addition, his acting has won numerous awards, and his films have grossed $9.6 billion worldwide.
3. Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan is another celebrity with almost as many arrests as she has film credits. In May 2007, police arrested Lohan for DUI, possession of cocaine and misdemeanor hit and run. Two months later, she faced arrest for another DUI, possession of cocaine, transporting a narcotic into a custody facility, and driving on a suspended license. In 2010, a judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail for missing court-ordered alcohol counseling. At the beginning of the next year, Lohan was arraigned on felony grand theft charges, after leaving a store wearing a one-of-a-kind necklace worth $2,500. Then, in September 2012, Lohan was arrested for a hit and run in New York City. Two months later, police arrested Lohan following a physical altercation with a woman in a nightclub.
The next few years held more DUI charges and stints in rehab. Throughout this time, though, Lohan continued to work and branch her career out in different directions. The past few years, she has spent traveling and attempting to rebuild her life. US Magazine reports that many believe Lohan is ready for a comeback. And we wish her the best of luck.
4. Michelle Rodriguez
Lost actress Michelle Rodriguez has two DUI convictions — one in Hawaii and one in Los Angeles. She has also had a number of other arrests for crimes that include assault, driving on a suspended license, hit and run, and violation of probation. Her sentences have included fines, community service, and stints of jail time. She has, however, stayed out of trouble for nearly ten years. And she has used those ten years wisely, building her career, and racking up an impressive list of film, television, video game, and music credits. Whatever she’s doing, it seems to be working, and we wish her the best.
DUI has a high rate of recidivism. And each conviction increases a driver’s chances of being involved in a fatal auto accident. However, a conviction — even a repeat conviction — is not the end of the world. Help is available, both to overcome alcohol addiction, and to get your license — and your life — back.
Featured Image: CC by SA 2.0, by wp paarz, via Flickr