The penalties and requirements for drunken driving vary somewhat from state to state, but due to the effort of advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, all 50 states have passed laws intended to crackdown on drunk driving by increasing penalties and consequences.
Your First Stop: CourtYes, you are still innocent until proven guilty in this country, but if you took a breath test or a blood test that recorded your blood alcohol content at .08 or above, you will be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI) or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) depending on what drunk driving is called in your state.
It does not matter if you did not appear intoxicated, was not staggering or slurring your words. If you had a BAC above .08 in all 50 states that means you were in fact driving under the influence, under the "per se" laws. Even if you passed the field sobriety tests, if you recorded a .08 BAC or greater you will be found guilty.
Fines, Fees and License RevocationOnce you are convicted of drunk driving in court, you will be ordered to pay a fine, court costs and will have your driver's license revoked for a period of time. Some states have passed laws which mandate some jail time, even for first offenders. From state to state the amount of the fine, the length of the license revocation and the jail time, if any, will vary, but in every state you will pay a fine and lose your license.
In most states you will also be placed on probation and ordered to perform some sort of community service. This means you will have pay a probation fee and complete all of the terms of the probation, whatever they are.
Getting Your License BackPaying the fines, fees and having your license revoked is just the beginning of the consequences of being convicted of drunk driving - if you want to get your driving privileges back, that is. Once you have a drunk driving conviction on your record, in most states, you cannot simply get your driver's license back at the end of the revocation period, you have to do something to earn it.
In most states this usually involves going through an educational program sometimes known as DUI school, defensive driving school or by names such as "Counter Attack." The requirements to graduate from the school, and get your license back, can vary greatly depending on how you do on an initial evaluation.
Before you begin the school, a trained counselor will interview you and ask you a series of questions. This evaluation is designed to determine if you have an alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency problem.
- Mandatory Alcohol Education and Assessment
- Sample Alcohol Evaluation Quiz
- Do You Have a Drinking Problem?
Evaluation and TreatmentIf the evaluation determines that you do have a drinking problem, you will not only have to attend the driving school classes about the dangers of impaired driving and pass the school's tests, but you may also have to seek treatment for your problem before you can graduate from the school.
Depending on your evaluation, your "treatment" can consist of attending support group meetings, receive outpatient counseling or therapy or even inpatient detoxification followed by treatment in a residential rehab facility. If you do have a drinking problem, the state want you to take steps to address that problem before you get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
- Getting Help for Drinking Problems
- Finding the Right Treatment Program
- Components of Effective Treatment Programs
Ignition Interlock DevicesEven after you pay your fine, pay your court costs, serve your probation, pay the probation fees, pay for and complete driving school, complete your treatment program and pay for it if you decide to go the professional rehab route, you still may have to take additional steps before you can drive again.
A growing number of states are requiring even first drunk driving offenders to place a ignition interlock device on their vehicle in order to have their driving privileges returned. The devices prevent the vehicle from being started if it detects alcohol on your breath. The interlocks and the monitoring service can be expensive.
Even More ConsequencesThere may be even further consequences to a drunk driving conviction. One is increased costs for auto insurance. As a convicted drunk driver, you will be required to pay for something called SR-22 insurance before you can legally operate your vehicle. The cost of SR-22 insurance, in states where it is required, can double or even triple your premiums.
A drunk driving conviction can also affect your job. If you have a job that requires you to drive or you have a job that requires security clearances, bonding or other security requirements, you could find yourself unemployed.
More than ever, society considers drunk driving to be a serious offense and the penalties and consequences have increased dramatically in the past 10-15 years.