There are a lot of things that happen if you are convicted of drunk driving in the United States, none of them are fun and most of them are expensive. There can be other consequences and costs associated with a DUI conviction - such as losing your job or having to go to rehab - but these listed below are the penalties established by law in most states.
1. Arrested and Booked
Doug Menuez Collection/Photodisc/Getty Images
If you are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving, the first thing that will happen is you will be placed into a police vehicle and taken to the nearest police station or jail. There your photograph (mug shot) will be taken and you will be fingerprinted. In some states you can be released immediately if someone comes to the jail and pays your bail and drives you home, but several states now have laws
requiring you to be held for a period of time until you sober up.
2. Appear in Court
At the time of your arrest, you will be given a ticket or a summons that tells you the date that you have to appear in court to face driving under the influence charges. For some drivers, it is a humiliating experience to have to appear in public to answer charges of being drunk. In today's courts, if you deny the charges, plead not guilty and try to fight the case, chances are you, and everyone else in the courtroom, are going to see a video of yourself failing the field sobriety test
- taken from the officer's dashboard camera or taken at the jail where you were processed.
3. Lose Your Driver's License
In all states, even for a first-time conviction, your sentence will include the loss of driving privileges for a period of time. Even in states that offer a hardship license
that allows you to drive to work or school during the time your license is revoked or suspended, your driving privileges are drastically curtailed. In some states, if you refused to take the field sobriety test or submit to a breathalyzer or blood test, your driver's license is suspended immediately, even before you go to court.
4. Pay a Fine
If you are convicted of driving while intoxicated, part of your sentence will definitely include paying a fine. All states have laws setting minimum and maximum fines for drunk driving, but those penalties can be enhanced
by other circumstances. For example, if property was damaged, someone was injured or a child was endangered as a result of your driving while drunk, the fines can be increased. In most states, you will also have to pay the court costs associated with your case.
5. Go to Jail
In a growing number of states, jail terms have become mandatory even for first-time drunk driving offenders. Typically, first-offender jail terms are only one or two days that can be served on a weekend, but it is still jail time. For repeat offenders, jail is mandatory in most states and the terms are longer than a couple of days. And again, if there are aggravating circumstances
connected with your DUI case, the penalties can be increased.
6. Complete the Terms of Probation
Even if you are not sentenced to any jail time for your DUI conviction, you will probably be given a probation sentence, the terms of which are determined by the sentencing judge. If you fail to meet the terms of probation, you can be sent to jail, even if you are a high-profile Hollywood celebrity
. Regardless of the terms, the probation sentence itself is another expense you will have to pay. Typically, this is a monthly fee you must pay for the cost of administering and supervising your probated sentence.
7. Go to Drunk Driving School
In almost all jurisdictions, if you want your driving privileges returned after a drunk driving conviction, you will have to complete an alcohol and drug education program, usually referred to as drunk driving school
. These classes include hours of drunk driving prevention education and an assessment of your drinking habits. And there is a fee for attending these classes, another expense you must pay to get your driver's license back.
8. Undergo Alcohol Evaluation
As part of the court-ordered alcohol education and assessment program mentioned above, a trained counselor will also evaluate your pattern of alcohol consumption to determine if you have an alcohol abuse disorder. Typically, the evaluator will ask you a series of questions
about how alcohol affects your life. If the evaluation finds that your drinking rises to the level of alcohol abuse or dependence, you may also have to undergo some kind of alcohol treatment program before you can get your driving privileges back.
9. Pay Higher Auto Insurance
In most states, if you get a drunk driving conviction, you will required by law to get a special insurance policy
, known as SR-22 insurance, before you can drive a vehicle. The cost of SR-22 insurance, in states where it is required, can double or even triple your premiums. Usually, you will be required to carry this most expensive auto insurance for a period of three years.
10. Install an Ignition Interlock Device
In a growing number of states, drivers who are convicted of DUI are being required to install ignition interlock devices
on their personal vehicles. Some states are requiring these devices for even first-time offenders. The device requires the driver to have alcohol-free breath before the vehicle will start. The installation of these devices and the monthly fees associated with them can be very expensive.