On our DUI forum we recently had a question from a driver who had been arrested for DUI or driving under the influence but wanted to know why the offense was considered a second DUI and not a first DUI if their first arrest had been in 2005.
This is a great question and what this really refers to is the look back period or washout period for a DUI conviction. A look back period is the period of time that a judge or prosecutor can consider a prior DUI when they are determine whether the driver’s penalties will be enhanced for a recent DUI arrest. The goal of the washout or look back period is to determine whether the driver should be considered a “high risk” driver and if they are likely to have multiple DUI arrests in the future.
The state has determined that increased sanctions do reduce recidivism and by allowing the state to impose higher penalties for drivers with multiple DUI offenses the state is able to lower the incidence of DUI.
Look back periods by state
Most drivers do not realize that there is a wide disparity between states for a look back period. State look back periods generally range from a minimum of five years to a maximum lifetime look back period. For instance, if the driver mentioned above lived in a state with a lifetime look back period than if they were arrested in 2005 than it will not matter when their second DUI offense occurs it will be considered a second offense and the judge is allowed to consider their prior offense when determining the drunk driving penalties.
Consider also that most look back periods will begin and end on the drunk driving offender’s arrest date and not their conviction date. For instance, if you were arrested on June 10 of 1986, and arrested a second time on June 25, 1996, if your state had a 10 year look back period the second arrest would be considered a first drunk driving offense because there would have been more than 10 years between arrests.
Is a DUI erased from my driving record if the look back period has elapsed?
Another common question asked by drivers convicted of drunk driving is whether or not the look back period will influence when a drunk driving conviction is eliminated from their driving record. Unfortunately, the two issues are not related. If you have been convicted of drunk driving, even if the look back period has past, the drunk driving conviction will remain on the driver’s driving record potentially forever. In many states a drunk driving conviction cannot be expunged.
Talk to a DUI lawyer
Drunk driving laws are complicated and because they can vary so widely between state it is generally a good idea to discuss your case with a drunk driving attorney. Consider also, that many states will consider a third DUI arrest within the look back period as a felony. If you have been arrested a third time for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and you are charged with a felony you could be facing a lengthy jail sentence.