If you have been arrested for DUI you are most likely wondering what penalties and fines you may face and whether or not you will lose your right to drive. If you have been convicted of a previous DUI you probably are aware that the penalties and fines you might face will be substantially higher. But what if the previous DUI was 10 or 15 years ago? Will your penalties be enhanced or will the state consider this your first drunk driving offense?
Recently on our forum we had a driver who was arrested on April of 1996, then again in August of 2012. Will this second drunk driving arrest be considered their first or their second drunk driving arrest? Unfortunately, to answer this question we have to know where the driver was arrested, information which they did not include in their drunk driving question.
State laws vary for look back periods
There are many types of laws that are federal and apply to all states; other areas of law are governed by state laws. DUI laws are administered at the state level, and therefore, they vary substantially by state. For instance, whether or not a state will consider a drunk driving arrest as a second or third drunk driving offense is governed by a state’s “look back” or “washout” laws. Some states have look back or washout periods of five years, some have look back periods f ten years and others have lifetime look back laws.
For instance, if our driver was arrested in Alabama, which has a five year look back period, their most recent DUI arrest would be considered their first arrest because it has been more than five years from the date of their first DUI conviction. Other states such as Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah, Virginia or Wisconsin have 10 year look back laws so if the second DUI is within 10 years of the first drunk driving conviction the state will consider this new DUI arrest as a second driving under the influence offense.
If our driver is in Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Vermont or New Mexico they will be charged with a second driving under the influence because each of these states has a lifetime look back period, which means that regardless of when their first DUI occurred, if they are arrested a second time, it will be a second driving under the influence charge.
So the bottom line is you need to find out what the look back laws are for your state and determine whether your second DUI arrest is within this period. If it is, you will be charged with a second DUI, and you will face increased DUI penalties.
Interstate Drivers License Compact
Consider as well that many states are part of the Interstate License Compact. This means that if your first arrest for DUI was in another state, if each state is a member of this compact, it is likely that your current state will have record of your first DUI arrest. Therefore a second DUI arrest may be considered a second DUI arrest, even if the first DUI arrest occurred in another state.
Talking to a DUI lawyer
Due to the complexity of DUI state laws it is highly recommended that you discuss your DUI arrest with a DUI lawyer. Many DUI lawyers will provide free consultations to discuss your options with you.
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