Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I went out last night to a bar. I drank several beers, took a few shots, and finished the night off with a couple of glasses of wine. I decided I was fine to drive home, but I was stopped and arrested for DUI. Will I be charged with a criminal offense or is the DUI arrest some type of administrative infraction more like speeding or parking in a handicapped space?”
Criminal and civil penalties for DUI
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense. Like other criminal offenses, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the offense. If convicted of driving under the influence you can also expect severe fines and penalties such as a driver’s license suspension, potential jail time, potential installation of an ignition interlock device, and probation.
What happens after my DUI arrest?
If you have been arrested for DUI, you will be required to appear in court. Your first court appearance is called an arraignment. At your arraignment the court will notify you of the charges against you, and you will have a chance to enter your plea.
Although you may be able to handle the arraignment without a lawyer, after the arraignment you will need to contact a DUI lawyer and discuss the evidence the state has against you. In some cases, your defense lawyer will be able to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution. If the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to win their case or you are not guilty of the charges, you can fight them and force the state to try your case in court.
Now, we’ve mentioned that your DUI will definitely be a criminal offense. Whether or not it will be a felony or a misdemeanor, however, will depend on a variety of factors such as:
- The number of previous DUI convictions.
- Whether or not another person was injured.
- Whether there are other aggravating factors such as a minor present at the time of the DUI arrest.
Administrative license suspension assessed without DUI conviction
Individuals who are stopped for DUI and either refuse to submit to a chemical test or who submit to a test and have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher can also have administrative penalties assessed by the state. Penalties vary but generally include an administrative license suspension. The length of the suspension will vary based on the number of times a person has previously refused or failed a test.
Another issue which many drivers are not aware of is that their license can be confiscated at the time of the DUI stop and arrest. In fact, your license may be taken by the arresting officer at the moment you fail or refuse the chemical test. What’s worse, your license may remain suspended even if you are ultimately found not guilty of DUI.
Even a first time DUI arrest and conviction can be a serious criminal offense with long-term ramifications.
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