While a first DUI charge will usually count as a misdemeanor and result in probation, community service, fines, a suspended jail sentence or a combination sentencing, subsequent charges will likely come with stricter penalties.
What if I get a second DUI?
First, it's important to check with an experienced DUI lawyer to make sure that your second DUI actually counts as a subsequent offense. In some states, a look-back period - an amount of time for which a DUI charge remains pertinent to the determination of subsequent charges - may be in place. If you elapse the period of time between charges (usually between 5 and 10 years) you may not be charged with a second offense.
A few states, like Massachusetts and Vermont, do not have look-back periods, so even if 50 years span the time between your DUI arrests, your second will still be considered a second offense.
Will I go to Jail?
Penalties for a second offense DUI are, in most states, harsher than those for a first offense. In some cases, a second offense may be considered a felony where a first offense was considered a misdemeanor. There are a number of factors that go into this determination, including the time between the offenses, the level of intoxication and the nature of the arrest.
In California, a second offense DUI carries a mandatory 96 hour jail sentence. Lawyers at the Kapsack and Blair Limited Liability Partnership note that many counties in California have local statutes that require up to 10 days in jail for a second DUI offense.
Getting a lawyer
Enlisting the help of an experienced DUI attorney is the best way to minimize or avoid jail time if you're charged with a second offense DUI. A lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf, depending on the circumstances of your charge, to minimize sentencing requirements.
In some cases, your charge may be reduced, to reckless driving, for instance, if the evidence presented is limited.
What are some of the alternatives to jail time?
For many first DUI offenses, a judge will suspend a jail sentence in favor of community service or some other form of punishment. The same is true of second offense DUI charges, although your options may be limited. A DUI attorney may be able to negotiate alternatives like house arrest, extended probation, alcohol and drug counseling requirements or community service.
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Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I am twenty years of age. I was arrested for a California DUI. I am wondering what will happen to me now and what steps I need to take. Do I need to talk to a DUI lawyer?”