Every state has different laws for a DUI conviction, but as a general rule, the penalties for a first offense are less severe than penalties for second and third offenses. First offense penalties are often developed by state lawmakers to act primarily as a deterrent to drinking and driving and to inform drunk drivers of the dangers of alcohol abuse. As such, the majority of them do not include jail time, opting instead for heavy fines, license suspensions and alcohol awareness classes.
The fact that published records of fines by state are often varied is an indication that fines and fees are complex. In Wisconsin, for example, some sources say that fines may only range from $150 to $300, while others say that fines could run as high as $700 for a first offense DUI.
This may be due to the fact that fines may include, or not include, fees paid via sentencing, court costs and ticket fines. When you add personal legal fees resulting from consultation or courtroom service into the mix, fines can get especially steep.
In Wisconsin, your license will automatically be suspended for six months after your first DUI offense, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This is one of the longest mandatory suspension periods for a first offense in the country.
If your license is suspended, you may be able to apply for a conditional permit that will allow you to drive under certain circumstances because of personal or financial hardship. If you need to drive to get to work, for instance, the department of motor vehicles (DMV) may be able to grant you a conditional license that lets you commute, driving during certain hours.
One of the most difficult and expensive processes necessary to maintaining your license after a DUI conviction is keeping your insurance coverage. In many states, a lapse in coverage, regardless of the validity of your license, is detrimental to your ability to keep coverage once your suspension has ended.
In order to maintain coverage, you will need to file an SR22 form with your insurance agency. Some agencies provide SR22 auto insurance, which is special coverage for drivers with a DUI, while others do not. It's a good idea to shop around for rates if you're forced to file an SR22, as increases will likely be high, and you'll want to minimize the additional costs.
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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?”