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Put Down the Bottle: The Possible Penalties for a DWI or DUI Conviction

Did you know more than 10,000 deaths happen yearly due to drunk driving, even with the prevalence of ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps?

A possible reason is that not all who often drive under the influence get caught and get into accidents. When they do, however, the results are catastrophic and can result in death.

Even if offenders have managed to harm no one, they will still face a possible DUI conviction. If you want to know what, read on to see what DUI penalties you will be facing if you get caught.

DUI or DWI Offenses

The penalties for a DUI or DWI escalate depending on whether it’s your second offense or third offense. First-time offenders will already have to deal with huge fines and the possibility of jail time, so it’s best not to try for a second and third time.

Note that the exact details of the penalty will depend on the state you were driving in. They will also further depend on the judge presiding over your case. Knowing that, let’s dive into the possible penalties you can get from a DWI or DUI conviction.


For first offenses, you may have to pay up to $2,000 in fines and costs. In some states, you may even have to pay up to $4,000 in fines if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .15.

For second offenses, you’re looking at the same amount or more, depending on the state. For third offenses, you may have to pay the staggering amount of $10,000.

This doesn’t include other expenses like an ignition interlock device (IID) or SCRAM devices. This may or may not also include a driver responsibility assessment that you have to pay yearly, the court surcharge, and other stuff you have to pay out of your pocket.

IIDs are the devices you blow into to measure your BAC. If it’s under the limit, it unlocks the ignition and allows you to drive your car. SCRAM devices are ankle bracelets that monitor your BAC 24/7.

The court can order you to buy either of the devices to make sure you won’t be driving under the influence again within a certain period. In one state, for example, they may require you to use an IID for half a year. 

Jail Time

DUI penalties may or may not come with jail time, depending on your conviction. If you do get jail time, it can range from 3 days to 180 days for your first offense. A BAC of .15 might also land you a one-year jail sentence.

Jail time will increase to 30 days up to a year for your second offense. Third offenders are looking at two years of imprisonment as the minimum and 10 years as the maximum.

Note that a prison is a state-run penal institution. If you get caught again for DUI or DWI after 1 or 2 prison sentences, you may stay in prison for at least 20 years or for good.

Suspension of Driver’s License

A DUI or DWI can lead to the suspension of your license for at least 90 days up to a year. With a suspended driver’s license, it’s illegal to drive. If caught, you’ll pay more in fines and it might lead to the revocation of your license.

Second and third offenders will get their licenses suspended for up to 2 years. Some jurisdictions may even revoke their license.

Following the revocation of a driver’s license, offenders must wait out the waiting period before the government reinstates their license.

In some cases, especially for first offenses, you may be able to apply for a restricted license. This will allow you to drive only to certain places, like school, work, and rehab. 

Offense Level

Did you know that a third offense is a third-degree felony? This means you will lose your right to vote and possess a firearm. If you get another DUI or DWI conviction afterward, it will be a second-degree felony.

For first offenses, though, you’re looking at a Class B Misdemeanor. Second offenses are class A. Both stay as a permanent stain on your record unless you have it expunged.

In job interviews, you would have to answer “yes” when asked if you’ve ever committed a crime.

Other Penalties

Depending on the state, the court may sentence you to more punishments. For example, the judge might order you to attend alcohol abuse treatment programs, prevention classes, and such.

You might also have to do community service or get an assessment for possible substance addiction. 

Most of the time, these programs are the alternative to jail time or paying fines. First-time offenders will likely get this sentence. In other times, the judge can order them in addition to the usual punishments.

Other Crimes Committed

You can consider yourself lucky if you were able to avoid doing other crimes while driving under the influence. However, it’s not uncommon for DWI or DUI to result in accidents. These may then lead to bodily injury, destruction of property, and even death.

These crimes will worsen your charges even if you’re a first offender. Getting caught with a DWI or a DUI while you have a child in the backseat is also a serious crime that may land you in six months to 2 years in prison with a state jail felony on your records. You may also have to pay up to $10,000 in fines.

If the other party decides to sue, you may also have to pay a large amount of money.

Other DWI/DUI Consequences

Having a DWI or DUI record will go on to affect other areas of your lives. Your insurance company may cancel your driver’s policy, for example. If not, prepare yourself to pay much higher rates.

A criminal record will also limit your job-hunting options. To be specific, you won’t qualify as a school bus driver, truck driver, or other jobs requiring you to drive a vehicle.

Avoid a DWI or a DUI Conviction

You might be thinking now, “what’s the best way to avoid a DWI or a DUI conviction?”

Well, the answer is simple: don’t drive while under the influence. Call a friend or use a ride-hailing app if you somehow get intoxicated “on accident.”

If you want to learn more, make sure to check out our other guides today!

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