First DUI: What You Should Know

Your first DUI can have a variety of consequences including fines, loss of driving privileges, and jail time depending on your BAC and if you caused an accident. Your first DUI charge can also cause your insurance rates to go up.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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Although most states categorize a first DUI offense as a misdemeanor, do not underestimate the serious consequences of your first drunk driving arrest or conviction. When you are charged with your first DUI, you need to understand the mandatory sentence and possible punishments for drunk driving, the nature of drivers facing a Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs charge, and the long-term consequences of being a DUI offender.

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What are the consequences of a first DUI offense?

Whenever a person picks up their first DUI, they immediately think they will get probation because it’s a first DUI offense.

Most first-time DUI offenders do get placed on some type of probation, however, the court can still order you to serve time in county jail as a condition of your probation. Even for misdemeanor offenses, you may be required to serve some jail time, depending on the laws in your state. In addition to mandatory jail sentences, virtually every state will suspend your license for a period of time, even for your first DUI offense.

Depending on your history, you may be able to apply for an occupational driver’s license or a hardship license so that you can still drive to work and school. Conditions of probation for DUI convictions usually include a substantial fine, court costs, probation fees, and urinalysis fees. Your total monthly payment can easily equal a small car payment. You will also be required to attend and complete drug and alcohol counseling and community service hours.

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What is the punishment for a first DUI?

Generally, first DUI convictions will be considered a misdemeanor crime, and you will be punished with fines, community service, license suspension, and possible probation. However, other factors can change the level or nature of your charge resulting in enhanced sentences or penalties. For example, if you have an open container in your vehicle, you may still be charged with a misdemeanor, but your fine or mandatory jail sentence could be increased. If a child was present in the motor vehicle while you were driving, some states will elevate your misdemeanor charge to a felony offense, even if you have never had a prior drunk driving conviction.

In addition to the criminal nature of a DUI, every DUI has an administrative element that can be just as painful as the charge itself. For example, before you are ever convicted, some states will automatically suspend your license if you refuse to provide a breathalyzer test. Even if your blood alcohol concentration is lower than the legal limit, refusing a blood alcohol level breath test will still get you a suspension. This license suspension is a separate suspension from the one that comes after a DUI conviction.

What are the conditions of license suspension for a DUI offense?

If you want to quickly regain your license after it was suspended for a DUI, you will have to deal with an administrative law judge and a criminal law judge. Do not drive while your license is suspended. If you are caught driving during the suspension, you will only pick up new criminal charges and more fines. Some states will also require you to install and pay for an ignition interlock device while your case is pending. The cost for this device can run up to $200 per month. Failure to comply with this condition can result in your DUI bail bond being revoked and you being sent back to jail.

What are the long-term consequences of multiple DUI offenses?

Probably the most important aspect for first-time offenders is the long-term consequences. Even if you are placed on probation and do not receive a final conviction because your sentence was probated or deferred, your probated sentence will remain on your criminal record and can be used against you later. If you pick up a second DUI charge, your first DUI will cause the sentences and legal penalties to increase.

States vary, but if there are multiple DUI arrests on your record, then a DUI conviction can be elevated to a felony-level offense. Where you are arrested will control whether your subsequent offenses will be considered a felony level. For example, in New Mexico, you are not elevated to a felony until your fourth subsequent offense. However, in Texas, your third DUI will be considered a felony. Do not assume that just because your home state would consider your charge a misdemeanor that a state in which you are visiting will do the same.

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How can a first-time DUI change employment and auto insurance?

Even a first-time DUI can affect your employment and your auto insurance policy. Because a DUI conviction is part of your criminal history, many employers will run criminal histories and know about your conviction. Some employers will not employ individuals with DUIs on their records because they view you as a safety risk or their insurance rates could potentially increase.

Because you are now a risk factor, you can also expect your auto insurance rates to go up as well. If you were in a wreck because of your DUI, and your offense is somehow elevated to a felony, your insurance company may not cover the costs of your accident. Many insurance policies exclude coverage for damages that arise from the commission of a felony, including drunk driving offenses.

Should you fight your first DUI?

You may be able to successfully fight your first DUI charge, but the only way to find out where you stand is to speak to an expert. DUI charges for a first offense can be combated by legal experts and it consists of challenging things like the legality of DUI checkpoints, the efficacy of different types of sobriety tests, and more.

Before you decide to fight your first-time DUI conviction, make sure you are going about it the right way with legal advice.

How can you get help from a DUI attorney?

Even your first DUI arrest can have a significant effect on your criminal history, your finances, and your employment opportunities.

Do not take the charge lightly, just because it’s your first DUI arrest.

Act quickly to visit with a DUI attorney who can help you get in front of many of the issues associated with your drinking and driving charges. Enter your ZIP code to be connected now.

Related Articles:
The Advantages of Hiring a Drunk Driving Attorney

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