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...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: May 15, 2011

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Most states increase the penalty for a drunk driving offense in certain situations; this is known as sentence enhancement. The most common of these is one or more earlier convictions for the same or a similar offense — usually within five to ten years of the current offense. Other common sentence enhancements exist for allegations that:

(1) a child was in the car at the time of the drunk driving violation;

(2) the defendant was traveling 20 or 30 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time;

(3) the blood-alcohol concentration was over 0.20%;

(4) the defendant refused to submit to a chemical test;

(5) there was property damage or injury.

In most states, the existence of any personal injury caused by drunk driving elevates the offense to a felony. A death can trigger manslaughter or even, in a few states, second degree murder charges.