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What Happens if You Get a DUI in Another State?


— July 6, 2021

The exact answer to the question of penalties for out-of-state DUIs will depend on your home state and what state imposed your DUI charges.


The rules and laws surrounding driving on our roads and highways are not universal. Each state oversees the promulgation of road safety laws and driving regulations. Each state is also responsible for issuing driver’s licenses to citizens. However, despite the fact that each state issues licenses independent of other states, your driver’s license is valid in all states. This can create confusion for drivers who have a license from their home state but face DUI charges in another state.

Technically, a state may only suspend a driver’s license issued by that state. For example, the State of Maryland cannot suspend a driver’s license issued by New Jersey. However, the penalties for driving offenses like DUIs may still apply no matter what state your license was issued in because of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. The Compact holds that each state will respect the validity of driver’s licenses issued by other states and impose penalties on their own drivers who committed driving charges in another state. Essentially, there is no escaping from DUI penalties, no matter what state issued your license or where the DUI happened.

Facing a DUI somewhere other than your home state may be a bit more complicated than the ordinary process for a DUI. You will be dealing with two states instead of just one, and returning to the state where your DUI occurred may be difficult if you live far away. You should consult with a criminal defense lawyer from the DUI charging state about your case as soon as possible.

Penalties for a DUI in Another State

The penalties for DUIs can vary from state to state. Common penalties tend to include license suspensions, fines, community service, or jail time. However, different states may not impose these penalties in quite the same way. The amount of money in fines you have to pay may be different and the duration of license suspensions may not be the same.

This presents a problem when a driver from one state is charged with a DUI in another state. Under the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, your home state will respect the charges of the DUI charging state and impose penalties. But whose penalties are imposed: your home state’s or the charging state’s?

Exactly how penalties are imposed may also vary from state to state. Some states choose to treat the DUI as if it occurred within its borders and impose sanctions based on their own law that fits the facts of the case. Other states may impose sanctions as they would be imposed in the DUI charging state.

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In some cases, the charges in one state do not directly correspond to charges in the home state. If this is the case, your home state may impose penalties for different charges that still fit all the elements of the charges from the other state. Basically, the charges may sound different, but the offense is the same.

How a DUI in a Different State Affects Your License

As stated, a state does not have the authority to suspend a driver’s license it did not issue. However, under the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, your home state may suspend your license for a DUI in a different state. As part of a DUI, license suspensions that the charging state would ordinarily impose may be upheld by your home state.

How long your license will be suspended will depend on the nature of your DUI and the circumstances surrounding it. For example, a driver with a history of DUIs will face a longer suspension. Additionally, your suspension time could increase if your DUI was connected to an accident or someone was otherwise injured. To determine the exact nature of your suspension and other penalties for an out-of-state DUI, you should consult with a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The state where you committed the DUI can also suspend your privilege to drive in that state, even if they did not issue your license.

Expunging a DUI from Another State

After completing any sentence or penalties for your DUI, you may have the opportunity to have the conviction expunged. An expungement is like striking the DUI from your record and treating it as if it never happened. If your home state did not issue your DUI, you would likely have to go through the charging state to have your DUI expunged.

This may pose a problem because different states have different requirements for expunging convictions. Generally, you cannot have a conviction expunged until you have finished dealing with all the penalties. For DUIs, this means you must have paid all your fines, completed any license suspension, served all required jail time, and completed any necessary community service hours. Additionally, states make you wait a specific period of time after completing your penalties before you can apply for an expungement. How long you must wait may vary depending on what state charged you with a DUI.

It is important to speak with an attorney from the state that charged you, as they may be better suited to answer your questions about expunging your DUI.

One Last Word on DUIs

Drunk driving charges are embarrassing and are often seen as results of extremely poor judgment. Most people agree that a DUI was one of their biggest mistakes. When your DUI was issued by a state where you do not live nor issued your license, the whole legal process can become even more confusing than usual. The exact answer to the question of penalties for out-of-state DUIs will depend on your home state and what state imposed your DUI charges. You should contact an attorney for help handling your DUI case as soon as you can.

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