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What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time?

— February 16, 2022

DUI offenses are notoriously expensive. For a first-time DUI, you may have to shell a thousand dollars for the fines alone.

DUI is a word you hear often – in the news, online, and even among people we know. But while almost everybody knows that these three letters stand for “driving under the influence,” very few people understand what it really is and the repercussions that come with a 1st time regular DUI.

Driving under the influence is a criminal offense. It is the epitome of impaired decision-making that can endanger innocent lives and get you in big trouble with the law. And while first DUI offenses may have less serious consequences than subsequent DUIs, they can still have a lasting impact on your life.

Getting Arrested for a DUI

Whether you’re a first-time offender or not, if law enforcement pulls you over for suspicion of drinking and driving, you will almost certainly be subjected to a field sobriety test, which includes a breathalyzer test. Refusing to take the breath test could result in the suspension of your license.

If you fail the sobriety test or the police find probable cause to arrest you, you will be taken into custody, processed, and requested to submit to a formal BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) test.

Court Appearance for DUI

After your release from custody, you will receive a court summons informing you of the details of your preliminary hearing. If you’re considering getting legal counsel, this would be the perfect time to do so. Biased on the evidence available, your DUI defense attorney will be able to tell what’s likely to happen during the preliminary hearing and how you should plead.

Regardless of how you’re planning to plead – guilty or not guilty, you need to show up for your hearing. In some states, failure to appear in court carries a slew of additional consequences that can make things even more difficult for you. 

Charges and Penalties for First DUI Conviction

A first-time DUI is often classified as a misdemeanor and carries penalties such fines, community service, license suspension, probation, and court-mandated DUI education. Other variables, however, may alter the severity and nature of the charge, resulting in a higher or enhanced sentence.

Going to jail for a regular first-time DUI arrest is unlikely, but the charges can become more serious if DUI involved or resulted in the following:

  • Property damage
  • Serious injury
  • Death
  • Presence of minor in the vehicle

If there are aggravating circumstances surrounding your arrest, the court may upgrade your DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony even if you’ve never been arrested for drunk driving before. A DUI with aggravating factors will be harder to fight and could land you in jail. In such a situation, it would be in your best interest to hire an experienced DUI attorney to represent you in court. 

Consequences of a First-Time DUI Offense

The effects of a DUI conviction do not end after you have paid your fines, completed probation, or served your time in jail. A DUI on your record can have short-term ramifications and long-term consequences, as well.

Driving privileges

The most immediate consequence of a DUI arrest is the revocation of your driving privileges. Even if you aren’t convicted yet, your driver’s license will be suspended unless you take quick legal action.

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After your first conviction, your license will be suspended for twelve months. And, if you’re under 21 years your license may be suspended for longer. The whole time your license is suspended, you’ll have to rely on public transport to get around or family members to drive for you.

Career and Employment Opportunities

A DUI doesn’t simply go away. Even if you’ve completed the conditions of your sentence, the conviction will remain on your records and will have to be declared every time you apply for a job. Also, the majority of employers conduct a background check on their applicants and when they find out that you’ve been convicted of DUI, they might view you as a liability.

Auto Insurance

A DUI conviction makes you a risk in the eyes of insurance companies, so anticipate an increase in your premiums when you renew your auto insurance policy. Moreover, if you’re involved in a DUI accident and the charge is escalated to a felony, your insurance may refuse to reimburse you for your losses.

Financial Consequences

DUI offenses are notoriously expensive. For a first-time DUI, you may have to shell a thousand dollars for the fines alone. If the court requires you to attend DUI school or an alcohol education program, that’s several thousand dollars in additional expenses. On top of these, you’ll have to prepare money for legal fees, unofficial fines, and court costs.

Getting Help for a DUI Charge 

Being convicted of DUI is not a pleasant experience. The ramifications for your personal and professional life can be devastating. Still, not all hope is lost.

A criminal prosecution for drunk driving doesn’t have to ruin your life. With a competent DUI criminal defense attorney to fight your case and negotiate a favorable plea agreement or – even better – successfully obtain a dismissal of your DUI charges, you will be able to resume living your normal life with minimal disruptions.

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