What DUI offenses can someone be charged with
DUI offenses vary by state. The penalties also vary widely by state. However, there are some common DUI offenses that all states have on the books. If you are caught driving under the influence anywhere in the U.S.A., you can expect to face one of the below charges, or one very similar.
.08 BAC or higher constitutes DUI or DWI in all states – which will need a DUI lawyer
All states consider a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or over while driving a DUI or DWI. All states also have zero tolerance laws that apply to underage drivers. In many states, the zero tolerance laws apply if any alcohol is consumed by an underage driver. Others allow up to .02.
DUI or DWI
Whether you are charged with DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) depends on the state. Some states have just DUI. If you are caught driving while over the alcohol limit or while impaired by illegal or even prescription drugs, you face DUI. Other states draw a distinction based on the type of intoxicant.
In states that draw this distinction, DWI refers to alcohol-related offenses. Drivers whose blood alcohol exceeds .08 face DWI. A driver caught driving while on marijuana or cocaine faces DUI.
Can you be charged with DUI or DWI if you are not legally intoxicated?
Yes, in most states. If the police officer finds compelling evidence of impairment, you can still face charges, and need a DUI lawyer, even if the state cannot prove a BAC of .08 or over. These cases are harder for the state to win unless prosecutors can show that you clearly presented a danger on the road because of intoxication.
In DWI/DUI states, if you present a danger because of alcohol consumption but are under the .08 legal limit, you likely face a DUI charge. In this case, the penalty is likely to be less severe than with a regular DWI.
DUI/DWI first offense
All states charge DUI/DWI offenses with 1st, 2nd, or 3rd offenses. Penalties vary greatly by state.
First offenses are charged as a misdemeanor. Because of this, the defendant faces a maximum of one year in jail and substantial fines. Most states have no mandatory jail time for first-time offenders.
All states impose license suspensions on first time offenders. Some states impose a minimum suspension of 90 days while others require much longer suspensions. Indiana, for example, imposes a 2-year suspension. Many states allow first-time offenders to drive for work or with an ignition interlock system during their suspensions. Some states have additional sanctions, such as alcohol education classes and possible vehicle confiscation.
DUI/DWI second offense
These also fall into the misdemeanor category, so, once again, up to a year in jail and fines, but that’s not all. Many states impose mandatory jail or community service time.
All states have harsher license suspension penalties for second offenses. Some have very high suspension periods, such as Florida and Illinois, which have a minimum suspension of 5 years. Many states also disallow second offenders any driving privileges at all during the suspension.
DUI/DWI third offense, possible felony
In many states, if you reach a third DUI/DWI offense in a certain period of time, you are charged with a felony. For example, a third offense within a ten-year period often results in a felony charge. Most states charge a fourth DUI in a ten-year period as a felony.
Some states charge all third offenses as a felony, regardless of time periods, such as Illinois. Many states also have mandatory incarceration for third DUI offenses. In Illinois, for example, judges must sentence offenders to at least 18-30 months of periodic imprisonment. Periodic imprisonment allows inmates to leave the prison for a certain number of hours in order to work. Judges can also opt for up to seven years of traditional prison.
Many states regard aggravated DUI as a felony, even if the offender has no previous record. Several circumstances can lead to an aggravated DUI/DWI charge. In some states, a BAC over a certain level triggers this charge. For example, in many states a .08 constitutes a DUI misdemeanor for a first-time offender, but a first-time offender with a blood alcohol content of .15 or over faces aggravated DUI felony charges.
Most states also charge even first-time offenders with aggravated DUI/DWI if a serious accident resulted from the offender’s intoxication. This is especially true if injuries were involved.
DUI/DWI offenders who were caught while driving on a suspended or revoked license may also face upgraded, felony charges.
DUI/DWI offenders who cause a fatal accident face high-level criminal charges, even if they have no prior record. Most states pursue charges of vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, or criminal negligence.