The penalties for a DUI vary from state to state, but you might be surprised at just how much. A first offense in Delaware carries no minimum jail sentence and a three-month license suspension; in Arizona, you'll be spending a minimum of ten days in jail; in Georgia, while there is no minimum jail term, you will have your license suspended for an entire year.
However, what all states have in common is the fact that repeated offenses are taken more and more seriously. Almost every state eventually makes a DUI conviction into a felony conviction, some as early as the second offense. Becoming a felon is no small matter: you usually lose the right to vote, may be disqualified from government benefits, and will almost certainly find applying for jobs more difficult.
For this reason, it's important to always seek legal representation in DUI cases. Sometimes, whether guilty or innocent, people decide to plead guilty because it seems simpler – perhaps they have been offered a guarantee in exchange that they won't go to jail. But that DUI conviction is a first strike on your record that puts you one step closer to becoming a felon. And it's a mistake to think that DUI cases since they rely on "objective" tests, are unwinnable.
What If You Don't Think You Were Drunk: Breathalyzer Problems
Some people think of the number that a breathalyzer gives you as an absolute fact. But if you only had a single beer – or even nothing to drink at all – and yet a breathalyzer showed you had high blood alcohol content, you've seen firsthand that they are not infallible. In fact, some areas are switching over to using blood tests instead of breath tests for just this reason.
When your own perception of how much you drank differs from the results of a scientific test, you may remember the common perception that people tend to underestimate how much they've had to drink. But multiple scientific studies, from college students to social drinkers, have shown that most people actually overestimate how intoxicated they are. So if you think your breath test may have been inaccurate, don't ignore that feeling – hire an attorney who can make that argument in court.
What If You Know You Were Drunk: Rehabilitation Options
What if you want to plead guilty because you know that you were, in fact, guilty of drunk driving? The fact that you want to own up to this means that you're taking what happened seriously, which is good – drunk driving is a serious problem. This also means you are a prime candidate for a voluntary rehabilitation program or DUI class.
An attorney can make the argument that enrollment in a voluntary program should be taken into account in your sentencing, possibly reducing fines or jail time or allowing you to get your license back sooner. And while the amount of discretion judges and prosecutors have varies between states, some even allow first-time offenses to be "diverted" out of the criminal justice system entirely.Share