Previously, we mentioned that there are both criminal and administrative penalties for DUI charges. Because license suspension is an administrative penalty, it proceeds separately from the criminal case. That means that an individual could still have his or her license suspended even if there is insufficient evidence for prosecutors to secure a criminal conviction.
In terms of the driver’s license suspension penalty, a first-time driver faces a suspension of up to one year, though this period could be longer for drivers who refuse a test. The license suspension penalty varies for drivers under the age of 21, though.
In terms of the criminal penalties, the exact penalties vary depending on the circumstance of the case. The age of the driver, the level of intoxication, the presence of aggravating factors, whether the driver cooperated with the DUI investigation, and the driver’s criminal history all play a role in determining DUI penalties.
For a first conviction, a judge may impose a fine of between $300 and $1,000 and imprisonment for between ten days and 12 months. Imprisonment may be suspended if the individual is placed on probation or participates in some other alternative program, unless the individual’s BAC was 0.08 percent or more, in which case a minimum imprisonment of 24 hours is required. Those who are ordered to spend less than one year in incarceration must participate in probation for one year minus the number of days of incarceration.
In addition to these penalties, those convicted of a first offense are required to participate in at least 40 hours of community service, though a smaller penalty of at least 20 hours is required for those who had less than a 0.08 BAC. Clinical evaluation and substance abuse treatment may be recommended as well. DUI penalties become progressively harsh with each subsequent offense, and penalties may be enhanced for drivers with a particularly high BAC.
For some first-time offenders, it is particularly important to work to minimize penalties to avoid, if possible, a permanent criminal record. Needless, to say, it is critical for DUI defendants to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their rights in DUI prosecution. An experienced advocate can help ensure an individual facing DUI charges is aware of his or her rights during the investigation, and that the case is thoroughly evaluated before a defense strategy is selected. If the case goes to trial, an attorney can help ensure that the government is held to its full burden of proving the criminal charges, that the strongest possible defense case is presented, and that a strong defense is made in the sentencing process, if necessary. With zealous advocacy, penalties can hopefully be minimized.