Driving under Influence – Penalties and Punishments

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense, and associated punishments reflect this. The penalties for driving while intoxicated fall under the following categories, even if state-specific DUI laws vary.


Jail time is one of the most serious potential DUI repercussions. Whether the DUI was a first offense, the driver’s blood alcohol level (BAC) and how much it exceeded the legal limit, and whether the driver’s intoxication caused any deaths or injuries will all affect how much jail time is served.

A first DUI offense is considered a misdemeanor in every state and carries a maximum prison sentence of six months. Be aware that certain states have obligatory prison terms, which might last several days even for first-time offenders.

A year or more in jail may be required for felony DUI convictions, which can happen when there is death, major injury, and/or an extremely high BAC (two or three times the legal limit).


A conviction for drunk driving can also mean DUI fines ranging anywhere from $500 to $2000.

Driver’s license suspension or revocation

Your ability to drive may be threatened by a DUI. In many states, a first-time DUI offender’s license can be suspended for 90 days, for a year on a second offense, and for three years on a third conviction.

Vehicle-related DUI penalties

In certain places, a DUI offender’s vehicle may be impounded or have its registration revoked either temporarily or permanently. Additionally, the offender’s vehicle may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed by the court. Such a gadget monitors blood alcohol content (BAC) through a breath test and is intended to stop drunk drivers from operating vehicles.

Counseling and more

Some other options available to courts in DUI sentencing include the following:

  • Drug/alcohol treatment programs
  • Drug/alcohol prevention programs
  • Restitution of Victim

Keep in mind that jail time, fines, or both may be imposed in addition to or lieu of these DUI punishments.

Factors that may exacerbate DUI penalties

As was already indicated, a high BAC or someone getting hurt or killed might result in harsher DUI sanctions. The driver’s reluctance to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test might also be a potentially aggravating circumstance. Depending on the state, whether or not the refusal results in a drunk driving conviction, extra penalties may also be imposed in addition to the suspension of the driver’s license.

Be aware that those under 21 may be subject to extra DUI penalties, which frequently include a one-year license suspension. Some states specify lower allowable BACs for people under 21 than for those of legal drinking age, and many states have distinct crimes for underage drunk driving.

Other potential DUI consequences

A DUI conviction may lead to the following consequences in addition to those the judicial system imposes:

• Civil claims for accidents-related physical harm or property damage • Insurance companies canceling policies

• A significant increase in insurance company prices

• Loss of the chance to land a certain job, particularly one that requires driving

As you can see, there are serious consequences for a DUI, so if you are accused, make sure you are aware of all your choices before appearing in court.