DUI Sentencing: Possible Punishments

A person who has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol may face a variety of penalties if a conviction is obtained. While a DUI is generally a misdemeanor charge, defendants may face felony charges if aggravated factors are present. Usually, this occurs if the driver has a history of DUI convictions, someone was seriously hurt or killed or the driver’s BAC was well above the legal limit when taken into custody.

How a Judge Determines a DUI Sentencing

There are many factors that a judge may look at when it comes to DUI sentencing. Depending on the jurisdiction, there might be mandatory minimums that must be respected. For instance, the state of Arizona requires a driver to spend at least 24 hours in jail after a first DUI conviction.

A judge who has leeway in determining a sentence will consider the facts of a case in their proper context. If a person was only slightly over the legal limit or has no prior record, some leniency may be shown. However, if a person has a lengthy record or shows no remorse for his or her actions, a judge could opt to implement the harshest possible DUI consequences.

In some cases, a plea agreement will be reached between the defense and the prosecution. This may reduce a DUI charge to a less serious offense. While a driver could still face a fine or other penalties, it may not result in jail or prison time. This might be a good way to resolve such a matter as harsher consequences can have long-term impacts on an individual’s personal or professional life.

Criminal and Administrative Penalties


A driver may face a mandatory jail sentence if convicted of a DUI in some states. For instance, New York may sentence a driver to spend up to a year in jail for a first-offense misdemeanor charge. A second offense within 10 years comes with a penalty of up to four years in jail. Drivers in other states could face similar penalties if convicted of a drunk or impaired driving charge.


Prison is generally reserved for those who have committed especially serious crimes. A person who is convicted of a felony or aggravated DUI might be sent to prison instead of jail. A person may also be sent to prison as opposed to jail if the sentence is for longer than 12 months. In the state of Texas, someone convicted of a DUI for the third time could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

License Suspension

In the state of Illinois, a driver may lose his or her license for at least a year following a first DUI conviction. A second offense could result in a suspension of at least five years. In some cases, a driver may have his or her license suspended for failing to take a chemical test. This is generally considered a violation of implied consent laws that have been enacted in most jurisdictions.

IID (Ignition Interlock Device)

An ignition interlock device does not allow drivers with over a specified amount of alcohol in their system – usually .02 percent – to start a vehicle. This prevents them from driving when they may be too intoxicated to do so. In some California counties, it is mandatory for people who have been convicted of DUI to have one installed on their vehicle. In others, it is up to the discretion of the court. Those who are required to have such a device are generally required to pay for it to be installed and maintained.


Probation may be thought of as a compromise that allows a person to be punished without the need to go to jail. While anyone can get probation in a DUI case, it is generally reserved for those who have no prior record of impaired driving violations. It may also be reserved for those who may have been just over the legal limit or who caused no or only minor property damage or bodily injury. Probation may come with stipulations such as not being able to drink alcohol or agreeing to a curfew.

Community Service

In the state of Florida, those who are convicted of a DUI for the first time must perform 50 hours of community service. Alternatively, they may pay $10 an hour for each hour of service that they owe. Those who are facing such a charge may be able to choose where they do their service or may be ordered to perform service at a specific location by a judge. In other states, community service may be a discretionary component of any sentence handed down.

Speak to an Experienced Drunk Driving Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified drunk driving lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local drunk driving attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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