Not everyone views impaired driving offenses the same way. When compared with other traffic infractions, a driving under the influence (DUI) charge is arguably one of the most serious. But when compared with other criminal offenses, a DUI might not seem like a major issue, especially if the alleged wrongdoing in question is a first-time offense.
Yet, even in a technical DUI case where someone only exceeded the legal limit and didn’t cause a crash, a DUI charge can cost someone their license and possibly even their freedom. Jail time is possible even when a DUI does not lead to someone’s injury and when it is someone’s first offense. The risk of incarceration is one reason why many people choose to fight DUI charges, as they are at the mercy of the courts if they plead guilty.
Prior offenses and other factors determine DUI penalties
Every DUI case is unique, and the sentence a judge imposes will reflect both the accused person’s previous record and also the consequences of the infraction. For example, if there is a child passenger in the vehicle under the age of 14, the state can impose enhanced penalties for most DUI charges.
For a first DUI charge without any aggravating factors, a driver could face up to 12 months in jail with a minimum of 24 hours in state custody. Judges can sometimes waive that 24-hour minimum. A second DUI within 10 years could lead to up to 12 months in jail and carries a 72-hour minimum sentence.
A third DUI within 10 years of the first carries the same maximum sentence, and the minimum increases to 15 days. DUIs that lead to serious injury or death could lead to 15 years in prison. Although people often assume they can request probation after a DUI arrest, serving time in state custody is always a possibility.
Presenting a defense is usually the best option
Rather than pleading guilty and letting a judge determine what the consequences of a case will be, someone who has been accused of impaired driving could work with an experienced legal professional to construct a potentially-winning defense strategy. Reviewing the evidence that the state has and someone’s driving record can help them decide the best way to fight back against DUI charges.