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If you are convicted of driving while intoxicated you face a range of serious penalties including jail time (mandatory in some states even for a first offense) fines (as much as $5,000 for a first offense), some form of instructional or educational substance abuse service, and perhaps some installation of an ignition interlock system … as well as an increase in insurance rates and the possibility of a criminal record.
A DUI often includes two separate charges:
- driving under the influence of alcohol to the extent it impairs your physical and mental faculties, and
- driving while you have a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater even though the alcohol has had no effect on you.
Although both offenses are commonly charged, those who are found guilty (or plead guilty) are commonly only be sentenced on one.
What's in a name?
Some states refer to it as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), others refer to it as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and a small group of states called it Operating Under the Influence (OUI). (We generally refer to it as "DUI" at this site.) The offense is also mistakenly known as "drunk driving" although that term has no official meaning and is a misnomer because you don't have to be drunk (or driving) in order to be arrested and convicted of a DUI.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Hiring an experienced DUI attorney always has its benefits — familiarity with the court system, knowledge of plea bargain details, and the ability to navigate complex administration procedures. It's especially important if you are a repeat offender. Even if you are convinced you should plead guilty, it is always possible that a DUI attorney may offer advice or counsel that could affect the severity of your sentence. Also keep in mind that if your BAC was between .08 and .11 (and there may be some question as to whether the reading was accurate) conviction is less of a certainty and a DUI attorney may be able to better plea bargain your case. For example, if you spend $1,000 on a lawyer to get a charge reduction and you avoid having to pay for DUI school, you'll probably break even on that issue alone. And if you escape a driver's license suspension, the attorney's assistance will be invaluable to you. (Another fact to consider is that in most first non-injury first offense DUIs, judges hand down a routine sentence that seldom varies from one case to another.)
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DrivingLaws.org offers in-depth information on DUI and DWI cases to help you understand what to expect. And if you're looking for legal help now, we put you in instant contact with drunk driving attorneys in your area.
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