You know that being charged with a DUI the first time is scary and can have long-term consequences. Not only will the charge stay on your record, but you may also risk losing your job, being unable to find another one, being denied admission to a school you are interested in attending, and more. You may also lose your driving privileges for some time and have other legal issues.
You also know you need to be a careful driver to avoid a second DUI offense but, despite your best efforts, you may be in that precise situation now. If so, experience has shown you that the first thing you must do is to reach out to an attorney who has experience with DUI cases. Someone who will listen to your story, gather all available evidence, and build a strong case for your defense. Here is some more important information you should know regarding second DUI offenses.
The Timing of Your Offense
Depending on the state where you got your first DUI, you may find out that you will be considered to have committed a second DUI offense if it happens within a certain period after the first offense. If many years have gone by since the first time, your initial charges may no longer count against you when it comes time for you to receive your sentence.
Talk to your DUI lawyer to understand the rules of your state and how they would work if your first DUI happened decades ago. In most states, ten years is the time needed between the first and second DUIs for the first charges to no longer be relevant. Again, refer to your lawyer to have clarity as to whether the timing of your first DUI will make a difference.
When you receive a DUI, certain factors can have a negative impact on your situation. Having a prior DUI is one of them. Other factors may be:
- Driving drunk in an accident that results in injuries
- Having a blood alcohol level above a certain higher threshold, which could be 0.16 instead of 0.8.
- Driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle
Any of the above will mean that you will be facing harsher penalties since it will be considered to be an aggravated second DUI. In many states, this turns the charge from a misdemeanor into a felony.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
It is common to expect a first DUI to be treated as a misdemeanor. However, regarding a second offense, you will be more likely to face felony charges.
By definition, felonies are considered to be much more serious crimes, linked to harsher penalties. Primarily, you might face heftier fines and a longer jail sentence. In the future, anytime you need to undergo a background check, the felony charge will appear on your record, making it possible for you to have to deal with tougher problems than if a misdemeanor was the only charge on your record. The problems you might face could include being unable to secure housing or getting a job. If you are divorced, having a felony on your record may mean that you will lose visiting privileges with your children among other consequences. A felony may also mean that you will lose your right to vote in elections and your Second Amendment rights.
Work with your DUI attorney to get as strong a case as possible for your defense. There is no time to waste and the consequences can be catastrophic.
What Are the Penalties for a Second DUI Offense?
Depending on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and the state where you live, you may face any of the following penalties for a second DUI. Keep in mind that all of these will be much heftier than if you were dealing with a first drunk driving conviction.
- Larger fines
- A longer jail sentence
- Longer time with your license suspended
- Mandatory attendance to an alcohol treatment program
- Obligatory participation in the ignition interlocking program in which you have a device installed on your vehicle that is there to detect if you are intoxicated before you even attempt to start your car
Again, keep in mind that the harshness of the penalties will depend on how long ago you received your first DUI and on the state where this happened.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
A considerable difference between a first and a second DUI offense is that you will face a stronger possibility of receiving harsher mandatory minimum penalties. The judge may have their hands tied when it comes to dictating the harshness of the penalties you will face if this is your second offense. This means that you may receive fines that are twice as large, jail sentences that are twice as long and more.
There are variations depending on the state where this happens but, in general, you can expect to spend a minimum of five days in jail, a one-year suspension of your driver’s license, and the mandatory use of the ignition interlocking device for at least one year
Your attorney is the best source of information to understand what penalties you may face and for how long. They will want to work with you to develop a strategy to fight the charges against you and to try to get you the minimum penalties possible. They will aim to help minimize the long-term consequences of these charges on your future.
You must get an experienced DUI attorney as soon as you are charged. There is no time to waste since building a strong defense takes time and it is important to gather all evidence. Also, it is essential to show up on time to all court dates and to make your best impression on the judge by your appearance and the way you answer their questions. Remember that your future may be at stake here.