Whether you call it DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated), drunk driving is s serious offense, no matter the state. A DUI conviction can lead to severe consequences including jail time, probation, and a driver's license suspension.
There are two components to a drinking and driving charge. They are an administrative license suspension and criminal charges. The administrative license suspension takes place in a civil proceeding and involves your driver's license and privileges. The criminal charges occur in a criminal court and the outcome determines whether you go to jail, pay fines, or other penalties.
The first thing you face is the administrative license suspension. Whether your BAC is over the legal limit (0.08 percent or higher in all states for drivers over the age of 21), or you refuse to take a breath test altogether, you will lose your license, even before a DUI conviction.
You may wonder why you would lose you license if you refuse to take a breath test. This is due to your state's "implied consent"? laws. In order to receive your driver's license, you agree to submit to a breath test if a police officer suspects that you have been drinking and driving. Therefore, if you refuse, your license may be suspended.
After you are arrested for DUI, you have a limited time to request a hearing about your administrative license suspension. Your DUI defense attorney can tell you how long you have to request this hearing in your state.
The next step in this process is dealing with the criminal court. Unless you have had three or more prior DUI convictions, or you caused bodily harm or property damage, your DUI is classified as a misdemeanor.
Even if you are being charged with misdemeanor DUI, a conviction carries tough sentencing. The judge may sentence you to up to one year in jail, expensive fines, alcohol counseling and treatment, and community services. In some circumstances, you may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicles.
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