You might have heard that the law goes easy on first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offenders. Unfortunately, even when the law does give some first-timers a break, the results can still be harsher than expected. DUI convictions and punishments are among the worst – particularly when you consider that the offenders are often charged with a misdemeanor. To get a better idea of what to expect with a first-time DUI charge, read on.
Losing the Right to Drive
One very common way of dealing with DUI offenders is to relieve them of their driver's licenses as soon as the arrest takes place. In some cases, you can apply for and receive a special hardship license that will allow you to drive to work or school and during certain times. Most of the time, though, you will be dealing with the department of motor vehicles (DMV) when it comes to your driver's license. Your license can be suspended for several months and up to several years, even for a first-time offense, if you are convicted of DUI, depending on your state. If you do get a hardship license or have your license reinstated, expect to pay extra fees to the DMV.
Nearly all DUI offenders are booked into the local jail, and the amount of time you spend there depends on how your city or county works and on bail. If you are arrested over the weekend or on a holiday, for example, you may need to spend a few nights waiting for your arraignment. At the arraignment, you can enter your plea and be informed about bail. You may need to phone a friend so that bail can be arranged. Once released, you must return to all court appearances. Unfortunately, if you are unable to pay the bail, you may have to remain behind bars until your court date arrives. As for prison time, it's not unheard of for first-time offenders to be sent to prison for a short time. The sentencing is often out of the hands of the judge, with mandatory sentencing guidelines dictating what happens. In most cases, first-time offenders might be sentenced to probation rather than prison. The jails and prisons are already overcrowded and dangerous.
Classes and Counseling
There is a push in some locations to address alternative sentencing for first-time offenders to keep them from becoming repeat offenders. It's an effort to understand cause and effect. Sometimes, the actions of the offender can come down to a mistake, and the DUI arrest alone is enough to make them far more careful in the future. Other programs address the issue of preventative measures by ordering the offender to get counseling, attend classes, and do community service. If you are offered admission into one of the alternative sentencing options, consider yourself lucky. Not everyone is admitted, and successful completion can clear your record.
Your punishment can depend heavily on the advocacy of your defense lawyer. An arrest can be turned into dropped or reduced charges if your attorney is skillful. Speak to a DUI lawyer about your case today.
To learn more, contact a criminal lawyer.