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Is A DUI A Criminal Offense?

A DUI is a criminal offense in most states, rather than just a civil or traffic offense. This means that a DUI charge can result in hefty fines around $1500 or $2500, alcohol assessment and training, a permanent criminal record, probation, and prison time. Only a few states such as New Jersey or Wisconsin consider DUIs a traffic offense.

Reportedly, each day 37 people die in the US due to drunk driving crashes, according to the NHTSA. In 2023, there were over 10,000 fatalities in the US involving drunk driving motor vehicle crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths.

For these reasons, state laws take DUI offenses very seriously, and some juries may have harsher opinions on the case, but there are many factors which go into DUI cases that a jury may not consider.

Accidents do happen, and second chance laws exist for that very reason. A felony charge, especially, can create turmoil that follows a person their whole life, and affects their families and friends with it. 

If you have been convicted or charged with misdemeanor or felony DUI, contact a criminal defense attorney to fight for a reduced sentence. Anderson & Ackerman in St. Petersburg, FL is a law firm ready to defend your rights and help you deal with DUI consequences.

DUI Criminal Offense

What Is A Dui Offense?

A DUI stands for driving under the influence whereas DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. There is a subtle, but distinct difference between the two.

Under DUI laws, influence includes substances such as alcohol, drugs, sleeping enhancers, performance enhancers, or anything that may interfere with a driver’s ability. DWI laws could refer to a more dangerous level of influence by using the term intoxication, but both can be interchangeable in some states and both refer to impaired driving.

Drunk driving in particular is measured through a person’s Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC), and driving with anything more than 0.8 grams of alcohol per deciliter is illegal. An offender is subject to a breathalyzer test that determines their BAC. 

Anything over the 0.08% limit could lead to criminal charges in most states. 

What are the potential consequences of a DUI conviction?

Each state contains different laws on DUI and DWI offenses that largely depend on the degree of damage and how many times one commits the crime. First time offenders in some days may only get a misdemeanor, or simply a civil infraction. While repeat offenders can often be faced with steeper legal implications.

A felony DUI conviction can lead to your license being suspended or revoked entirely, and you may not be able to legally obtain certain licenses, such as a gun license.

Commonly, a driver’s license could be suspended for 90 days or more. There may often be driving course requirements or an installation of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) or other devices that may require a driver to blow into a mouthpiece before starting a vehicle to test the driver’s BAC level.

There can also be enhanced DUI penalties for exceptionally high BAC rates in some states.

Penalties for first-time DUI offenders

As stated before, a 1st offense DUI may only be a charge for misdemeanor. The maximum amount of jail time a first offender could face is up to six months in jail, but this is only in certain states or if there was a prior criminal record, or a few days of jail time served previously for other offenses.

For the most part, misdemeanors are not a harsh penalty and usually are issued when the offense in question was accidental or if the damages were not as severe.

Diversion programs are sometimes an option for offenders that involve repeated drug and alcohol evaluations as well as counseling. These are not made available for charges where the BAC levels were exceedingly high or if it involved a commercial driver’s license and vehicle. But these programs are helpful to get charges dismissed altogether so they do not show on a permanent record.

Most times, you can negotiate a plea bargain after a 1st time DUI arrest. This would mean an offender can admit guilt to a lesser offense for a less severe penalty, such as reckless driving charges instead of drunk driving.

If you do not want to admit guilt, the case may end up going to trial and leaving the verdict up to a judge and jury. 

Dealing with a DUI criminal record

If you are a repeat DUI offender, there may be harsher penalties or sentences, such as a two year driver’s license suspension or fines ranging closer to $3000, or up to a year of jail time. Driving with a suspended license is classified as a misdemeanor in most states as well, leading to additional fines and increased suspension.

Many states use a points system that is placed on your driving record. In certain states, as many as 14 points can be added to your record for being guilty of DUI. 

The legal repercussions of drunk or intoxicated driving only begin to increase in severity the more times an offender is arrested and convicted.

Do I need an attorney if I was arrested for DUI?

Having a DUI attorney by your side is the best chance of reducing your sentence or getting your case dismissed altogether. A criminal defense lawyer will evaluate your case and interview witnesses to paint a clearer picture of the incident.

Our law firm specializes in defending criminal cases and forcing dismissals. Contact us at Anderson & Ackerman to find a St. Pete DUI lawyer for you.

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