Getting arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a stressful experience that can turn your life upside-down. You’ll likely need to spend your night in the drunk tank, and that’s just the beginning. DWI used to be a minor offense, but states have cracked down on drunk drivers, and it can now cost you quite a bit of money. There’s also the chance that your reputation gets damaged.
If this is your first DWI offense, there are a couple important things that you should know about.
1. Your Punishment Depends on Your State and the Circumstances Around Your DWI
Wondering what type of punishment you can expect? That’s going to depend on what state you’re in and the facts of the case. You can get an idea of potential punishments by looking up your state’s guidelines, but you won’t know for sure until you go to court and stand before a judge.
When it comes to the facts of your case, there are several factors that will play a role in how harsh your punishment is. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is a big one. If you were close to the legal limit of 0.08, the court is more likely to be lenient than if you blew a 0.18.
Your age is also important. If you are under 21, the BAC thresholds for a DWI are much lower at 0.02 in most states. You can also expect harsher punishments if you haven’t even reached the legal drinking age yet.
If anyone was injured due to your drunk driving, the penalties will be much more severe.
In any case, you can typically expect a fine and a requirement to attend classes on alcohol use, at a minimum. Some states also have mandatory jail sentences of at least a couple days.
2. Your Driver’s License Will Most Likely Be Suspended
Don’t expect to keep your license after a DWI, because your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is probably going to suspend it. You should have the opportunity for a hearing, and it’s in your best interest to go to that, otherwise your license will automatically be suspended. If you go, you may at least get them to delay the suspension until after your case is decided, giving you additional time to drive wherever you need to go.
You may be able to get a restricted driver’s license. This allows you to drive to work, school or other daily responsibilities. Another potential option is having an ignition interlock device installed on your car. This requires you to blow into the device before starting your car and sometimes while you drive to verify that you haven’t had any alcohol (you can hold the device to your mouth so that you don’t need to look away from the road while you use it).
3. Your Auto Insurance Premiums Will Increase
A DWI is as bad as it gets when it comes to your auto insurance. Your insurance company will either drastically increase your premiums or drop you entirely. If there are any damages as a result of your drunken driving, whether that’s an injury or damage to a vehicle, insurance may not cover that. The reason is that driving drunk could violate the terms of your contract with your insurance company.
If your insurance drops you, finding a new insurance company could prove difficult because you’ll be seen as high risk. There are insurance companies that will accept almost anyone – think of the insurance companies you see advertising on daytime TV. If you need to go with one of these companies, you may only be able to get liability insurance, and you certainly won’t be getting a good deal.
With all the potential penalties it carries, a DWI can have a huge impact on your life. You’re looking at fines, possible jail time, a suspended license and difficulty getting insured. You may want to start by finding a qualified DWI lawyer to prepare a defense or negotiate the best plea deal for you. It’s not a magic solution to your problem, but it can help.