Do You Know the Extent of a DUI Charge?
Drunk driving has not only always been dangerous but also potentially deadly. However, in today’s digital age, where we enjoy nearly unlimited access to a seemingly endless amount of information, there’s simply no excuse for being unaware of the often tragic facts and statistics associated with driving under the influence of alcohol.
It’s been studied and proven time and again just how quickly we lose the ability to competently perform a complex action like driving even after “just a few drinks.” In 2015 alone, more than ten thousand people died in alcohol-related car accidents, or, to put it another way: one person died from drunken driving every fifty-one minutes. Broken down even further, according to a study run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every two minutes.
Still, despite the evidence, some, typically those suffering from alcoholism, might argue that driving while impaired by alcohol can be a victimless crime, and the worst that can happen is that they get pulled over for a DUI. Although drunken driving always has the potential to end in injury and death for not only the driver but also anyone unlucky enough to be caught in their path, the consequences of a DUI, while they might not be as well-known as the deadlier ramifications of driving while intoxicated, can be just as far-reaching, and affect almost every aspect of the rest of your life.
DUI vs. DWI
The first thing to be aware of is the difference between a DUI and a DWI. While the meaning is essentially the same, DUI is an acronym for “Driving Under the Influence,” whereas DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated” (or in some cases, Impaired). Depending on the state in which you get arrested, the terms can have different implications and therefore different penalties.
In some states, the two terms are interchangeable, or—as is the case with Florida—only use one or the other. Some states do differentiate between a DUI and a DWI based on factors such as drug or alcohol impairment, age, or the level of the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Typically though, if you are in a state that considers DUIs and DWIs as separate charges, a DUI is the lesser charge, indicating a lower level of impairment than a DWI.
The Cost of a DUI: More than Metaphorical
While the level of fines and fees involved in a DUI charge differ depending on the state, let’s use Florida, considered the 17th strictest state when it comes to DUIs, as an example. Assuming this is your first DUI conviction, you will be expected to pay:
- A mandatory 50 hours of community service that equals roughly $10 per service hour
- A fee for installing an interlock ignition device in your vehicle: $12
- A DUI program fee of $15
- A driver’s license reinstatement fee of $120
- An administrative fee of $130
- The cost of ten days of vehicle impoundment, typically $150
- Criminal fines of at least $500 and as much as $1,000
- If you had a minor in the car or a BAC at or above 0.15 percent, then it’s $1,000 to $2,000
So, the absolute best case scenario for your first DUI offense in the state of Florida will cost you nearly a thousand dollars. But that’s not the end of it, not even close.
When your license is suspended, you are generally required to notify your insurance immediately, since many states, including Florida, require drivers convicted of a DUI to get SR-22 insurance to retain any driving privileges or apply for a hardship license. And, if you attempt to conceal this from your insurance, you can expect, among other things, a hefty fine. In the state of Florida, the DMV requires you to carry SR-22 insurance for three years, and if you let the coverage lapse, your insurer will notify the DMV and your license will be re-suspended, forcing you to refile for an SR-22 all over again.
But even when your license has officially been reinstated and you no longer have to carry SR-22 insurance, your DUI will typically remain on your insurance record for about five years and consequently severely impact your premiums. In fact, in the first year after a DUI conviction, car insurance premiums go up an average of 94 percent.
When all’s said and done, even if your DUI does not involve any property or vehicular damage, you’ll still be paying for those drinks you had before getting in the car for a long, long time.
One Bad Decision, a Lifetime of DUI Consequences
If the damage done to your wallet is not enough to convince you of the dangers of driving drunk, there’s also the damage done to your record and your reputation. When you are convicted of a DUI, you will experience two types of punishments: the first is administrative and involves having your license suspended. While the length of the suspension varies from state-to-state, the average is at least 90 days if it’s your first offense.
In Florida, the minimum suspension length is six months, but in other states, such as Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, the suspension length starts at an entire year. And even when you do finally regain your license, you may be required to install an ignition interlock on your car, which is a device that works like a breathalyzer, measuring the alcohol in your system, and—if it’s higher than the programmed-in level—your car’s ignition will become temporarily locked and will be unable to start.
The second type of punishment is criminal and involves fines, parole, and some degree of prison or jail time. While DUIs are usually considered a misdemeanor, they can still land you in jail, sometimes for as long as a year. And if it’s classified as a felony, which it can be depending on the severity of the charge or if you have prior DUI charges, you could be sentenced to state prison for much longer than a year.
But really, the punishment for a DUI continues long after you’ve served any jail or prison time.
Well, many people may not realize, but there are two records that are impacted by a DUI conviction: The first is obviously your criminal record, and the second is your driving record.
Like most aspects of DUI penalties, the minimum length of time that a DUI remains on your driving record varies between states, but the minimum is typically five years, with the average being 10. After the requisite ten years, some states, such as California, allow you to apply for expunction and get it removed from your driving record, though this only applies to first-time offenses. However, in Florida, a DUI stays on your driving record for 75 years, and in other states, such as Tennessee or Alaska, it will remain there for the rest of your life, with no option to expunge it.
As for your criminal record, the conviction is there forever, and cannot be removed. And who can access your criminal record? Practically anyone, actually, but some examples of authorized parties that can and will be looking into your criminal record include:
- Credit Bureaus, if you’re trying to get a new credit card or even just having your credit checked while applying for a loan, a lease, and more.
- Landlords, if you are trying to rent a home or apartment.
- Schools and educational organizations that you want to enroll in.
- Employers, if you’re applying for a job.
- Countries you would like to immigrate or travel to.
That’s right, something as “simple” as one DUI can keep you from even just entering certain countries. Canada, for example, has an extremely strict policy when it comes to DUI convictions, even if it was classified as a misdemeanor, and can deny you entry into the country.
While driving under the influence may seem harmless to not only those suffering from alcohol addiction but anyone who decides to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, it will haunt you for the rest of your life, even if you manage to avoid an accident. It will affect your ability to get a job, get into college, apply for a loan, buy a house, travel freely, and so much more.
Avoid the Risk of a DUI
As you can see, even in the “best case” scenario of a drunk driving incident where no one is hurt and nothing is damaged, a DUI is plenty damage enough. There will never be a good enough reason to risk a DUI conviction, so you should do absolutely everything possible to avoid a situation where you might end up behind the wheel while intoxicated. Though some options include designated drivers, taxis, or Ubers, the surest way is to take alcohol out of the equation completely, especially if you are struggling with alcohol abuse. It will save your money, your future, and of course, your life.
And if you or someone you know is grappling with alcoholism, the best solution is to seek help now at The Palm Beach Institute, either online or by calling by calling us at 1-855-960-5456, where our trained medical staff is available 24/7 to help answer any substance abuse questions you might have. Admitting you or even a loved one has a problem is never an easy task, but it’s also never one you have to do alone. Let The Palm Beach Institute help you get on the road to sobriety today.