Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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The DUI penalties on driving records across the nation are extremely severe. No matter where you live, if you have a conviction for driving under the influence, you could stand to lose more than just your license for a few months. Depending upon the severity, you may never drive again.

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There is no such thing as a simple DUI anymore and if you come face-to-face with a police officer, you had better realize the seriousness of this crime. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for that matter is a major transgression because of the damaging and long-lasting effects.

Statistically speaking, there were more than 1.4 million drunken driving arrests during 2010; this is according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In addition, approximately one-third of those arrested, committed the offense again. They were repeat violators. Regrettably, these numbers continue to rise each year.

Because of this preventable crime, law enforcement officers and judicial officials take all types of measures to ensure safety on the roads in the United States.

Between mandatory spot checks and an increased number of chemical tests, virtually anyone can expect to see the inside of a courtroom if they decide to drink and drive.

Even if you think you are well below the legal limit to drive, you must remember that drugs and alcohol impair your judgment. You may feel fine, but your blood alcohol level or BAC, may be slightly above your state limit. This can land you in hot water, quickly.

Under the Age of 21 or the Penalties for Minors

In the majority of the states, the police force have no tolerance for underage drinking and a crime involving a motor vehicle only causes the problem to escalate. This is especially true since the statistics from Don’t Serve Teens.org shows drivers under 21 have two times as many accidents than older drivers.

Not only is the legal drinking age 21 in all states, but also, young drivers have less experience. Introducing alcohol into the equation only exacerbates the issue. They cause crashes and hurt themselves as well as innocent bystanders.

Depending on your state, you can face major penalties if you are caught with alcohol or drugs while driving under the age of 21. The first is the loss of your driving privileges and if you think you can avoid a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test, you are wrong; it is the law.

If you review the information on ImpliedConsent.org, you can see that you agreed to follow this law the day you applied for your driver’s license. Simply stated, it means you will allow a law enforcement officer to test your BAC if he or she feels like your driving compromises the safety of the public. If you refuse to comply, the problems get even worse so it is best to submit and deal with the results.

If you live in Pennsylvania or 40 additional states, for instance, you automatically lose your license for 12 months, if you refuse. This is in conjunction with any other penalties you receive if the judge finds you guilty. Law enforcement personnel refer to this procedure as administrative license suspension.

You also need to understand how long this stays on your driving abstract, which is your driving record. According to the American Prosecutors Research Institute, when you receive a DUI conviction, this remains on your record for no less than five years.

Most people do not have access past three years, including you. However, when convicted, these records are available to the officers of the court. In certain situations, car insurance companies and certain employers can also request to see your driving record past the standard three-year mark.

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First Conviction Penalties

Do not let the term first conviction fool you; they are still quite harsh. All drivers over the age of 21, who fail the breath test and receive a court citation, must appear before the courts within a certain time. Most times, it is better that you search for a public defender for these kinds of cases. After reviewing the information, they may try to ask for a reduction of the sentence.

In the state of Florida, for example, your BAC must not exceed .08 if you expect to drive after drinking. The penalties begin after this amount and include the suspension of your driver’s license for at least 180 days or six months.

You receive points as well. The numbers vary from two to four or more if your behavior results in multiple violations, which most impaired drivers cause. In addition, you could also face jail time if you endanger a minor.

Your driving record reflects all of this negativity for at least three to five years and you will also need to complete 12 hours of Driving Under the Influence classes. Each class takes an hour, so this will take about 12 weeks to complete.

Second Conviction Consequences

Each conviction leads to worsening consequences, especially if you cause major damage or injuries. Upon receiving your second citation to appear before the judge for a DUI, you may have major problems.

In Missouri, all two-time violators receive a license suspension sentence of 12 months. As you can see, this much lower than the state of Florida, so it really does matter where you live. However, they do not consider the time lapse between the two offenses after five years. This means, your first DUI could be five weeks or five years ago, in the state of Missouri, it all runs together.

You could also lose your driving privileges for five years. This means you may not reinstate your license until the full five years passes. If you attempt to apply for a license in another state, you violate the judge’s orders and receive a 90-day prison term.

Punishment for Three or More Convictions

If you commit three or more DUI violations and receive convictions for each one, the law sees you as a multiple offender. Your penalties will definitely cause you major hardships. This is primarily because you will more than likely lose your license for at least 10 years.

The number of points you receive remain the same as with any prior DUI violations; however, if you accumulate your penalties within a span of a few years, you may not have enough time to see some drop off before the new points accrue.

You could quickly go from two to four points to eight, 10, or even 12. If this happens, you could amass another suspension violation on top of the first one. This is how many repeat DUI violators entirely lose their freedom to drive.

In addition, multiple offenders do not receive the same courtesy of having their records closed after five years. In most states, the DUI convictions remain for 10 to 20 years. Other, harsher penalties can see the record open indefinitely. You will never escape your crime, no matter how much time passes.

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Blood Alcohol Content Percentages

Your blood alcohol content (BAC) has a lot to do with the penalties you receive, even if this is a first offense. By law, anyone over 21 with a BAC of 0.08 has impaired driving skills. After confirming your BAC, the police officer may also ask you to complete a field sobriety test. This is to see how badly your drinking affects your motor skills.

If your BAC is more than 0.16, they can arrest you immediately, tow your vehicle, and begin the prosecution process. This is more likely to happen if you fatally injure someone. If this occurs, you could lose your license permanently. Your driving record remains open and now, if convicted, you have a criminal record too.

Restoration Procedures

To restore your driver’s license and begin using your vehicle again, first time offenders must wait until the entire suspension period ends. You receive your notification from the Department of Motor Vehicles Regional office with specific instructions.

You cannot utilize the online method because you lose this convenience when you break the law. Therefore, you must report in person and go to a regional, not local office.

Upon arrival, you must present your notice to the appropriate person and wait for them to confirm your status. Be prepared with either cash, a credit card, or debit card for proper payment. Some states have license restitution fees as low as $45 others can charge as much as $150.

After they process your payment, they will add your information into the database and advise that you still cannot drive until you receive the official letter from the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you fail to comply, you could encounter problems with law officials and lose your license again.

Second, time DUI offenders follow the same procedures as the first time offenders, with one exception. They wait a longer amount of time. However, all of the other steps are similar.

Third time offenders must wait for a letter from the DMV, same as first and second time offenders. Unfortunately, their letter is usually much more different. Because of their repeated violations and blatant indifference for the law and others, they must appear before a judge.

This appearance is to make an official appeal for the reinstatement of the driving license. The judge can deny this appeal and cause the violator to wait as much as 12 additional months. If the judge grants the petition, the violator must still wait for the letter from the court before reporting to the DMV.

Receiving a DUI penalty is something that many consider a nightmare.

It can affect so many people, including your friends, family, and co-workers. You could even lose your job. In addition, you could seriously injure others or even cause a fatal accident while driving under the influence.

It is for these reasons, that you must consider your actions very carefully. Even if you only have two drinks, the second one could cause a situation that you will carry for the rest of your life. Instead, be responsible and proactive. When you know you will spend time at a bar or nightclub, prepare for your transportation needs in advance and leave your car safely parked at home.

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