DUI And DWI: Punishments and Penalties

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A Road user who is convicted by a Court for the offense(s) of DUI and DWI may face hard penalties or punishment than mere payment of fines.

We have written extensively on How To Deal With DUI or DWI Charge but as with any other criminal charge, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a guiding principle of law in a charge of any person (a road user or driver) with the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI).

If guilt is ascertained during trial either by the defendant’s plea of admitting the crime or after a full-blown jury trial, the penalty to be awarded will depend on the extant law applicable in each state and also based on any maddening or aggravating circumstances for instance: the evidence of or presence of an open bottle containing alcohol or liquor in the car and/or the defendant’s level of behavior or cooperation with the police at the time of apprehension.


Jail Time For DUI And DWI

First Offences of DUI and DWI in all States of America are usually classified as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are criminal offenses punishable by a jail term of not more than six months. However, the jail time may be reviewed upwards under certain situations. For instance, example, the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08%, the extant law of some states provides and permits more severe punishments for DUI or DUI offenders whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of apprehension was principally high up to .15% or .20%.


Most states generally require minimum jail sentences of quite a few days for first offenders; while subsequent offenders may be punished by jail sentences of a number of months an up to a year.

There are cases of DUI or DWI that are classified as a felony; for instance, if the driver killed or injured someone or where the driver is a third or fourth DUI offender, the judge will be under a duty to sentence the driver to a jail term of several years. The specific sentencing will largely depend on the extant law applicable in the state and based on the discretion of the judge at the trial.

Fines For DUI And DWI

Courts are also empowered by law to imposes huge fines for DUI and DWI offences, and in some cases, fines and jail sentences may be awarded simultaneously, and same will not amount to double jeopardy. Fines for DUI and DWI range from $500 to $2,000.

Driver’s License Predicaments

A court order or mandate of the state motor vehicles department may suspend the driver’s license of a DUI or DWI offender for a considerable period of time. This is may also serve as punishment to deter the further commission of the crime.


In some states, first offenders are not usually punished with jail sentence of fines rather their license may likely be suspended for up to 90 days; a second offender’s driver’s license may also be suspended for a period of one year; while a third offender may have his or her license suspended for three years to deter the offender from being able to commit the offense in the future.

Some road users also refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test to ascertain their blood alcohol concentration (BAC), such refusal can lead to suspension of license irrespective of the facts ascertained in addition to any other punishment imposed by the court.

During a suspension, an offender may obtain a hardship license to enable him or her to drive within a limited distance for instance to and from work or school.

Other penalties that may be imposed on a repeat offender in some states include: restraining the offender from ever getting back on the road, confiscating the car or canceling its registration temporarily or permanently, the state may also require an ignition interlock device (IID) to be fastened to the vehicle of the DUI or DWI offender.

Ignition interlock device (IID) is a device that requires a driver to blow into a small handheld alcohol sensor unit affixed to the dashboard and can only start the car if the driver’s BAC is below the preset level which is usually .02% to .04%.

Other Forms of Punishment for DUI And DWI

In some states, there are alternative punishments and sentences imposed by courts on DUI or DWI offenders may include compulsory treatment for alcohol abuse, alcohol teaching and prevention programs,  assessment of a driver or road user for possible alcohol or drug dependency or addiction, and victim restitution or community service.

A judge may order any of these alternative punishments mandatorily in place of jail time or payment of fines in most cases for a first offender. The judge may also order any of these punishments along of combination with other penalties listed above.

For instance, the state of Texas, it is mandatory for a minor convicted of DUI to compulsorily perform community service, in adding together with any other sentence or punishment.

DUI And DWI Young Offenders

Generally, crimes committed by minors are usually viewed at law from a separate mirror, but this is not the case with DUI and DWI. The legal age for drinking liquor is 21 years in most states; therefore, a minor found to have consumed alcohol will be held to have committed a separate crime even if he/she was not driving when found.


A minor apprehended for DUI or DWI will not get reduced punishment, being a minor is capable of making the aggravating the consequence or punishment from the court. In most states, minors are punished based on lesser BAC levels of .02%, below the legal standard .08% for adults. The extant laws of some states may impose adult sentences on underage DUI offenders, and they may likely have their licenses suspended for up to one year.

Other DUI And DWI Consequences

Irrespective of the legal punishments that may be imposed by law on a DUI or DWI offender, the driver’s insurance company may also penalize him or her by canceling the insurance policy or significantly increasing the fees or premium due to the hit to the offender’s driving record. DUI and DWI charge usually stays on the offenders driving record for several years.

An insurance company may also cancel the insurance policy if a person’s driver’s license is suspended.

A person convicted for DUI and DWI may not be employable for some jobs such as driving for a corporate organization, school bus, delivery van, courier services or any position that driving is involved as part of the employment function.

Civil Suit For Personal Injury Cases

Notwithstanding all that is contained herein, a driver may also face a separate civil lawsuit if accident victims make a decision to sue for property damages or bodily injuries. You may read our article Court Room Expectations For Personal Injury Case for more details.

State Penalties For DUI and DWI

You may wish to find out the fines, jail time, and other penalties for DUI or DWI in your state, kindly visit: Drunk Driving Laws And Penalties By State for more details.


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