DUI & DWI in Delaware
In Delaware, it is illegal to drive if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% (or the presence of any illegal or legal drug sufficient to charge you with a DUI).
The truth is how much you can drink and legally drive will be different every time you go out because how your body responds to alcohol depends on many factors. Variables such as the food you ate that day, how the drink is mixed, your physical activity, and the pace you consume your drinks will all affect your BAC.
The consequences for DUI are very serious. And remember, drug use and driving is also covered under DUI. If arrested and convicted, you will lose your license, pay fines, attend educational classes, and even go to jail depending on your driving record. DUI has emotional, social, and financial consequences.
What is a DUI?
When you get pulled over for DUI there are two main categories:
- Driving under the influence.
- Refusal to take the DUI tests (breaking implied consent laws).
You will be charged with DUI if you have a BAC over 0.08% based on the chemical test. A chemical test will reveal any alcohol or drugs in your system.
If your BAC is under 0.08%, the police officer can still arrest you for being under the influence of alcohol. .
In the Driver's Manual you learned about implied consent and your automatic agreement to drug and alcohol testing as part of obtaining a Delaware driver's license. Still, you always have the right to refuse testing.
The BAC test is the basis of most DUI arrests and without the test, arresting police officers may not be able to prove you are DUI. In the end, you will still lose your license if you refuse the chemical tests.
You can be charged with DUI when operating an OHRV or moped too.
Delaware DUI Penalties and Consequences
Administrative PenaltiesThe police officer arresting you for DUI will take your driver's license based on the criminal laws but also due to Administrative penalties by the Division of Motor Vehicles. In Delaware the DMV is permitted to suspend your license for a BAC above the legal limit or for refusing a chemical test regardless of any criminal charges you may also face. In either case the officer will issue you a temporary license good for 15 days. After 15 days, you won't have any driver's license, unless you choose to contest the violation through a Administrative Hearing.
If you chose not to request a hearing or the hearing does not go in your favor your license will be revoked:
- 1st offense: 3 months.
- 2nd offense: 12 months.
- 3rd and subsequent offenses: 18 months.
Refuse a Chemical Test
- 1st offense: 12 months.
- 2nd offense: 18 months.
- 3rd and subsequent offenses: 24 months.
If you chose to fight the suspension by the DMV you can request a hearing. You must request a hearing within 15 days of your violation. To request a hearing mail, fax or go to the DMV in person and fill out a Request For Administrative Hearing (Form 533).You can also request a hearing online.
Criminal PenaltiesDUI will cost you a lot of money. There are fines for the offense. If you hire a lawyer there will be lawyer fees for the DUI defense as well. The criminal penalties for a DUI are:
- Driver's license revoked: 12 to 24 months.
- Fine: $500 to $1,500.
- Jail: Maximum 12 months.
- Driver's license revoked: 20 to 60 months.
- Fine: $750 to $15,000.
- Jail: Mandatory 60 days to 18 months.
If you have a history of DUI you can expect to go to jail. Imprisonment is a real hardship for you and your family; this is a serious consequence for a serious violation.
As of February 1, 2015, anyone convicted of a DUI is required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed on their vehicle regardless of number of offenses. For more information on IIDs please call (302) 744-2508 DUI convictions remain on your driving record for 5 years.
If you are a first offender, apply for the conditional license under the First Offense Election Program.
Through the same First Offender Election Program, you can apply for a full license reinstatement. In addition to waiting 6 months after your revocation, you will need alcohol education, an evaluation, and a reinstatement fee of $200.To help refresh your driving skills and to enforce the value of responsible driving, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will ask you to take a driver improvement course. For a current list of driver improvement courses, call (302) 744-2508.
You must also schedule an evaluation with the Delaware Evaluation and Referral Program (DERP). You can schedule an appointment by calling (800) 551-6464. if you live in Kent and Sussex counties or (302) 656-2810 if you live in New Castle county or reside out-of-state. The evaluation is $150 and if you miss the appointment you will pay a missed appointment fee of $50.
How to Reinstate Your DE Driver's License
When you have the hearing, the court will explain what you have to do before you can get your license back. The exact requirements will depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, your driving record, and your plea at the hearing. At a minimum, to get your license back:
- Have had your license surrendered to the DMV a minimum of 6 months.
- Retake the driver's license tests (if applicable).
- Pay a $200 reinstatement fee.
- Complete alcohol treatment programs or alcohol education programs.
- Paid all fees.
Ignition Interlock Device―IID
The Ignition Interlock Device (IDD) plays a big role in getting your license back. Some drivers are required to have the device while others can volunteer for it.
So what is the IID and how does it work? The IID is a device that goes on your car and controls the ignition. Once the IID is installed, the car won't start without a clean breath sample. Don't try to outwit the device, either, because you could find yourself stranded on the side of the road.
Advantages of the IID program include occupational licenses, otherwise known as a hardship license, to help you get to work. As a DUI first offender, you can volunteer for the IID program and have your license back just 1 month after revocation.
Underage DUI and Possession
The drinking laws for youth are different than adults. If you are underage and convicted of DUI at the regular BAC levels, you will lose your driving privilege until you are 21 years old.
Lower BAC levels have consequences for younger drivers. The DMV has a zero tolerance policy that applies to all drivers younger than 21 years old. Off-highway recreational vehicles (OHRVs) are popular with young people, and you will need to remember that the DUI rules apply to OHRV and mopeds too.
There are fines and suspensions outlined in the Driver's Manual (Rev 2023) for underage drinking and driving. In fact, if you don't have a driver's license but are in control of a vehicle and have had just one drink you can be fined a minimum of $200 for your 1st offense and up to $1,000 for a subsequent offense.
Being inexperienced is challenging enough when it comes to road safety; don't make things harder for yourself by introducing alcohol or drugs. Designated drivers are a smart way to remain safe.