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DWIs and Consequences

DWIs and Consequences

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is extremely dangerous. Not only could you seriously injure or kill yourself or someone else, but you also face consequences that extend beyond short-term penalties like fines.

Understanding DUIs and the potential costs can you help you avoid finding yourself impaired behind the wheel.

What Is a DUI/DWI?

A driver is typically found to be driving under the influence when his BAC is:

  • At or above 0.08% (noncommercial vehicle all states except Utah).
  • At or above 0.04% (commercial vehicle).

NOTE: If you are a minor or you are on DUI/DWI probation, you may be subject to much stricter BAC standards. For more details on specific state standards, visit our DUI & DWI section.

BAC Defined

Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is used to determine whether a driver is legally impaired. A BAC level is obtained via one of 2 methods:

  • A breath gas analysis (breathalyzer) test.
  • Blood test.

There are a number of assumptions drivers make surrounding the number of drinks they can consume before reaching the legal limit. However, it's unsafe to assume how much you can drink, as a number of variables can affect your body's response to alcohol, including:

  • Your age.
  • Your metabolism.
  • Your body's fat-to-muscle ratio.
  • The rate at which you consume your drinks.
  • Whether you eat while drinking.
  • Any medications in your system.

Consequences of DUI Charges

Getting a DUI can cost you more than just the initial fine. You can face license suspension, increases to your insurance premium, mandatory treatment programs, and more.

License Suspension or Revocation

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), "50 states and the District of Columbia have per se laws making it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above a specified level". The District of Columbia and 41 states also have laws allowing license issuing agencies to suspend your license prior to any criminal action for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Once your license is suspended, you may face a number of requirements, including (but not limited to):

  • Payment of reinstatement fees.
  • Completion of a defensive driving training course.
  • Filing an SR-22 certificate (see SR-22 Filing Requirement below).
  • Reapplication for your driver's license, including the completion of the skills and written exams.

For more information, please visit our Suspended License section.

Fines and Fees

Court-imposed fines for a DUI conviction can be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Other fines and fees associated with a DUI include those for:

  • License suspension and reinstatement.
  • Bail.
  • Towing.
  • Mandatory driver's training.
  • Mandatory alcohol and drug treatment programs.
  • DUI defense attorney fees.

Jail Time

DUI charges often carry jail sentences. In some cases, you may even face a mandatory sentence for a first offense.

Depending on the circumstances leading to a DUI conviction, you could be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor. For example, some states will charge you with a felony if your BAC is especially high.*

Jail time will be determined by:

  • State law.
  • The number of offense (1st, 2nd, etc.).
  • Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony.
  • The severity of the accident (if applicable).
    • If injuries or fatalities occurred, extended jail time is very likely.

* The levels required for a felony charge will vary amongst states, but a BAC at or higher than twice the legal limit is generally considered as "very high".

Car Insurance Rate Hikes

Having a DUI on your license automatically leads to higher car insurance costs once your license is reinstated.

DUI offenders may need to pay for "high-risk insurance" if convicted of drunk driving. This insurance is significantly more expensive than a standard policy. Also, your car insurance company may cancel your policy after a DWI offense.

If you are seen as a very high-risk driver,you may be unable to obtain car insurance on the open market. In this case, you'll need to apply through your state's automobile insurance plan, which will be even more expensive.

SR22 Filing Requirement

If you get a DUI, you should expect to have to prove financial responsibility before you can reinstate your license. This proof is typically required in the form of an SR22.

An SR22, often called SR22 insurance, proves that you will maintain the minimum car insurance coverage required by the state for a finite time period (e.g., 3 years).

You will have to get your car insurance provider to file this form to the DMV on your behalf for a fee.

For more information, please visit our SR 22 Insurance page.

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