What Happens If This Is Your First DWI Offense?

first DWI offense

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense that can have severe consequences. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest and the state you live in, you may face jail time, fines, a license suspension or other penalties. Learn more about the first DWI offense.

For example, if you are arrested with a minor in your car, the offense will escalate to a felony. Similarly, if someone is hurt or killed in the incident, you could be facing even more serious charges.

Minimum Jail Time

In many states, a first offense DUI is not necessarily punishable by jail time. Instead, the judge can sentence you to community service, house arrest or treatment for substance abuse as an alternative to jail.

At your arraignment, the judge will read the formal charges against you and give you an opportunity to enter a plea. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be required to plead guilty or not guilty at this hearing.

In most cases, the judge will opt to give a wet reckless offender informal probation rather than jail time. In addition to the probation requirements, you will likely be ordered to complete an 18-month program that includes DUI classes, group and individual sessions. If you are convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, however, the minimum jail requirement increases to one year. You will also face substantial fines and a permanent license revocation. This is why it’s important to have a skilled attorney on your side.

Minimum Fines

Even though DWIs are considered traffic offenses rather than criminal offenses, there are still significant legal penalties. The state may require you to pay fines, lose your driver license for up to a year and/or have an Ignition Interlock Device requirement.

Generally, first-offense DUIs are classed as misdemeanors and impose a maximum jail sentence of 30 days. However, some states have much lower maximum sentences for this type of offense.

In some states, a DUI conviction also results in increased insurance rates or the requirement that you install an Ignition Interlock Device. These costs can be quite high for a single incident of drunk driving.

It is possible to get a hardship license so that you can continue to drive to and from work during a period of license suspension. But that only happens if you request a hearing (with the help of an experienced attorney) within 20 days of your arrest and the hearing examiner rules in your favor.

Minimum Ignition Interlock Device Requirement

Most states require the installation of an ignition interlock device for convicted drunk drivers who are given restricted or full driving privileges. This requirement is typically imposed with higher consideration on first offenders who have high BAC levels or multiple prior offenses as a deterrent to repeat drunk driving offences and those with alcohol use disorder (AUD).

New York law requires all convicted offenders to install an ignition interlock device in every vehicle they own, operate or will drive including employer-owned vehicles. The device must remain installed for a period of time set forth by the court.

If you are a first offender, the court may allow you to choose to install an ignition interlock device in lieu of part of your jail sentence. If you choose to do so, the device must be installed in all vehicles that you own, operate or drive for one year from the date of your license suspension/revocation. Tampering with the device is a crime and can result in your ignition interlock requirement being extended for six months.

Minimum License Suspension

Even a first time DUI offense can result in significant administrative and court-imposed penalties. One of the most common penalties that results from a DWI conviction is license suspension or revocation. Generally, the accused is given notice of their license being suspended at the arraignment and must request a hearing to contest the suspension. If they do not contest the suspension, they will likely have their driver’s license revoked for a period of 180 days to two years.

The court can also impose other penalties including a fine and the requirement to enroll in an alcohol/drug abuse program or treatment if the screening indicates substance abuse or dependency. The court can also require victims impact programs and mandatory attendance at VIP sessions.

Individuals convicted of refusing a chemical test or driving under the influence of drugs are charged a civil penalty of $500 and must pay this fine every year until they can have their license reinstated. These penalties and fees can add up to a significant amount of money.