Getting behind the wheel of a car after having a couple of drinks – what’s the big deal? “The big deal” is that you are at great risk of ruining someone’s life – or your own – whenever you pair drinking and driving.
Need a little more convincing? Here are some of the potential consequences of driving under the influence.
In some states, your license can be revoked immediately just by being arrested for a DUI, not necessarily by being found guilty. Other states will let you off the hook for your first DUI arrest, but immediately suspend your license after every arrest thereafter. And still other states don’t suspend licenses based on the actual arrest, but on refusing to submit to a blood alcohol content test or driving with a passenger under the age of 12.
Confusing? DUI laws can certainly be head-scratchers because they vary from state to state. Just know that most state judiciary systems consider drunk drivers to be an immediate danger to the public, and until you have served your time or paid your fine, you’ll be yanked off the streets anywhere from a few months to a few years.
In some cases, you can get a hardship license that allows you to drive only on certain streets and for certain purposes, like going to work. But don’t count on this accommodation being given to you.
If you thought your speeding ticket was outrageous, wait until you get slapped with a fine for something even more dangerous. DUI fines are often in the $500 to $2,000 range for first offenses. These fines are associated with misdemeanor charges.
But if you make a habit of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, in some states, such as Oregon, you can face felony charges and fines of up to $125,000 after multiple DUI arrests.
Jail is not a punishment for most first-time DUI arrests. But with each subsequent arrest, jail time is certainly an option on the table, and in fact it is often required for second offenses. In New York, you face a minimum of 5 days for a second DUI arrest, whereas in Texas your second offense warrants a minimum of 30 days in jail.
In addition to entering a mandatory alcohol rehab program, you can be ordered to community service after your DUI arrest. In some states, community service can occur in lieu of jail time. Expect at least 30 hours of community service for your first offense.
When under the influence of alcohol, a person’s senses and perceptions change dramatically. That’s why drivers tend to weave all over the road and are relatively easy to spot by cops. The drunk driver may think he or she is driving perfectly straight (or speaking without slurring, or walking normally), but in fact the car crashes right into a telephone pole. Airbags and seatbelts certainly do have a protective advantage, but injuries to the driver are still a harsh reality to be expected in most accidents. In extreme cases, paralysis may occur.
The worst thing that could possibly happen while driving under the influence is a fatal car accident. But the drunk driver is least likely to die in such a crash, studies suggest. That may be a win for you, but at what cost? Someone else could die because of your negligence, and that is a tough burden to bear. You may also face involuntary manslaughter charges and subsequent jail time or fines.
Misdemeanor and felony DUI laws and penalties will vary state by state, but the charges are typically steep. The judicial system is set up to deter people away from committing crimes, and a DUI charge is no exception. Would you rather pay thousands of dollars to the court for reckless endangerment or call a cab to bring you home? The answer is simple. Don’t even touch your car keys if you plan to have a drink!