Consequences of a DUI Arrest
Drinking and driving slams the brakes on your promise for tomorrow. It impacts every area of your life from the moment you are stopped by police and years into the future. A DUI (driving under the influence) arrest is a stark reminder that your drinking is out of control. If your drinking has caused you to get behind the wheel when you know you shouldn’t, it’s time to seek help.
The Legal Ramifications of a DUI Arrest
A DUI is also referred to as an OWI (operating while impaired) or an OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence) in some states. Every state in the US considers driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent to be a criminal act. If you are under 21, there are “zero tolerance” laws where you can’t have any alcohol in your system.
Flying Under the Influence (FUI) and Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and even riding a non-motorized vehicle such as a bicycle, or driving a horse and buggy under the influence can also get you in serious trouble.
What happens when you are stopped by police under suspicion of a DUI?
- Depending on the circumstances, you may be asked to take a breathalyzer (or later asked for a blood sample) and given a Standardized Field Sobriety Test on the spot.
- If your BAC is less than the legal limit, you can be released, but if it is at or above 0.08 percent, you can be taken to the police station. You may have to call someone to make bail or be kept in jail until your arraignment.
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If you are convicted:
- A DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the state and if this is a first-time offense. There is the cost of hiring a lawyer, court fees, financial penalties, and even jail time.
- You may lose your license for a certain amount of time or have your vehicle impounded.
- If convicted, you will have to install an ignition interlock on your vehicle. This device works by analyzing your breath—your vehicle won’t start if it identifies alcohol. In fact, emerging technologieswill soon see smart cars with built-in systems to detect alcohol on a driver’s breath.
- In some states, you may be required to install “whiskey plates” on your car. These are special license plates which identify you as a convicted drunk driver. While still being allowed to drive so that you may continue employment, it’s a red flag to law enforcement and those in the know that you are someone who could put the public at risk.
- You may be ordered to attend a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Program such as the Paradigm Developmental Model of Treatment (PDMT).
- If your conviction is a felony, you will probably not be able to possess a firearm or ammunition.
For specific states’ laws regarding the consequences of a DUI, check out the Governors Highway Safety Association.
The Personal Impact of a DUI Arrest
Alcoholism and a DUI arrest can devastate your life and the quality of life of those you love:
- A DUI brings feelings of shame and embarrassment to you and your family members or your employer.
- If you are a public figure, negative press can affect your career.
- Losing your driving privileges can put your job at risk when you have no means of transportation. If you drive for a living, this is even more critical.
- If convicted, your insurance rates will go up. With additional convictions, you may become uninsurable.
- More companies are conducting pre-employment background checks which include a criminal history. Most employers are reluctant to hire someone with this kind of conviction on their record.
- Some colleges or universities also conduct the same kind of background checks, which could limit your ability to get into the school of your choice.
- You may injure or even kill yourself and innocent people who are passengers or in another vehicle. Not only do you have to live with that guilt for the rest of your life, but a conviction of vehicular manslaughter or homicide means prison time.
The financial and emotional consequences of driving drunk are severe, but it doesn’t have to mean the end. Sometimes a DUI can be a wake-up call and spur you forward to recovery.
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Recovery from Alcohol Addiction
When you have an alcohol addiction, simply imagining the consequences of drunk driving isn’t necessarily going to stop the hold this legal drug has on you. Admitting you have a problem and seeking help are the first steps.
If you have been arrested for a DUI or convicted, this is the time to make that choice. In some cases, if you can prove to the court that you are committed to sobriety, it can help your legal case.
Turning your life around is going to help keep you from making the same mistake in the future, but there is more: Sobriety means living without the fear that you will get behind the wheel drunk. It means that you can make amends for the pain you have caused by driving under the influence.
What is most important is finding compassionate, non-judgmental treatment, because you know you can’t do it alone. Accept the help offered by a 30- or 90-day treatment program in a facility where you learn to understand your addiction and find your way to sobriety. Take that drive into the future, where anything looks possible.