What Happens When You Get a DUI

Serious penalties, like losing your license and seeing your car insurance rates skyrocket, often follow DUI convictions.

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So, you got a DUI. Now what? What does it mean? What happens next?

For starters, getting a DUI means you were caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That’s what DUI stands for, in fact.

Or you were caught driving while intoxicated (DWI) or operating under the influence (OUI). These three acronyms — DUI, DWI and OWI — basically mean the same thing.

Most likely, you were caught driving a car or truck while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DUI doesn’t always involve a car or a truck, however. You can also get a DUI while driving vehicles like ATVs, golf carts and bicycles.

In this article, you’ll learn all about what happens when you get a DUI, including:

What happens when you’re pulled over for a DUI?

In many cases, a DUI starts when a police officer pulls someone over because their driving seems erratic or impaired. Then, the officer conducts various sobriety and chemical tests — such as the Breathalyzer, which measures blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC. These tests determine whether or not the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

You can still get a DUI if you’re pulled over for some reason other than erratic driving, by the way. As long as your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you can be charged — even if your driving wasn’t affected.

Do you have to go to court after a DUI?

What happens after you get a DUI depends on the severity of your case. In general, though, after you’re arrested, you have to go to court for your arraignment.

This is where and when you'll be formally charged with a crime. You’ll then respond to that DUI charge by pleading guilty or not guilty. You will also be able to demand a jury trial at this point.

Do you need a lawyer if you get a DUI?

You might want to get a lawyer to represent you in court for your arraignment, but many experts will tell you it isn't necessary.

You probably will want a lawyer to assist you after your arraignment, though. That’s when a lawyer or attorney can help you decide if you should plead guilty to your DUI charge, go to trial or ask for a plea bargain.

A plea bargain may be a good idea if it’s your first offense, as it could reduce your charge to something like reckless driving.

Another reason to consider hiring a lawyer if you get a DUI is that doing so can save you a lot of money. In particular, our research found that you could save as much as $4,000 on car insurance alone if an attorney can get your first-time DUI charges reduced or dropped.

Do you lose your license when you get a DUI?

If you're charged with a DWI or DUI, it's a safe bet that your driver's license will be suspended.

In most cases, the arresting officer will take your license and then give you a temporary one. This temporary license should remain effective until a court or the DMV makes a decision regarding your suspension.

If you don’t request a hearing, your license will be suspended automatically. If you successfully plead your case at the hearing, you may get your license back afterward. If you fail to plead your case, though, your license will continue to be suspended for some amount of time. The length of your suspension depends on several factors, including your BAC and any prior DUIs on your record.

If you refuse to give a blood, breath or urine sample when arrested, your driver's license will be automatically suspended, too. Depending on the state, this suspension will last for three to 12 months.

Do you lose your license immediately after a DUI?

Whether or not you lose your driver’s license immediately after a DUI depends on your specific circumstances. In most cases, the police officer who arrests you confiscates your license and gives you a temporary one. Then you can use the temporary license until your hearing.

Some instances where you automatically lose your license for drunk driving are:

  • You don't request a hearing.
  • You refuse to give a blood sample when arrested.
  • You refuse a breath or urine sample when arrested.

You'll lose your license in these situations whether or not you’re charged with a DWI or DUI.

How do you get your license back after a DUI?

The most common way to get your driver’s license back after a DUI is to complete an education, therapy or treatment program.

That said, completing one of these programs doesn't mean you'll be allowed to drive again. That's usually the case, but not always.

If you're convicted of driving under the influence more than once, you may lose your license for years. Or you may lose it permanently. This is due to “habitual offender” laws that have been passed in many states.

Can you lose your car because of a DUI?

If this isn't your first drunk-driving conviction, the judge may impound your car for a certain amount of time. They might even order you to give up your vehicle. Luckily, this usually only happens in extreme circumstances.

Such penalties are much less common than they were in the past. The main reason for that: ignition interlock devices, or IIDs. These devices keep drivers from starting their cars if their BAC is too high.

Are you fined when you get a DUI?

Yes, you will have to pay a fine if you’re convicted of driving under the influence. How much of a fine you have to pay after a DUI depends on where you live.

It also depends if you’re charged with anything else alongside the DUI. For example, you’ll pay more in fines after a DUI if your drunk driving injures someone or causes property damage.

Do you have to go to jail for a DUI?

You’ll probably need to spend at least a few days in jail if you get a DUI. Most states now require jail time for all DUI convictions.

If you’re a first-time offender, you’ll likely only spend a few days in jail for drunk driving. If you’re a repeat offender, though, expect your jail stay to last quite a while longer than that.

Something else you should expect to deal with after a DUI is probation. You may have to use a SCRAM CAM bracelet, too. These devices monitor the presence of alcohol in a person's sweat.

Do car insurance rates go up after a DUI?

You should expect to pay more for car insurance due to a drunk-driving conviction. You may even have to shop around for a new car insurance company. Your current one could drop you once it learns about your DUI or DWI.

That said, insurance companies don't all react the same way to driving while intoxicated. So, if this is your first offense, your premium payments may not go up very much.

On a related note, you might need to file an SR-22 form with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles following a DUI conviction. An SR-22 proves you have the liability car insurance coverage your state requires.

Not all states require SR-22 insurance after a DUI, but many do. If yours does, it will let you know by sending you a notice in the mail. Also, you won’t have to fill out and file an SR-22 yourself; your insurance provider will do it for you.

What can you do if your car insurance policy is canceled because of a DUI?

If your car insurance policy is canceled because of a DUI, compare quotes from insurers willing to offer you coverage.

If you're going to drive, you need to carry at least the minimum amount of car insurance your state requires. And if you need car insurance, you should pay the lowest rates possible for it. Shopping around helps you do this — even after a DUI.

How long does a DUI stay on your record?

How long a DUI stays on your record varies from state to state. In most states, a DUI stays on your driving record for five to 10 years. However, it may remain on your criminal record forever.

You will likely pay higher car insurance rates as long as a DUI is on your driving record. After the conviction drops off your record, though, your rates should return to normal.

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