Most people understand that a DWI charge is not good news – but many underestimate the ways in which a conviction will negatively impact their lives.
The only way to ensure that a DWI charge does not end up affecting your finances, your freedom, and your career is to ensure that a good DWI lawyer gets you off the charges, such as the attorneys at Trey Porter Law.
While penalties do vary from state to state in the U.S., be prepared for the following negative consequences.
A real possibility of jail time
While first offenders are unlikely to serve jail time, you may be forced to spend a day or two behind bars, depending on the state you are arrested in.
Increasingly harsher penalties mean that offenders are taught a lesson with a mandatory one or two days (often at the weekend) in prison.
For repeat offenders (even for a second offense), a custodial sentence is more likely and even mandatory in some states. It could mean weeks or months behind bars – more if there are aggravating circumstances. This is why it is important to spot the signs of alcohol abuse early on and get the necessary help.
A hefty fine
A DWI conviction will almost certainly come with a hefty fine to pay (in addition to court costs), regardless of the state you’re charged in.
Even for a first-time offense, this can be thousands of dollars – maximums and minimums usually apply.
However, with aggravating circumstances such as damaged property or a child being in the car, these fines will be higher.
Loss of driver’s license
In some states, your driver’s license may be suspended while you’re still on the side of the road talking to the arresting officers – if you refuse a field sobriety test, for instance.
Whether or not that happens, a conviction will certainly see the loss of your license for at least a year – perhaps more. Again, the length of the driving ban is likely to increase with the number of DWI convictions.
Some states offer a “hardship license”. This allows you to drive to work or school even if your license is revoked or suspended – but with very limited driving privileges.
Use of an ignition device
The ignition “interlock” device is a popular tool used by the courts to prevent people from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Even first-time offenders can be ordered to install it.
The device conducts an alcohol breath test and ensures that if you have been drinking you cannot drive the vehicle. Additionally, if alcohol is detected, the authorities will be alerted and you may face more problems.
Note that you will be liable for the considerable fees associated with installing the device.
Paying for probation
Probation is preferable, of course, to a jail sentence.
However, some people don’t realize that the costs of probation (for instance, the monthly administrative and supervisory costs) must be met by the defendant.
This is another cost to be borne as a result of a DWI.
Drink-driving awareness education
Often, as part of a more lenient sentence handed down by the judge, people convicted of DWI are ordered to attend drink-driving awareness classes.
Most states also require people to attend classes in alcohol and drug education before their license and driving privileges are returned.
You must pay for these classes out of your own pocket and they may last for many hours in total – again impacting your finances and your freedom.
Your employment prospects
Even a DWI charge can result in consequences with your employer.
If you are convicted, it is almost certain to impact your working life – whether you commute to work or rely on a vehicle to perform your job (traveling salesman, delivery driver, etc.).
For others, the negative reputation that may come with a DWI conviction can be difficult to bear and cause stress for you as an employee.
You may also have to disclose your DWI as a criminal conviction on future job applications –severely jeopardizing your chances.
Higher education institutions may check criminal records before awarding scholarships.
If you have a DWI showing on your record (particularly if there is more than one), it can preclude you from earning a scholarship even if you are a star student – or it can even mean you lose the scholarship you have already been awarded.
The higher cost of auto insurance
An SR-22 is a special insurance policy for people classed as “high-risk”.
As a DWI offender, you will be classified in this bracket, meaning your premiums will be considerably higher (double or triple), adding again to the long-term financial burden of a DWI.
This insurance will usually be required for three years and your choices of policies may be very limited.
A potential civil lawsuit
If your DWI caused death or injury to another party, there is the real prospect of a civil lawsuit in addition to the criminal charges and the feelings of guilt you must live with.
This can have further life-changing consequences, requiring payment of damages and a lengthy court process that can negatively impact your life in many ways.
Short and long-term impact on your life
The fallout from a DWI conviction is serious and can be catastrophic in some cases.
It can impact your immediate future and further ahead too, affecting not only you but those around you.
The mounting expenses, restrictions of freedom, and detrimental effects on your career make it essential to seek an experienced attorney as soon as possible after being charged with DWI in the U.S.