What is the Most Common Penalty for a DUI?

After being convicted of a DUI, it may take a long time for you to recover from the penalties and stigma associated with a DUI.

Driving on the road while inebriated is a criminal offense, and even when convicted for the first time, a drunk driver will be severely punished. After a person has committed a drunk driving offense, they can expect fees, jail time, and more. It is beneficial to have a legal defense team supporting you while you are experiencing legal processes that could put you in a difficult position. After being convicted of a DUI, it may take a long time for you to recover from the penalties and stigma associated with a DUI. Speak to a DUI lawyer in Seattle to help you through this and learn more about your case. 

What Happens If My DUI Is A First Time Offense?

Unless there are aggravating circumstances, your first-time offense will typically be met with a common penalty that is meted out when you are convicted. This is a mandatory minimum penalty that can’t be reduced by the judge. The penalty is called a gross misdemeanor charge and has a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. If there are aggravating circumstances, this can change your sentence. 

Aggravating Circumstances

If you were extremely negligent during your DUI, your penalty might be increased. For example, if your breathalyzer test results showed you had a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.15 or above, this can enhance your charges. Other aggravating circumstances include the refusal to take a blood or breathalyzer test. If it is not your first DUI, this can also increase your punishment, even if your previous DUIs were reduced to lesser charges, such as negligent or reckless driving. Additionally, if you were convicted of a DUI four or more times, involved in vehicular homicide or assault, then you may also be punished with felony charges. 

Average Minimum Jail Time

In the state of Washington, the average minimum jail time you can expect after receiving a DUI is 24 hours to a year. This is entirely dependent upon the factors of your case. 

Fines And Fees

You will be required to pay a fine between $865.50 to $5,000. The cost of your DUI can go beyond that of court fees and can include the following:

Periodic Blood Testing: You may be required to take periodic blood tests while being monitored, which adds an extra expense to your monthly bills. 

Bail: A family member, friend, or partner may have to pay your bail for your temporary release while awaiting trial, with the help of a bail bond agent. 

DUI Education: The judge may require you to take a DUI course that you have to pay for out of pocket. 

Ignition Interlock Device: In Washington State, you will be required to pay for an interlock device that can be attached to your car to discourage you from driving drunk again. It prevents you from driving if your BAC is above a certain level and allows you to drive with a restricted license. 

Additional Expenses: In addition to these expenses, you will also have to pay for the towing and impounding of your car and alternate transportation costs while your license is suspended. You may also experience increased auto insurance premiums afterward. There is also the risk of income loss if your conviction causes you to lose your job. 

License Suspension

Your license will be suspended between 90 days to four years. This means you will be unable to drive your car for this time period and will have to reinstate your license when the suspension period expires. This happens if you were arrested for a DUI or if you were convicted of a DUI by the court. If you were arrested, you could have your license suspended from 90 days to 2 years. If you were convicted of a DUI, the maximum goes up to 4 years. Additionally, 45 days after the DMV is notified of your DUI conviction from the court, your suspension begins. If you are a commercial driver, your CDL license will be suspended. 

Criminal Penalties

A gross misdemeanor DUI can include jail time or house arrest. You may also be obligated to wear a SCRAM device, which is a remote alcohol monitor. In some cases, you might be required to get WA SR-22 auto insurance, which is a proof of financial responsibility certificate. Probation and other fines may also be required. 

Punitive Damages

Under Washington law, punitive damages aren’t usually given to punish a DUI driver. In some rare cases, punitive damages are allowed. For example, if there is malicious harassment, you may have to pay punitive damages. 

Compensatory Damages

 In addition to fees inside the court system, you may also be required to pay a settlement outside of the court or in civil court. This is only the case if you crashed into another driver, injured or killed any passengers or pedestrians, or damaged another’s property while drunk driving. Compensatory damages include the medical bills of the other involved drivers and any of their passengers. Medical bills can include the ongoing cost of any medical treatment required to help the victims recover from their injuries. You may also be required to pay for income loss. If the affected victims’ injuries were so severe that they had to take time off from work, you would be required to pay for their lost wages. 

All the property damage that you caused while drunk driving will also be included in compensatory damages. This is typically the cost to repair or replace damaged property. In most scenarios, you will also have to pay for non-economic losses. This refers to all the emotional turmoil that was caused by the drunk driving accident, such as depression, PTSD, and more. In the case of wrongful death, other damages can include funeral bills, burial fees, loss of consortium, and other damages to compensate the surviving family members. You may have to deal with several settlements if you injured many people, requiring your car insurer to cover settlement costs.

How Can I Recover From My DUI Penalties?

It can be difficult dealing with all of the penalties that weigh you down when you are convicted of a DUI. You can rely on legal professionals to provide support to you. If you need representation to help you manage the charges being placed on you, speak to an experienced DUI attorney who has in-depth knowledge of court penalties. Consult with a lawyer for free to explore your options and learn about what to expect during the process. You may be struggling with expenses, job loss, and other difficulties because of your mistake. However, you can overcome this by following the advice provided by your attorney. Reach out to a dedicated attorney to get started and learn about your next steps after being charged with a DUI.

Will Hopstetter
Will is an automotive market enthusiast living in the United Kingdom. He holds a diverse background in automotive and enjoys utilizing that to produce insights into the inner workings of the industry.