Fines and Penalties

In every state, the minimum punishment for convicted drunk drivers involves the automatic loss of their licenses for a period of time determined by each state. Additionally, some states impose short jail sentences for first-time convicts. The law in most states requires that offenders complete some type of treatment program.

Other possible consequences include:

  • Parole or probation.
  • Loss of auto insurance coverage.
  • Vehicle impoundment.
  • A court-ordered ignition device.

It is estimated that the minimum cost to a driver for his or her first DUI conviction in the state of New York is $9,500, with similar estimates made in other states.

More serious penalties are given to drivers with prior convictions. Many states have Habitual Violator Laws, which means that repeat offenders risk losing many civil rights, such as the right to vote or own a weapon.

The harshness of the fines and penalties are generally determined by the driver’s blood alcohol content level, whether or not people were harmed in an accident, and/or if there was property damage. However, the penalties that judges impose are determined by each state’s legislation.

Getting a driver’s license reinstated is a lengthy process once it’s been lost due to a drunk driving conviction. In most states, the individual has to complete some form of alcohol education program. These programs require much more than just sitting through several classes and taking a final test.

New policies make it mandatory for offenders to complete an assessment interview with a counselor before it is decided what steps must be completed in order to reinstate a license. The assessment interview is meant to determine the kind of relationship an offender has with alcohol.

Based on the interview, a counselor has the right to order the offender to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. An offender can be ordered to attend as few as three or four meetings, or, in more serious cases, 90 meetings in 90 days. It is also possible that an offender be required to attend a 28-day residential treatment program or detoxification program or undergo other medical treatment.

When charged with driving under the influence, or any crime related to it, impairment due to alcohol or other drugs is never accepted as a defense. Sometimes, it can be used as a partial defense, as is the case when there are murder or voluntary manslaughter charges. In this event, if the driver’s impairment level is so severe that his or her intent to kill is affected, then alcohol impairment can be used as a way to lessen the crime to involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. However, this defense is rarely successful.