When you've gotten arrested and charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) offense, you may worry about your options. Many people tend to assume that roadside sobriety tests and breath tests are infallible. Concern about that sentiment among jurors or people you know may make you feel like pleading guilty is your best choice. In reality, a guilty plea leaves you at the mercy of the court.
When it comes to DUI offenses, even if you don't have a previous criminal record, you could face the maximum penalties. Judges tend to view DUI offenses as social crimes and their punishments as social statements. Even if no one got hurt, the nature of your offense is that you placed other people in danger with your decisions. The judge wants to make a point to keep you and others who hear about your case from making the same mistake and endangering others on the road.
DUI penalties can cost you a lot
The more previous offenses you have on your record, the worse the penalties will be for your DUI charge. The same is true for the amount of alcohol in your body. The higher your blood alcohol content (BAC), the more serious the potential penalties you face. Any BAC of 0.08 percent or greater is considered chemical evidence of impairment. If your BAC is over 0.16 percent, you could face additional charges or penalties.
Your first offense carries loss of your license for a year and the potential for steep fines. You could face additional charges if your BAC is .016 percent or higher, including a fine of $500 and at least 100 hours of community service. A second offense carries at least five days in jail or 240 hours of community service and loss of your license for five years if your previous offense was in the last 20 years. Third DUIs become felony charges and result in the loss of your license for at least 10 years.
A DUI can impact your social and professional life
If you think pleading guilty will protect you from social and professional fallout, think again. Without your license, you will be stuck using taxis, Uber or public transportation to get to and from work. Combine that with time missed for court and your employer could decide to show you the door.
Your friends and family relationships could change as well. People may be less likely to get in a car with you after a DUI conviction or guilty plea, even after you get your license back. Worse yet, you may not find yourself getting invited to social events where alcohol gets served. Typically, your best option is to review your situation and see if a defense is possible against your DUI charges.