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DUI Repeat Offenses

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DUI second offense and beyond

Being charged with a DUI second offense is a serious matter. While first-time DUI offenders are usually charged with a misdemeanor DUI, second-time DUI offenders are more likely to be charged with a felony DUI. Many states have mandatory jail-time provisions for second-time offenders, as well as steeper fines and other harsh penalties for DUI. The repercussions are even more serious for a DUI arrest related to an accident involving injuries and/or deaths.

As bleak as this might sound, an experienced DUI lawyer can help protect your legal rights. Depending on the details of your case, there may be any number of angles from which to approach your DUI defense. For example, if your rights were violated at any stage of the arrest process, the charges against you may be dismissed or reduced. To learn more, contact a qualified attorney for DUI legal help today.

DUI Sentencing Factors

The judge in your case will consider a variety of factors when determining your sentence. Depending on the circumstances, you may have been charged with a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI. In many states, there are pre-set penalties depending on how many prior offenses you have and whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

If you caused a car accident as a result of driving under the influence, this will also be taken into consideration, particularly if someone was harmed. The severity of injuries will also be weighed. A DUI second offense that led to someone's death may even be cause for a charge of vehicular manslaughter, or serve as the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of the victims.

Other factors include:

  • Impairment level
  • State law
  • Minors in vehicle
  • DUI in a school zone
  • Refusal to submit to breath test
  • Other "enhancements" or "aggravating factors" (factors weighing against the accused)
  • Mitigating factors (factors weighing in favor of the accused)


Misdemeanor DUI vs. Felony DUI

The penalties faced by someone convicted of driving while under the influence depend on many factors, one of the largest being whether he or she is charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI. Guidelines vary from state to state. In some states first, second and third offenses that do not involve serious aggravating factors (e.g., an accident in which someone was hurt) are usually charged with a misdemeanor, while in others the existence of "habitual violator" laws minimizes the discretion prosecutors and judges have to decide how a defendant is charged.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, it is very important that you do everything in your power to avoid a felony DUI charge/conviction, which can mean significant jail time — up to and including life in prison if someone was killed. For more information on the average DUI jail time, contact a DUI attorney.

Mitigating factors can include hardship, character references, military service and your willingness to participate in alcohol and/or drug classes and treatment. Your DUI lawyer can further educate you on some of the mitigating factors that may weigh in your favor.

Penalties for DUI Repeat Offenders

Due to the prior efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other victims' advocates, penalties for driving while intoxicated have become increasingly severe, especially for repeat offenders. Those charged with a DUI second offense or subsequent DUI offense face potentially harsh consequences. In many states, a second offense means automatic jail time. In addition, repeat offenders face higher DUI costs, license suspension (potentially permanent) and lengthy DUI classes. While first-time offenders may only be required to attend a few classes, repeat offenders may be required to attend DUI classes every day for up to three months.

Repeat offenders may also be required to perform community service, and in many states they can expect to have their car seized and impounded.

The penalties for those who have been convicted multiple times in the past are even more serious due to the increase in the number of "habitual violator" laws across the United States. Many states now have laws that mandate a felony charge for third-time offenders.

If you are charged with a felony DUI, you also face the prospect of a lasting criminal record and the consequences that brings. Having a felony on your record can affect everything from employment to scholarships to your right to vote.

However, in some cases judges do consider sentencing alternatives instead of jail time, including alcohol/drug treatment, community service, license restrictions and ankle monitors and ignition interlocks (a device that requires you to pass a breath test to start your car). It is critical that you contact an experienced DUI lawyer who can evaluate your case and who may be able to reduce the long-term consequences.

Civil Lawsuits

DUI offenders who have harmed another party as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should also be aware that the victims may file suit. This is separate from and in addition to the criminal case filed by the prosecutor.

If you are found liable for harm caused by your intoxicated driving, you may be required to pay compensation to the victims. However, the plaintiffs first must show that you were negligent (that you drove while intoxicated), that you caused the accident in question, and that the accident caused them harm. Your DUI attorney can evaluate your case and provide further information on civil lawsuits related to accidents involving drunk drivers.

DUI Lawyers

Though the consequences of a second or third DUI offense are lasting and can dramatically affect your life, there is no guarantee you will be convicted. If your DUI attorney can show that your rights were violated or that police failed to follow proper procedure, for example, the charges may be reduced or dismissed. A lawyer may be able to use any number of tools to help your case, from witness testimony to scientific and medical proof. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI second offense or subsequent repeat offense, contact a DUI lawyer immediately.