DUI Sentencing

There are three punitive measures for DUI that are common to most states: license revocation/suspension, jail time, and fines. Learn more about each of these DUI punishments and what factors play into sentencing for DUI cases.

License Revocation

License revocation or suspension is independent of criminal charges. If a person refuses to take a BAC test or fails it, they may face license suspension beginning at the time of arrest. Additional penalties may be imposed if the person is convicted in a criminal court, including fines, jail or prison time, probation, or community service. The person may also be ordered to participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program.

Licensing action is not always handled in a formal trial. In some DUI cases, state agencies review the evidence, allow the offender an opportunity to contest any action, and issue an order themselves. One type of action is suspension, which merely invalidates the license for a period of days, months, or even years. The other possible action is revocation, which actually strips the driver of driving privileges and forces him or her to retest for a license when eligibility has been restored. The District of Columbia and the state of New Jersey carry the strictest mandatory licensing policies for first-time DUI offenders: a revocation of six months. Both Alaska and New Jersey have the stiffest license penalty for a third offense, with a mandatory ten-year revocation.


Another common punishment in DUI cases is a monetary fine. Fines can cost in the hundreds and thousands depending on existing evidence in the drunk driving case and prior convictions.


Imprisonment is another DUI penalty that is commonly leveled for DUI cases. Imprisonment is determined through a court trial. Many states have mandatory minimum jail term sentences that can be as much as 72 hours for a first time offense and as much as one year for a third offense. However, the term for a first offense can be increased to months or years, depending on the circumstances. Community service can sometimes serve as a substitute for jail time.

Factors that Play into DUI Sentencing

DUI punishments can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Here are some factors that are considered in DUI cases.

  • Prior DUI convictions
  • Speed at the time of the DUI arrest
  • Reckless driving prior to stop
  • The presence of young children in the car at the time
  • Level of BAC over the legal limit
  • Refusal to take chemical DUI tests
  • Local policy
  • The DUI laws in the state in which the arrest took place

Zero Tolerance

Under zero tolerance laws, individuals under age 21 can have their license suspended for one year if they are found with even a small amount of alcohol in their system. If a person under age twenty-one is found to be over the legal limit of 0.08 percent, he or she can be arrested and convicted of drunk driving. Minors who receive DUI convictions may be sentenced as adults, but if given detention, they will spend it in a juvenile facility.

If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense, it is a good idea to contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help reduce DUI punishments in DUI cases.

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