Have you or a loved one been charged with a first DUI? In most situations, a first-time DUI (or OWI) offense receives a lighter set of repercussions in an attempt at mitigating further problems. However, this also means that many who are charged with that first-time DUI may feel that it’s not worth fighting very hard over.
Unfortunately, just because a first DUI often carries lesser punishments doesn’t mean that you should accept or ignore it. In fact, it can have lasting consequences. Here are a few ways you could be impacted disproportionately by that first legal problem in the immediate future and within a longer term outlook.
How You Are Affected Right Now
Most first time DUI cases are handled as misdemeanors, but that doesn’t make them worry-free. First and foremost, you face the possibility of jail time. But even if you avoid serving time behind bars, the DUI will be expensive — including fines and penalties, possibly expensive mandatory classes, and fees for court ordered aversion technology. Any loss of your license will also impair your ability to get to work or school.
Extenuating circumstances may also elevate the DUI from a simple misdemeanor to a more serious charge, including a felony. For instance, this can easily happen if you cause bodily injury or significant property damage, if there were minors in the car, or if you are charged with excessive speed or reckless driving at the time of the DUI charge. Felonies in many states carry with them mandatory jail time and much higher fines.
How You Can Be Affected Down the Road
Even if you never make the mistake of impaired driving again, an old conviction — even just a misdemeanor — can continue to affect you. Some employers have a blanket policy, for instance, that bars them from hiring anyone with a criminal record of any kind. Others may specifically ban hiring individuals with a DUI due to it carrying a higher risk or liability.
Even a single DUI may prohibit you from obtaining certain work licenses, qualifying for scholarships, getting housing or financial assistance, or being accepted for more sensitive positions with current employers. And your auto — and possibly other — insurance rates will undoubtedly rise for the foreseeable future as you are deemed a higher risk.
Many states also have what are known as three strike laws involving convictions for things like impaired driving. Once your first strike is on your record, it may stay on there for life — pushing you closer to harsh penalties if you are ever charged with a related crime again. Many states with such laws include convictions in other states when counting strikes, so a DUI conviction in Illinois could follow you elsewhere later in life.
Where You Should Get Assistance
It’s clear that the potential fallout from even your first DUI conviction could last for years or even the rest of your life. Even if you can work around individual penalties, such as explaining to future employers how you have put the incident behind you, you will end up dealing with this one action over and over again
The best route, then, is to do your best to avoid the problem in the first place. A skilled attorney can help you argue the validity of the charge or negotiate the least disruptive charge possible in the long run.
At Daniels, Long & Pinsel, LLC, we have helped Illinois drivers and visitors navigate the confusing waters of a DUI charge for more than 25 years. Call today to meet with our legal team and learn how you can best defend yourself against a first-time DUI charge.