Skating by with a slap on the wrist following a drunk driving arrest is fast becoming a thing of the past. In New Jersey and other states, lawmakers are listening to safety advocates who urge them to tighten the laws and heighten the penalties for DUI convictions. As a result, sentences that were optional or reserved for more serious cases are now becoming the norm.
In fact, time behind bars is mandatory in some cases, and judges have no option for converting this to alternative sentencing. If you are facing DUI charges, even a first-offense, you have a lot at stake and much to prepare for.
Common penalties for DUI
Your DUI arrest may have been a confusing and frightening time, and the embarrassment of the situation may not have hit you until the next morning. However, if the court convicts you of DUI, embarrassment may be the least of your worries. You may have to face the following consequences:
- The suspension of your driving privileges
- Hundreds in fines, plus additional court fees and other costs that could reach thousands of dollars
- Alcohol abuse assessment and potentially a treatment program at your own expense
- Special classes for drunk driving prevention
- Ignition interlock in certain circumstances
- Jail, which may range from a few hours to weeks or months, depending on the circumstances
If the court does not send you to jail, you will likely receive a sentence of probation, the terms of which limit where you can go, what you can do and with whom you may associate for the length of your sentence. This will make the total cost of your DUI even higher because probation comes with a monthly fee for administration costs.
It can get worse
If this is your first offense, you may be fortunate to receive the minimum required penalties for your DUI conviction. However, some circumstances can make things even more difficult. For example, if this is not your first conviction or if your blood alcohol concentration level is extremely high, the court may add enhancements to your sentence.
You can also expect your car insurance premiums to go up for the next several years. It is not unheard of for insurers to raise the rates of a driver as much as 300% following a DUI conviction. To make matters worse, some insurers may cancel your policy altogether.
All of these possibilities may seem overwhelming, and you may be uncertain about the best way to proceed. Fortunately, you have the right to reach out for legal counsel who can guide you through the process.