What Happens When You Get A DUI?- 2024 Guide

You may have watched a TV show or movie where a driver is charged with a DUI. There always seems to be a lot of yelling and confusion before the driver is shoved into the back of a police officer’s car.

Real life is not as exciting as life portrayed on the big screen. The following article separates fact from fiction to give you a clear picture of what to expect if you find yourself with a DUI. We will go over the legal definition of a DUI, the process of being charged with a DUI, the potential penalties, and other aspects of the DUI charge.

What is a DUI?

Driving under the influence, a DUI is a criminal offense. Under the influence refers to drugs and/or alcohol. If the blood alcohol content (BAC) level is at or above 0.08%, the driver can be charged with a DUI. This percentage is the legal limit determined by each state. Drugs include both prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as illegal substances. Many medications come with warnings not to drive while taking them. The reason for this is because it can lead to unsafe driving. Therefore, it still falls under the category of a DUI.

As an aside, a driver does not need to hit an individual or property to be charged with a DUI. A police officer can pull over a driver if they are driving erratically as though they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What is an OUI or DWI? Are they the same as a DUI?

OUI stands for Operating Under the Influence. It has the same definition as a DUI, however, the terms are not interchangeable. Some states name the action of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol as a DUI or an OUI, but not both.

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired. In certain states, DWI has the same definition as a DUI and an OUI. In some states, a DWI charge is more severe than a DUI; in some states, it is a lesser charge.

Check your state’s local laws to learn which term is used for driving under the influence.

What does “driving” include?

Driving includes operating a motor vehicle, whether it’s a two-car convertible or a twelve-seater van. In many states, a driver can be charged with a DUI while riding a bicycle.

What about my driving would cause an officer to reasonably believe that I was driving drunk?

There are a few signs that a person is driving drunk or under the influence of a substance. Some of these include:

  1. Ignoring stop signs and stop lights.
  2. Making exaggerated turns.
  3. Driving at night without the headlights on.
  4. Driving erratically and potentially hitting another vehicle.

What happens when you get a DUI?

The following is the process of what happens when a driver gets a DUI.

  1. A police officer will pull over the driver. The officer will ask for the driver’s license and registration.
  2. The officer will then perform a Field Sobriety Test and test the driver’s BAC. The Field Sobriety Test tests physical coordination. The BAC level determines whether the driver is considered to be legally impaired or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. If the driver fails these tests, the officer will arrest the driver.
  3. The driver will be taken to the police station. The driver will be processed and brought to jail. The severity of the DUI charge will determine the amount in which bail will be set at. Some of the considerations taken include whether this was the first offense, the injuries or damages caused by the driver, as well as other factors.
  4. The driver will receive a court date in which they must appear for trial. The driver can hire a criminal defense attorney to represent them in court. The attorney can walk the driver through the court process as well as argue on behalf of the driver in front of the judge and jury. The driver can plead guilty and avoid going to trial.
  5. At the trial, the driver will either be found “guilty” or “not guilty” of the crime. If the driver is found to be guilty, they will receive a penalty determined by the judge. If the driver is found to be not guilty, the driver can walk away without receiving a penalty.

Criminal Defense Tips

The following are steps you should take after the police officer pulls you over on the suspicion that you have been driving under the influence:

  1. Listen to the officer and take any tests prescribed. Refusing to take the Field Sobriety Test or the BAC test will not lead to a favorable outcome. Resisting arrest will also lead to more issues later.
  2. It is recommended that you contact an attorney or someone who can hire an attorney on your behalf. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can receive the assistance of a Public Defender.
  3. If you have a dash cam, be sure to review the footage with your attorney.
  4. Write down everything you remember about the pre-arrest, arrest, and post-arrest.
  5. Properly prepare for court. Dress well and make arrangements to make the day go as smoothly as possible.

Is a DUI a misdemeanor or a felony?

There are several factors taken into consideration to make this determination. Some of these factors include the state’s laws, the number of prior DUI convictions the driver has had in the past, and the BAC level of the driver at the time of the arrest.

what happens when you get a dui for the first-time

What are the penalties if one is convicted of a DUI?

Be prepared to live life differently than you had prior to getting behind the wheel while under the influence. Getting a DUI affects your social life as well as your personal life. The following are some of the punishments a person can receive if someone is convicted of a DUI:

  1. You may have your driving privileges suspended or lose your driver’s license.
  2. Most states impose a fine. The fine is used to disincentivize the crime as well as pay for any damages or injuries caused by the driver.
  3. The driver may be required to serve a probationary period in which the driver cannot receive a DUI or commit other crimes during that time period. Breaking the probation can lead to a stricter sentence.
  4. The driver may need to serve the community by performing a certain number of community service hours.
  5. The driver may be sentenced to a short period in jail. Depending on the number of offenses, this sentence can be one to two days up to a month.
  6. The driver may need to attend a program and be evaluated for their alcohol use. The judge may require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device which is a BAC test taken every time the driver attempts to drive.

In addition to the court-decreed penalty, what are some of the personal ramifications of a DUI conviction?

  1. The driver’s auto insurance rate may go up.
  2. The driver will inevitably lose wages from needing to attend pre-trial meetings and trials.
  3. Cost of hiring an attorney and paying court fees.
  4. Emotional costs if the driver injures a person or damages property.

What happens when you get a DUI for the first time?

Whatever the reason a driver decides to get behind the wheel while under the influence, there are a few things to know after receiving a DUI for the first time.

  1. Depending on the amount of alcohol or drugs in the person’s system at the time of the arrest as well as any damages or injuries caused to people and property, the penalty for a first DUI exists on a sliding scale.
  2. The penalty for a first offense will typically include probation, community service, and a fine. You may lose your driver’s license for up to a year. Some states will list the DUI on the driver’s record.
  3. If this is the driver’s first criminal offense, the judge may decide not to include jail time as part of the sentence. 

What if property was damaged as a result of the DUI?

Property damages will need to be repaid by the driver. The court will include the restitution as part of the fine.

What happens if you get a DUI out of state?

The difference between getting a DUI in your home state and in a different state is that the driver will be abiding by the laws set forth by the state in which the DUI was committed. The procedures, hearings, and trial will take place out of state. The penalties will be determined by the laws in that state as well.

If the home state and the state in which the driver got a DUI are members of the Interstate Drivers’ License Compact, the two states may share the arrest records and DUI convictions with the home state. This may mean that the driver could receive penalties from their home state in addition to the ones imposed out of state. Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin are the only states that do not participate in the Interstate Drivers’ License Compact which means that they will not share information between states.

What are the penalties for a driver who is under the legal age for alcohol consumption?

Those who are under 21 years of age and are convicted of a DUI will face more severe charges because they are not legally allowed to drink alcohol. Driving includes operating a motor vehicle as well as a bicycle.

Each state sets the penalties for underage DUI offenders. The penalties typically include fines, a driver’s license loss, and community service. If the minor did not have a driver’s license, the minor can expect that privilege to be delayed.

Can you get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a DUI on your record?

If you made a mistake in the past and got a DUI on your record, you may be wondering if you will be able to get a CDL. As a truck driver, you will be responsible for carrying heavy loads on highways and cities. A drunk driver can cause harm to the drivers around the truck as well as to himself. For this reason, a DUI on one’s record is treated seriously, but it does not ban the applicant from receiving a CDL.

You should be able to get a CDL with a DUI on your record. To get a CDL, you will need to have your driving privileges reinstated. Depending on which state you live in, the time in which you can receive a CDL will vary. In addition, some companies will have their own guidelines that will determine when the driver can apply to drive for their company.

What if you get a DUI and you have a CDL?

If you already have a CDL and get a DUI, there are a few factors that come into play that determine the driver’s ability to use their CDL in the future. Similarly to someone who wants to get his CDL, the state’s and company’s protocols will make those determinations.

State Law: Some states will suspend a driver’s CDL after a DUI. The length of the suspension varies. The time is contingent on the BAC level at the time of arrest and whether the driver was hauling hazardous materials. Any subsequent DUI can lead to the permanent suspension of the driver’s CDL.

Company Preference: Some trucking companies will not hire a driver who recently had a DUI or even after a few years. The company needs to be able to rely on the driver to not get into an accident as a result of a DUI.

How do I avoid getting a DUI?

If you are above the legal drinking age, you are legally allowed to drink to your heart’s content – so long as you don’t get behind the wheel or commit a crime. The following are a few tips for how to make sure that you get home safely to nurse your inevitable hangover.

  1. Prepare in advance. Organize to have a designated driver who can bring you home. Download a rideshare app as an available option or have the number of a cab driver you can rely upon.
  2. If you didn’t expect to become drunk, arrange for someone you trust – such as a family member or friend – to pick you up.
  3. Find a place to stay over the night, such as by a friend or at a hotel.
  4. Understand your alcohol intake limit. Some people cannot handle the effects of alcohol even well below the legal limit.


Unlike in a TV show, life goes on after the credits roll. Getting a DUI can have consequences down the line. There are emotional costs, financial costs, and reputational costs for getting a DUI. If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol or substance abuse, get help. Most importantly, do not get behind the wheel while under the influence. If you do find yourself with a DUI, be sure to contact an experienced attorney to understand the legal ramifications of your mistake.

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