Introduction to The Long Term Consequences of DUI
The average person can probably recite the legal limit for alcohol in your system while driving. The average may even be able to recite the standard consequences of a DUI conviction. But one thing that most people seem to overlook are the long term consequences of having a DUI conviction on your record. There are a lot of immediate consequences for a DUI conviction, but there are also a lot of long term consequences that should be well known and understood.
To begin with, the immediate consequences of a DUI conviction will range depending on the person and the type of a DUI conviction. Arizona is one of the nation’s toughest states on DUIs. A standard DUI conviction in Arizona is classified as driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more in a standard vehicle.[i] A standard DUI conviction for a commercial vehicle is much lower, at 0.04% BAC.[ii] While some states allow a small BAC for underage drinkers, Arizona has a no tolerance policy for this. If ANY alcohol is detected in the underage drinker, it can result in a DUI.[iii]
Next, an extreme DUI is classified as driving with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. Finally, an aggravated DUI in Arizona can arise under three situations.[iv] First, an aggravated DUI can arise if the DUI was committed while the driver’s license was either suspended or revoked.[v] Next, if the DUI was the third offense for DUI within 84 months.[vi] And finally, if the DUI was committed with a child under the age of 15 years, the DUI will be classified as aggravated.[vii]
The penalties will vary depending on the type of DUI and whether it was a first offense. The penalties for a standard DUI, on the first offense, can include up to ten days in jail, very costly fines, completion of an alcohol or drug screening program, an interlock ignition system in your vehicle, and even community service.[viii] With each offense, each category of penalties increases with severity. Jail time can increase from ten days to ninety days, and the fines can more than double.[ix]
The penalties for an extreme DUI are similar to the standard DUI but are much more severe for first offenders. The minimum jail time is increased from ten days to thirty days for that first offense, and the fines start at $2,500. Now, the aggravated DUI has a lot of extreme penalties. The jail time could be two years at a minimum and revocation of the driver’s license for twelve months.[x] These penalties are very serious and have immediate ramifications on your life – both personally and financially.
Now, all of these penalties occur relatively close to when the DUI actually takes place. The arrest, the hearing, the possible jail time – that will all take place pretty quickly and be wrapped up just the same. Paying the fines may take longer, but even within a few years the ramifications of the immediate DUI penalties will start to fade away. But once the individual has paid all the fines and served any necessary time – that is not the end of it. The arrest, charge, and conviction of the DUI will remain on your record permanently. While a juvenile MAY be able to seal away a DUI, as an adult you are just stuck with the convictions you receive and this WILL come into play far more often than you could even really imagine.
Depending on the specifics of the DUI, the driver’s licensed may be revoked for much longer than the minimum amount of time. This could place a huge burden on the individual. While many cities have public transportation, the transit system is not always a perfect one that provides consistent schedules. You may need to leave one to two hours before you need to get to work, depending on where you live or even earlier if the bus has a tendency to run a little bit early. In rural areas, a transit system is basically nonexistent for many states, so the loss of a driver’s license could mean the loss of employment for many people.
As technology improves, more and more companies are utilizing background checks before hiring new employees. Both felony and misdemeanor DUI convictions will appear on this background check.[xi] While it is possible that an employer will not make a big deal out of the DUI and proceed to hire you, this is not the most common situation. Also, for any job that requires driving or operating a vehicle – a DUI is likely going to bar you from that position.
Background checks are not just used for employment opportunities either.[xii] A background check might be run on a person for housing applications, mortgage applications, and even financial aid applications to attend school.[xiii] Drug and alcohol convictions will throw a major wrench into a person’s educational plans.[xiv] Some universities and colleges will accept students with DUI convictions on their record, but it is possible to be turned down because of it – or have your choice of schools limited. Also, depending on the type and severity of the conviction an individual may lose the ability to obtain any federal funding. For instance, if an individual is incarcerated, they will be placed in the back of the line to receive federal funding as funds will be distributed to students who are not incarcerated first.[xv]
Another aspect of an individual’s life that will certainly be affected by a DUI conviction is auto insurance. Drivers who have previous DUI conventions on their record are often times considered “high risk” drivers by insurance companies. For this reason, insurance rates could double or even triple after the DUI conviction.[xvi] Some insurance providers may drop the individual all together and refuse to provide service to them in the future. This can be a major problem for people, especially those who are financially in the lower class. If an individual’s insurance rate doubles or triples – not everyone has the means to pay for that but in many states, like Arizona, insurance is required. So even though you technically have your driver’s licensed, a lack of insurance could act in a way to revoke your ability to drive. You could risk driving without insurance, but if you get pulled over or are in a car accident – the ramifications of no insurance are not going to be pleasant.
Additionally, an aspect of consequences that is often overlooked far too often is how a DUI conviction will affect an individual’s personal and professional relationships. There is a lot of social stigma attached to DUIs and this could greatly affect how people interact with someone once they know they’ve received a DUI. For example, if a parent receives a DUI – other parents may not want their child to carpool with that family for fear that the parent may be drinking and driving again. In social gatherings friends, an individual with a DUI may not be chosen as the designated driver, again, for fear that they might be drinking anyways. A DUI conviction could also result in loss of respect from peers at work or a decrease in responsibilities – such as driving a golf cart across a campus or the company car to run errands. Some companies may even have a mandatory firing policy that includes the ability to fire an individual if they receive a DUI conviction.[xvii]
For working professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, and even plumbers are required to report any arrest to the licensing board.[xviii] Depending on the state, and the licensing board, an individual could lose their license or have it suspended. The loss of employment is also a major possibility.
Now, the DUI conviction has all of these ramifications attached to it, there are ways to get around the conviction itself and leave just the arrest and charge on your record. One way to do this would be a diversion program, which many states offer. This is commonly referred to as the first-offender program.[xix] This program is offered for defendants who do not have a previous criminal history and provide them an option of not going through a full criminal prosecution.[xx] Eligibility for this program will depend on the state where the arrest took place. Some states will only allow individuals to enter into the program with a misdemeanor charge, while others may allow a felony conviction.[xxi] First-offender programs are available for both adults and juveniles – but an adult with a juvenile record might be disqualified for the program.[xxii]
There is a federal first-offender program that operates similarly to the state level programs.[xxiii] The program is primarily for certain drug crimes.[xxiv] Like state level first-offender programs, if the federal program is completely successfully and within the designed time frame, the court will dismiss the proceeding without entering the judgment of conviction.[xxv] So even though an individual will still have the arrest and charge for the DUI on their record, the actual conviction will not be present and this could be incredibly beneficial. The individual could avoid jail time, and additional fees. And, depending on the type of background search performed, the arrest and charge may not even show up.
Even though there is a lot of social stigma attached to a DUI conviction, there is not a lot of stigma attached to having a few drinks a driving home. This is actually a fairly common activity, and a dangerous one at that. While some people metabolize alcohol at a faster rate than others, or have a higher tolerance to alcohol, drinking and driving is dangerous for everyone. If you get caught drinking and driving, there is a strong chance that you will be convicted of a DUI and that conviction will remain with you for the rest of your life. Over time, a DUI conviction may not be as harsh as when it was first received – but the years that will need to pass by before that stigma starts to fade could feel like a life
[i] See DUI & DWI in Arizona. Department of Motor Vehicle. (Accessed April 15, 2016). http://www.dmv.org/az-arizona/automotive-law/dui.php
[xi] See Long-Term DUI Consequences. BACTrack Blog. (Accessed April 15, 2016). http://www.bactrack.com/blogs/expert-center/35042309-long-term-dui-consequences
[xiv] See Students with Criminal Convictions have limited Eligibility for Federal Student Aid. (Accessed April 15, 2016). https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/criminal-convictions#drug-convictions
[xvi] See Long-Term DUI Consequences. BACTrack Blog. (Accessed April 15, 2016). http://www.bactrack.com/blogs/expert-center/35042309-long-term-dui-consequences
[xvii] See 9 Ways a DUI Will Destroy Your Career. AOL Finance. (Published January 21, 2014). http://www.aol.com/article/2014/01/21/dui-will-destroy-your-career/20811986/
[xix] See First-Offender Programs. NOLO Legal Encyclopedia. (Accessed April 15, 2016). http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/first-offender-programs.html