This legal guide explains the top ten things you need to know if you’ve been charged with a DWI.
We can spend all day rattling off drunk driving statistics that would somehow startle you and not surprise you at the same time. There’s no need to because we all know the prevalence of driving intoxicated.
There are more deaths daily from drunk driving than there are hours in a day, yet it happens time and time again.
Perhaps you’re reading this because you’ve found yourself in a tricky position behind the wheel. We’re not here to condemn you for it, as we know that words and roadside signs won’t make a difference at the end of the day.
We’re also not here to perpetuate it. Instead, we’ll educate you on the 10 not-so-obvious consequences of getting a DWI.
That way, whether you find yourself in a situation of poor choices or not, you will be equipped with the knowledge to move forward.
First: What is a DWI?
Some states separate DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenses.
If that’s the case, a DUI typically refers to impairment below the legal limit. DWI is a more serious offense where the person’s BAC (blood alcohol limit) is greater than .08%.
BAC is the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. If you have a BAC of .08%, for example, that means you have .08 grams of alcohol present in 100ml of blood.
This exact limit comes from the effects most people exhibit at this level of intoxication, such as decreased motor skills.
If you’re caught driving with a .08% BAC or higher, here are 10 things you need to know that can happen.
1. You Can Refuse a DWI Test
When you operate a vehicle, there’s implied consent that you are okay with proving sobriety.
However, you have the legal right to refuse a test. It’s not usually a great option, as it can result in immediate suspension of your license, but you do have the right.
Learn more about this option here.
2. You Can Get A DWI Even If You’re Pulled Over For Something Else
Police officers must have a probable cause to pull you over. They can’t just do it willy-nilly.
However, the probable cause doesn’t have to be drunk driving. You can get pulled over for a broken tail light or for a minor traffic violation.
If the officer suspects you’re intoxicated, they may make you walk a straight line or perform other cognition or motor skill tests. Additionally, you may have to breathe into a breathalyzer.
3. You Will Get Arrested If You Fail
If you fail these tests, handcuffs will weigh on your wrists as you’re taken to the station. It may take a few hours for you to go through processing.
If it’s your first offense, it will take even longer as you’ll have your fingerprints taken along with a mug shot.
4. Your Car Goes To A Towing Company
It’s most likely that the officer will have your car towed. You will get the information about when and where after you’re processed at the station.
This is the first of many expenses associated with drunk driving. It may cost you over $100 to get your car, plus you have to find someone else to drive it off the lot.
5. You Must Go To Court
Whether you plead innocent or guilty, you must do it before a judge.
Remain calm, polite, and professional. It’s wise to hire a lawyer to help you navigate the tricky waters of the law.
In court, you’ll receive your sentencing and will have an idea about how to proceed.
6. You Will Lose Your License
Even if it’s your first offense, expect to have your license suspended for up to a year.
You may be able to get a temporary license to get you to and from work. The requirements and rules surrounding temporary licenses are strict but may be worth it to keep your job.
7. You May Lose Your Job
On the subject of jobs, you may have employment troubles once convicted with a DWI. It will remain on your record for up to ten years.
This is especially true if your job involves driving vehicles or other machinery.
8. Consequences Depend On The Circumstance
The exact legal repercussions of a DWI depend on a few factors, such as state laws, your criminal record, and your BAC.
A first-time offender usually ends up with a misdemeanor, but if it’s a first-time offense with a child in the car, it may become a felony.
Regardless, you can expect the following:
- A suspended license from 90 days to 12 months
- Community service
- Completion of a drug and alcohol education program
9. Your Insurance Will Change
Your car insurance will likely go up. Your insurance company could even drop you as a client.
What will is more likely to happen is you will receive SR-22 insurance. This is a type of “high risk” insurance coverage that will add to the other costly expenses of a DWI.
If you have life insurance, your premiums may go up for the same reasons.
10. The Costs Will Add Up
There are significant costs to getting a DWI that go beyond financial realms.
As far as the financial aspects go, however, here are fines you can expect:
- Getting your car back from the towing company
- Minimum or maximum fine for DWI charge itself
- Court costs involving your case
- Lawyer fees
- Temporary license
- IID (ignition interlock device) installation and a monthly fee
- Education programs
- License reinstatement
- Higher insurance
You may not have all of these fees with your DWI. However, this list paints a clear picture. DWI sentences cost offenders thousands and thousands of dollars.
Make Smart Choices
We’ll play the role of mom and dad here and remind you to always make smart choices. Avoiding a DWI will save you hardship, money, and potentially lives.
If you’re struggling with alcohol abuse or want to learn more about this issue, continue educating yourself and engaging with others about DWIs with the rest of our site.
I’m a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze