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This is my first DUI—What is the Punishment?

If you are facing your first DUI charge, you need to know what to expect. The law tends to deal with drunk driving harshly. if you are found guilty, you may be facing a series of punishments that can affect every part of your personal and professional life.

Some of the following penalties are mandatory or applied in nearly all cases. Judges exercise a great amount of discretion over the final sentences for first-time offenders, but you will likely face a combination or all of the following penalties.


Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices

If you are convicted of even one DUI offense, you may be required to install and use an ignition interlock device in your car. This is one of the most commonly applied penalties for DUIs, and will likely be applied regardless of the circumstances that led to your charges.

When you are sentenced to use an ignition interlock device, it will be installed directly into your vehicle. Once there, it will prevent you from operating the vehicle until you have completed a breathalyzer test. The data collected by the device can be sent to the court. Additional penalties may apply if the interlock device detects that you attempted to drive drunk again.


License Suspension

Yes, even the first offense can result in the suspension of your license. Depending on the severity of your actions, you may not be given the chance to have an interlock device installed until you have dealt with having no license at all for several months. Licenses are typically suspended for between 1-6 months for the first offense.

You will face far harsher suspensions if your DUI resulted in injury to another person. You can lose your license for up to 3 years, or 5 years if you are convicted of a felony-level injury DUI.



Most states will force you to pay fines if you are convicted. If no one was injured by your driving, you can expect to pay anywhere from $390-1000. If someone was injured, you may be required to pay as much as $5000. Here’s California’s new DUI law for 2019.

This number includes only criminal penalties. Those harmed by your driving may also file a civil case against you. If this happens, you may be on the hook for the total cost of their medical bills plus additional charges for any pain and misery you caused them.


Jail Time

You can go to jail for up to six months after your first DUI conviction even if no one was injured by your actions. It’s not typical for first-time offenders to go to jail, but the judge has the right to make that part of your sentence if your behavior was particularly reckless or if your attitude toward your charges is remorseless.

If you did injure someone, jail is far more likely and the sentence if far stiffer. Mild injuries can result in sentences as long as one year, and injuries severe enough to result in a Felony Injury DUI charge can send you to jail for as many as 16 years.

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