If an individual charged with drunk driving goes to trial and is deemed guilty, either by the jury, or in some states, the judge, he faces sentencing. The sentencing component to the drunk driving legal process is when the judge, possibly following the recommendation of a jury, states the penalties that must be faced by the person convicted of drunk driving.
Punishment for drunk driving may come in one or more of the following forms: jail time, a fine, loss of driving privileges (such as suspension or revocation of a driver's license), temporary impoundment of the defendant's vehicle (or in extreme cases, forfeiture of a vehicle), probation, or required completion of a course in alcoholism or drunk driving. Recently, some states have used an ignition-interlock device that can read the BAC of the driver when he breathes into it. It will only allow the driver to start the car if his BAC is well below the legal limit.
First time offenders will usually receive probation—the most common penalty in drunk driving cases. With probation, those convicted of drunk driving serve their time in the community instead of in a jail cell. According to law in most states, probation can last up to a maximum of five years. If a person convicted of drunk driving is sentenced to probation, he will have to meet with a probation officer regularly who will monitor his behavior. The judge may also include additional conditions of his probation at sentencing, such as substance abuse counseling, driving restrictions, or community service.
Legal penalties for drunk driving vary by state. The penalty for conviction of a DUI case may also vary based on the number of prior offenses the defendant has. First time offenders face less severe penalties than second or third time offenders. The harshness of the punishment in a drunk driving case increases with the number of past offenses. Depending on the state, these events may also affect a drunk driving sentence:
1. The defendant's BAC is very high, such as above .20 percent.
2. The defendant refuses to submit to chemical testing.
3. The defendant greatly exceeds the speed limit or drives recklessly while drunk.
4. A child under the age of 14 is in the car when the defendant is driving drunk.
5. Drunk driving is accompanied with an accident or injury to another person.