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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Penalties for first offense DUI

People in Washington who are convicted for first-offense DUI usually don't face the severe penalties that repeat DUI offenders face. A first-offense DUI may result in jail time, but it will probably be no longer than one year. In many cases, people who are convicted for first-offense DUI can serve their sentence by completing an alternative community service program.

Besides jail time, there are other penalties for a first offense DUI conviction that can greatly inconvenience a person's life. A person could have their driver's license suspended for several months, and they could be ordered to install an ignition interlock device in their car once they get their driver's license back. The cost of the ignition interlock device, the license reinstatement and other court fees can also cause a person to suffer a significant financial setback.

Many people who are charged for first-offense DUI are ordered to take alcohol education classes. These classes, along with community service hours, can cause a person to miss days of work. Drunk driving incidents also impact car insurance rates, so a person's monthly car insurance bill could go up after they have been convicted for DUI. Some car insurance carriers will simply cancel policies for drivers who are considered high risk.

First-offense DUI is usually a misdemeanor. However, a person could be charged for felony DUI if their first drunk driving incident involved a serious car accident. When a first-time DUI defendant is being accused of causing death or serious injury to other people, the defendant could face felony charges. An attorney may be able to help a DUI defendant in this situation to argue for a dismissal or work out an agreement for a reduced sentence.

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