9 Things That May Happen Immediately After a Drunk Driving Arrest

Here are 9 things that happen when you’re stopped for driving under the influence (DUI).  Please remember that this is not legal advice, and every situation is unique.

What Happens When I Get a DUI?

  1. You’ll be arrested.

If you fail a field sobriety test you’ll be arrested and booked on suspicion of DUI/DWI/OWI.    You will be asked to provide a breath or blood sample to assess your BAC (blood alcohol concentration).   If the number reads above a .08 (.05 in Utah), you will be considered to have been driving while impaired by alcohol.  This is known as a “per se” law. In other words, the state has passed a law that states if you have a BAC (a BAC is literally the amount of alcohol in your blood volume, replacing water) of .08 or over you are presumed to be too impaired to drive.  You can still be impaired at a lower BAC, however, the arresting officer must establish your impairment beyond the BAC reading.

Once arrested, most states prescribe an amount of time you will need to be in jail before you can apply for bail or bond. Typically laws will state a number of hours after which you can be released.  You may also have to have a certain BAC or show no signs of impairment.

2. Your driver’s license will be suspended.

A driver’s license suspension is usually separate from any criminal (court) action. This is determined by your state’s Administrative License Suspension laws.  More information on when your suspension starts can be found on the ticket you received at the time of your arrest. The amount of time you’ll be suspended varies.  Some states will allow you to apply for a hardship or restricted license that will allow you to drive with an ignition interlock device (IID). Some, like Texas, may require an IID as a condition of bail.  Check our state information pages or your state licensing agency’s website (we have helpful links on our state pages to relevant DMV DUI pages).

3. You’ll get your day in court.

You’ll receive a summons to appear in court. During your court appearance, you’ll be presented with the evidence against you and will be required to plead innocent or guilty.  You may also be offered a pre-trial diversion program or a sobriety court option, depending on the state and your particular case. This is not all of the options that courts have for those arrested for DUI.  In recent years, the focus for DUI cases has shifted from legal consequences to both consequences and prevention. This means addressing any underlying alcohol use disorder and preventing your vehicle from starting if you have been drinking.   

4. You’ll pay fines.

There are DUI costs — including fines, fees for assessments, victim impact panels or DUI classes and you’ll be required to pay them. The cost of fines depends on the state, the type of charge, and whether there was property damage or injury.

5. You may go to jail.

Some states require a first offender to spend time in jail, and most states require repeat offenders to go to jail for varying lengths of time.

6. You may receive probation or you may be eligible for “deferred adjudication”.

Some states will require you to complete probation instead of going to jail, and you’ll need to visit a probation officer and stick to the terms and conditions of your probation, which usually include installing an ignition interlock device (blow and go) and abstaining from alcohol as well as community service.  In some states, first-time offenders may qualify for programs that avoid the judicial system but require the installation of an ignition interlock and treatment programs. These are known as “DUI Diversion Programs” and vary by state and even by court jurisdiction.  

7. You may need to attend DUI School.

Alcohol education is designed to prevent you from drinking and driving again, and most DUI offenders are required to pay for and attend a DUI school.

8. You could be asked to attend an alcohol evaluation.

The goal of penalties is to ensure you don’t drink and drive again, so you may be asked to attend an evaluation to assess if you have an alcohol use disorder and recommend or require treatment.

9. You may pay higher auto insurance.

Many states require a specific document known as an SR-22 from your insurance company.  It is a statement of financial responsibility for higher-risk drivers to ensure their coverage will be in place after a DUI arrest.  Most insurance companies will provide this for you, but your premiums may go up or you may have to find a different insurer. Call your own agent or company first and find out what their requirements are before you ask for a specific SR-22 company.  Although you are stressed, it’s still important to shop around for the best deal.