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A DUI Affects More Than Your Driving Record
Drinking alcohol at a social event and then driving home intoxicated can lead to many legal problems. Although you may think that you are driving correctly, it’s easy for trained traffic police to observe signs of drunk driving, like weaving on the road or not waiting at a stop sign. If you’re pulled over, you could be arrested if you’re 21 or older and your BAC (blood alcohol level) is 0.08% or higher.
After your arrest you could be taken to court and charged with a felony. Depending on different states, you could be convicted of a DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated) or OWI (operating or vehicle while intoxicated).
The consequences can be serious, causing financial risk at work, as well as a litany of fines, fees, and penalties.
Financial Risk at Work
There are many ways a DUI could harm your work and affect your income, whether you work for a company, work as an independent contractor, work as a self-employed professional, or run your own business.
If you are employed, you may lose your job. An employer has the legal right to terminate your employment. While the employment laws can protect you from losing your job due to an unfair bias, most job contracts do not protect someone convicted with a DUI. Incurring a felony is considered a clear violation of the contractual relationship between an employee and employer.
If you are an independent contractor who is performing a transportation job for an agency—say, a truck driver or taxi driver—you can have the contract terminated since this a DUI is considered a gross misconduct that could affect how you do your job. You can also lose the right to state unemployment insurance.
If you are a professional or member of an association, like an accountant, doctor, or lawyer, you can lose your association’s license to practice your trade.
In some cases, you may be considered a professional because of your influence on the community. For instance, if you are a teacher, the school district could terminate your contract or fail to renew it in the future.
If you run your own business, you may face financial consequences indirectly for a number of reasons:
- Your schedule may be interrupted by mandatory court hearings.
- You may not be able to run your business because you have to spend a large proportion of your time serving community service.
- You may not be able to keep client meetings because of a conflict schedule with your alcohol treatment programs, mandatory driver’s educational classes, and so on.
- You may be sued by an employee for saying the wrong thing because you are in a distraught, angry mood and get easily irritated at work, and these could be grounds for discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.
- You may be sued by business partners, vendors or customers for violating a contractual agreement which resulted in loss or damage to their business.
Fees, Fines, and Penalties
The penalties for first time drunk drivers are stern, but become severe for those who have been convicted before. Although punishment may differ in different states, advocacy groups have ensured that they are fairly comparable.
After an arrest, the first stop is court. Here you will get a DUI, DWI, or OWI if you failed the blood alcohol test. You can be convicted even if you did not behave in a drunken way, like slurring or staggering, or driving dangerously, like weaving across lanes or not using turn signals.
After court, you will face fines and fees, and you will probably have your license revoked. Although the laws differ from one state to the next, they usually include court fines, court costs, license revocation, and jail time. How long the license is revoked or if one goes to jail depends on the severity of the charge and state laws.
Once the time period has expired for the revoked license, it is not simply handed back. You may have to earn it by going to a defensive driver school or some other educational program. Before the education program starts, you may require counseling to evaluate if you have an alcohol dependency issue. If you do, you may have to seek rehab treatment as well.
While the exact order of fines, fees, and penalties vary, they may include the following:
- Paying a court fine, and paying the court its costs.
- Serving probation, and paying for it.
- Attending driving and educational classes, and paying for them.
- Attending a rehab program, and paying for it.
- Getting an ignition interlock device installed in your car, which will not start if you have alcohol on your break. You have also to pay for the installation of this monitoring device.
- You may have to get SR-22 insurance, which will also raise your auto insurance premiums.
Expect High Costs And Harsh Penalties
Due to the high incidence of traffic related injuries and deaths, the penalties for drunk driving has increased over the past 10 to 15 years. If you get a DUI, DWI, or OWI you could experience a variety of hardships, from job loss to financial loss from a number of court-mandated expenses. There is a reason why the law is this strict. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “About one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.”