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How A DUI Conviction Can Affect Your Life

By Aaron Crowe

For the working professionals who are first-time drunken drivers who enter Nicole Denmon’s law office in Tampa, Fla., for help, the legal world they’re about to enter can be quite confusing.

Along with the court system and thousands of dollars a DUI will cost them, Denmon explains some of the other ways they may be affected if they’re convicted. They include possible jail time, increased difficulty finding a job, and a permanent mark on their driving record.

“They are shocked to learn that even on a first-time DUI, you can end up in a county jail, depending on your circumstances,” Denmon says.

There are other implications for a DUI conviction, including not being able to vote, losing a job if you drive or fly for a living, higher insurance rates, and everyone learning about it online. Those are all after the $10,000 that a group of attorneys in California estimates a DUI costs in attorney and court fees, including bail and fines.

The penalties vary by state, and get more severe if the DUI is a felony. Getting a third DUI is a felony in most states, and causing serious injury or killing someone while driving drunk can be a felony for a first offense.

Beyond the expensive court fines and fees that come with DUI convictions, here are some of the other ways a DUI conviction can affect a driver:

Paying to stay out of jail

If you’re arrested and have to spend at least a night in jail, you can pay bail of $150 to $2,500, depending on if a bonding company is used. The state of Georgia, for example, has a mandatory 24-hour jail term for people arrested for DUI, so you may not be able to get out of jail for a day anyway.

You could also face other charges if you want to remain free. California courts, for example, may require electronic monitoring that costs $12 to $18 a day in lieu of jail, says Christopher McCann, a criminal defense attorney in California.

Drivers may also be required to have an ignition interlock device on their cars to prevent them from driving after drinking alcohol. The devices cost about $75 a month and installation is about $100. A judge may also require an offender to be in an alcohol treatment program if they want to avoid jail time, with such programs ranging from $500 for first-time offenders to $1,200 for multiple offenders McCann says.

Everyone knows you’re a convict

Thanks to social media, your arrest can be spread across the Internet. People who search for your name can find your arrest photo online, and quickly learn more about your arrest, Denmon says. You may not even be convicted in court, but your arrest photo will be online, putting off potential employers who Google your name.

Difficulty finding or keeping a job

Any kind of DUI conviction, whether a felony or not, can exclude you from working in law enforcement, Denmon says. Some police departments may allow a misdemeanor DUI conviction from many years ago, but almost all won’t allow a felony conviction.

Current police officers caught driving drunk may be able to stay on the police force with a suspension. “Once you’re in the club, it’s easier to stay there,” Denmon says.

Jobs requiring security clearances, a lot of driving or the responsibility of caring for people may be difficult to keep or find after a DUI conviction. These include nurses, pilots, delivery drivers, traveling salespeople or anyone who spends all day in a company car or plane.

In California, commercial drivers can lose their commercial license for a year after a DUI, and they can lose it for life with a second DUI in 10 years, McCann says.

Voting and other rights

If a DUI is classified as a felony, you’re a convicted felon and in the same legal boat as a burglar or attempted killer who has been convicted of a felony.

Felons lose rights that vary by state, but can include losing the right to vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, receive federal aid for education, and limited travel to foreign countries.

Higher insurance

A DUI conviction will likely lead to higher auto insurance rates for the next three to five years, ranging from 30% to 300% more. Your insurer may move your policy to a part of the company that handles higher risks, or you may be dropped completely.

If you have life insurance, that can also go up because a DUI can drop you out of a preferred pricing tier. Your rates could go up a few hundred dollars per year.

Suspended license

With interlock devices to check your alcohol level before driving, some states will allow DUI convicts to continue driving so they can get to work and at least pay their court fees. But most states suspend or revoke a license immediately after a DUI arrest.

“For someone who is going from regularly driving to having to take public transportation, taxis, or carpooling, it can be difficult to adjust,” says Scott Grabel, a criminal defense lawyer in Michigan.

Expansive rural areas in Michigan and other states can make public transportation difficult to find to get to work, school, court appointments, AA meetings and court ordered community service, Grabel says.

Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.