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Regaining driving privileges after a DUI

Policeman asking driver for identification
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Driving under the influence can result in various legal penalties, including high fines, license suspension and even jail time. In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recorded 517,731 DUI arrests in the United States. More importantly, drunk driving can seriously injure or kill another driver or pedestrian. More than 10,000 people lose their lives every year to drunk driving.

People who have been convicted of driving under the influence may have a difficult time getting back on their feet, receiving treatment, navigating legal hurdles and reinstating their driver’s license after a DUI, but the following information could help.

 

Key DUI statistics

The following drunk driving statistics illustrate the immense toll that driving under the influence can take on individuals and communities.

  1. One alcohol-related death occurs every 52 minutes. (NHTSA)
  2. Drunk driving causes more than 10,000 deaths every year, about 1/3 of all traffic-related deaths. (NHTSA)
  3. In a recent year, more than 230 children were killed in drunk-driving crashes, the NHTSA reports. (NHTSA)
  4. Drinking and driving costs more than $44 billion in deaths and damages annually. (NHTSA)
  5. To reach the legal level of intoxication, it takes a 180-pound man four drinks and a 120-pound woman just two drinks. (University of Colorado Boulder)
  6. Texas, California and Florida are the worst states for drinking and driving in the U.S. and also report the most drunk driving fatalities, according to a Bankrate study. (Bankrate)

Consequences of DUI

A driver’s first DUI presents legal hurdles, but a second DUI often makes legal troubles exponentially worse. In some states, a driver’s first DUI may be considered a misdemeanor or even a civil infraction, which is less serious than a misdemeanor. However, after a second offense, penalties typically become more intense. A DUI usually stays on your record between five and 15 years, although the exact timeframe will depend on your state and circumstances. In many states, a DUI remains on your record forever. Certain states offer the option of expungement if you’re a first time offender or a minor. You may want to research your state’s laws to nail down your exact options.

Arrests and jail time

Each state outlines different consequences for driving under the influence. In many states, officers who suspect a driver of being drunk can arrest the driver whether or not they submit to a breathalyzer. Many states treat a driver’s first DUI offense as a misdemeanor without a jail sentence. However, offenders may have to serve jail time if certain conditions are present, such as an unusually high blood alcohol content (BAC). If a drunk driver kills or injures someone, that driver may face prison time. Depending on the state, a DUI may come with a mandatory minimum sentence, or a judge may be given more leeway in determining an offender’s punishment.

What happens if someone is injured

If someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, the offender may be charged in both criminal and civil court. Civil court usually deals with damage payouts to the parties affected, whereas criminal court proceedings will determine whether or not the offender is guilty of certain charges and what his or her consequences will be. Possible consequences include imprisonment, fines, driver’s license revocation or suspension, community service, treatment for substance abuse and/or educational programs.

License revoked vs. suspended

Typically, a driver’s license suspension is a set period of time wherein a driver is not permitted to drive. During a suspension, you may be able to get a hardship license, which allows you to drive for specific reasons like work or rehab. A license revocation typically cancels your driver’s license without the ability to reinstate it.

Potential fees

DUIs can be extremely expensive. Fines typically range between $500 and over $2,000. Offenders may also be required to purchase equipment such as interlock devices (IIDs) out-of-pocket. These devices test a driver’s BAC and disable the vehicle if the driver’s BAC is higher than a certain level.

Car insurance after a DUI

After a DUI, your car insurance provider may require you to obtain an SR-22 endorsement, which your insurer files on your behalf. In addition, your car insurance premium will likely jump exponentially. While you may be able to stick with your current company, your insurer might decide to cancel your policy. If your insurer cancels the policy, you’ll likely want to find a provider that offers high-risk car insurance for drivers with a DUI. Many of the best car insurance companies on the market offer high-risk auto insurance, but your rates may vary from carrier to carrier based on other factors.

A DUI arrest within the past decade or so may also limit your ability to obtain life insurance. Drunk driving is seen as risky behavior, so if a life insurance company does offer you coverage, your premium will likely be higher than average.

Getting your license back

After dealing with the immediate legal consequences of a DUI, the next step for many drivers is finding out how to regain their license. Below is a list of prudent steps that may help you regain your driving privileges.

Circle Check
Steps to take
  • Pay fines: Fines vary based on your state and your individual circumstances. Oftentimes, drivers are fined a higher amount for higher BAC levels. Average DUI fines range between around $400 to around $2,000. However, offenders typically have to contend with additional court fees, license reinstatement fees and more.
  • Complete a DUI program: Offenders may be court-ordered to complete a DUI program, which may cost around $500, depending on the state.
  • Obtain DUI auto insurance: You may have to file an SR-22 or FR-44, which will cost around $15 to $25, and your full coverage auto insurance rates will likely increase by around $800. If your car insurance provider cancels your policy, you may have to search for an insurer that offers high-risk car insurance.
  • Reinstate your license: Reinstatement requirements vary by state, but be prepared to pay a reinstatement fee and/or take a defensive driving course as part of the process.

Fines and fees

Between bail, lawyer fees, court fees, program costs, license reinstate fees and more, costs associated with a DUI can add up quickly. The following fines are common in the aftermath of a DUI.

Dollar Coin
Common DUI-related fees
  • Arrest or jail fees: Bail fees vary, but may run you about $150.
  • DUI fine or court fees: Court fees and fines vary depending on your location and which offense it is. Readers of DUI Driving Laws by NOLO paid an average of $1,900 in court-ordered fees following a DUI.
  • Attorney fees: Attorney fees vary based on the lawyer a driver chooses, but total legal fees may come out to around $2,000.
  • DUI program fee: Fees vary, but a typical DUI program runs between about $500 and $2,500, depending on which educational and treatment services an offender needs.
  • License reinstatement fee: Fees for reinstating your license vary, but may cost around $100, depending on your state.
  • SR-22/FR-44 forms: Filing these forms will typically cost between $15 and $25, depending on your state. An SR-22 is an endorsement from your insurer that says you carry at least the minimum amount of insurance required in your state after a DUI or a DWI. An FR-44 is a document that proves that a high-risk driver carries at least the minimum amount of auto insurance required. FR-44s are only used in Virginia and Florida.

License reinstatement

Each state has its own requirements for license reinstatement, so you may want to research your state’s regulations.

Some offenders choose to hire a DUI lawyer to argue their case in court. In some states, offenders must request a hearing for license reinstatement, which may be approved or denied by the DMV or court.

When it comes to license reinstatement, offenders may have to take an approved DUI program and pay the fee associated with it. They may also have to take a defensive driving program to help improve their driving skills. In addition to courses, offenders will likely have to pay the court a reinstatement fee, which typically ranges between $50 and $200, depending on the state. Drivers may also have to obtain an SR-22 or FR-44, filed by their insurance company.

DUI state by state map

Hover over your state to view the following DUI consequences:

  1. Minimum jail time
  2. Fines and fees
  3. Minimum license suspension
  4. Ignition interlock device required

Resources

Substance abuse help

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): This is a national helpline, operated 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year that refers individuals to treatment facilities, support groups and organizations that can help them or a family member with mental or substance abuse disorders.
  2. Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator from SAMSA: This website empowers families and individuals to find treatment in their area for substance disorders.
  3. Rethinking Drinking: Powered by the National Institute of Health, this website provides research-based information and guidelines for anyone who drinks, especially members of Generation Z.

DUI programs

  1. National Alcohol Class: This platform offers online classes for DUI and DWI offenders. However, note that potential participants should check with a judge for approval to make sure this class will be accepted by the court before enrolling.
  2. DMV.org: This website provides tips on how to find a DUI program near you.
  3. CourtOrdered Classes: This company provides DUI classes, but before signing up, check with your court to see if this would qualify.

Rideshare apps

  1. Uber: The pioneer of rideshare technology, Uber operates in most U.S. cities. The company offers safety features such as GPS tracking and driver background checks.
  2. Lyft: Uber’s largest competitor, Lyft is available in most U.S. cities. The company offers its customers the ability to call a ride and pay for it in one app, along with safety features such as location sharing and live ADT support.
  3. GoCurb: This service allows you to call a cab and pay for it in one easy app.

Apps to prevent drunk driving

  1. CityMapper: This app allows users to find and map out public transit routes nearby, which is a safer method of transportation than driving home after drinking.
  2. Breathometer: To use this app, you’ll need to purchase an external device that plugs into your phone. From there, the app will read your current BAC to see if it’s safe to drive home.
  3. Beer with Me: This app allows you and your friends to track how many drinks you’ve each had and in what location, which may help you keep tabs on friends who aren’t able to drive home at the end of the night.
Written by
Lizzie Nealon
Insurance Writer
Lizzie Nealon is a former insurance writer for Bankrate. Her favorite part of the job is making home, auto and life insurance digestible for readers so they can prepare for the future.
Edited by
Insurance Editor