Enhanced Sentencing for DUI/DWI Offenses

Enhanced Sentencing for DUI/DWI Offenses

There are certain factors which will trigger additional punishment in a drunk driving case. The factors generally considered include: (1) child endangerment, i.e. a child is in the car while driving under the influence of alcohol; (2) speeding above certain levels (20-30 mph over the limit) while driving under the influence of alcohol; (3) having a blood alcohol concentration or breath alcohol test of .15 percent or greater while driving; (4) refusing to submit to a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine when suspected of driving under the influence; (5) an accident, property damage, or injury arising out of driving under the influence; and, (6) prior convictions for a related drunk driving offense.

Enhancements typically occur for multiple offenses. State statutes provide for an increased penalty for a person convicted of a second or subsequent drunk driving offense, usually within a specified period of time (e.g., five or 10 years) from the first offense. Statutes imposing such suspensions are also referred to as habitual offender statutes, but they are civil, not criminal, in nature. If a motorist has been convicted for drunk driving within the specified time period, the penalties of a minimum jail sentence, attendance at alcohol and drug education programs, and license suspension are increased. While a second conviction increases the penalties, three prior convictions often results in felony charges punishable in a state prison. In 30 states, multiple offenders may forfeit their vehicles. Other possible punishments for prior drunk driving convictions include attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and installation of an ignition interlock device.

Conviction of drunk driving in another state may can be used for enhancement purposes when the foreign statute is ”substantially conforming to an offense” under the domestic state law. Forty-five states are signatories to the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, under which the participating states share information regarding certain types of convictions, including drunk driving convictions. Because of the Compact, if a resident of one state gets convicted of a drunk driving offense in another state, the driver’s home state will be advised. The type of action that the driver’s home state will take will vary from state to state.

In addition to increased penalties, if someone is injured by a drunk driver, even if a passenger in the drunk driver’s car, the case is considered a felony. Also, if there is a death related to a drunk driving case, the drunk driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter or even murder.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.