Driving Under The Influence Charge
As with any criminal charge, a person charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If guilt is established (often through the defendant's own plea or after a jury trial), the penalty will depend on state law, as well as on any aggravating circumstances (such as the presence of an open bottle of liquor in the car) and the defendant's cooperation with the police.
In all states, first-offense DUI or DWI is classified as a misdemeanor, and punishable by up to six months in jail. That jail time may be increased under certain circumstances. For example, some states mandate more severe punishments for DUI or DUI offenders whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest was particularly high -- for example, 0.15% or 0.20%, very high considering the legal limit of 0.08%.
Many states also require minimum jail sentences of at least several days on a first offense. Subsequent offenses often result in jail sentences of several months to a year.
For a DUI or DWI that's been classified as a felony -- either because the driver killed or injured someone or because it's the driver's third or fourth DUI -- jail sentences of several years are not uncommon. Again, this depends on state law, the facts of the case, and the discretion of the judge at trial.
In addition to jail sentences, courts can and do impose high fines for DUI or DWI. These range from $500 to as much as $2,000.
Driver's License Problems
A DUI or DWI offender stands a good chance of having his or her license suspended for a substantial period of time (either by court order or mandate of the state motor vehicles department). For example, many states suspend a first offender's license for 90 days; a second offender's license for one year; and a third offender's license for three years.
Refusal to take a blood, breath, or urine test can result in a license suspension regardless of the finding of guilt, in addition to other penalties in many states.