When you’re impaired and get behind the wheel, you might not be thinking about being pulled over for a DUI. You may convince yourself that you drive just as well under the influence, sometimes better, because you think you’re driving more carefully. If you do consider the possibility of being pulled over, you will likely focus on the criminal aspects of driving under the influence. You weigh the immediate risk of getting a fine, points on your license, or the unlikely possibility of jail time. These might seem worth the risk because they’re temporary. If you’ve never had a DUI, you might believe you’ll receive a light sentence for a first offense. The truth is the consequences of a DUI conviction are very serious and extend far beyond the legal ramifications. A DUI can impact your education, your career—and the rest of your life.
Here are some of the immediate, short-term consequences of getting a DUI. Note that some of these are not as short-term as they might appear.
- Driver’s license suspension. Even a short-term license suspension can make it harder for you to get where you need to go;
- Fines and other fees. Fines and legal fees can be expensive. A first offense in the state of Maryland may cost up to $1,000. (This doesn’t include potential attorney fees and court costs);
- Driver improvement classes. The court may require you to attend classes to ensure you understand the ramifications of impaired driving;
- Community service. The court may sentence you to community service following a DUI; and
- Jail time. People think they won’t do more than a few days in jail for a first offense. In the state of Maryland, you may get up to a year for your first offense. With a prior conviction, you can be sentenced to up to two years. This is far from a short-term consequence.
There are also numerous potential long-term consequences of a DUI conviction. These are often overlooked when considering the potential outcome of a DUI.
- Civil lawsuits. If someone else is hurt or killed as a result of your DUI, there might be civil lawsuits that bring a lifetime of grief and financial strife. This is in addition to the guilt brought on by your role in altering someone else’s life.
- Long-term driver’s license loss. Even for a first conviction, you could lose your license for up to two years.
- Increased insurance premiums. Receiving a DUI labels you as a high-risk driver, which might double or even triple your premiums for years. Insurers might deem you too high-risk and terminate your coverage.
- Addition of interlock device. In Maryland, a DUI conviction requires drivers to submit to the Ignition Interlock Program. An ignition interlock device connects a motor vehicle’s ignition system to a breath analyzer that measures a driver’s alcohol concentration and prevents the vehicle from starting if a driver’s alcohol concentration exceeds the calibrated setting on the device. The device also records certain information about its use that is reviewed by the service provider every 30 days. Participation in the interlock program is costly and requires regular visits to a service provider to ensure program compliance.
- Flags on background checks. This alerts potential employers and could disqualify you from jobs involving driving. The flag might also show up when you’re applying for housing or financial aid.
- Loss of employment. Depending on your position and employment contracts, you could lose your job; especially if driving is a part of your job responsibilities.
- Damage to professional reputation. If you keep your job, a DUI can still permanently damage your reputation with coworkers.
- Damage to personal relationships. Friends and family might lose respect for you. Some might understand your shame and embarrassment if you show remorse, others may not.
Impaired Driving is Never Worth the Risk
A DUI can haunt you for the rest of your life. It might jeopardize your education, your job, and your relationships. Worse, your actions could cause permanent injury or death to yourself, a loved one or a total stranger. Driving under the influence is 100% preventable. With the ease of access to rideshares, in addition to other public transportation options, there is no excuse to drive impaired. Be the Make a Plan Driver, and ultimately, the Driver Who Saves Lives.