Repeat DUI Offenses

In most states, the penalties for being convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) increase if you have a previous DUI/DWI conviction. In some states, the penalties imposed for a second DUI/DWI increase if the defendant refused to submit to a breathalyzer test or blood test, or if the test yielded an extremely high blood alcohol content. The terms DUI and DWI can be used interchangeably in some jurisdictions, while others use DUI to designate driving under the influence of drugs and DWI to designate driving while intoxicated with alcohol.

There are a wide variety of increased penalties that states use to target repeat offenders. For example, many repeat DUI offenses include incarceration or jail time, license suspensions, and probation. Some states will require a repeat offender to participate in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program as a condition of parole or probation. Many states also provide driver intervention programs designed to help repeat offenders learn about alcohol abuse and strategies for making better choices. There is almost always some form of monetary fine associated with a repeat DUI/DWI charge, which can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more.

A common mandatory penalty for repeat offenders is the impounding or immobilization of the vehicle. At the scene of the arrest, the police arrange for the vehicle to be taken to an impound facility. In the case of a second DUI offense, the vehicle may be deemed immobilized, which means the vehicle may not be released from impound for a set period, such as 90 days. There are some exceptions for the immobilization rule, such as when the penalty would cause undue hardship for a family or household member who depends on the defendant for transportation. In the case of a third DUI offense, the state may impose a penalty that results in forfeiture of the vehicle. This typically includes a fee associated with transferring title of the vehicle to the government. Unlike immobilization penalties for second offenses, there is no exception or waiver for a forfeiture penalty.

More serious penalties include ignition interlock devices. An ignition interlock device is installed into a repeat offender’s vehicle and requires the driver to blow into the device before the vehicle can be started. If the device detects a blood alcohol content higher than the legal limit, it prevents the vehicle from starting. These devices can also be designed to perform so-called “rolling tests,” which periodically require the driver to blow into the device while the car is in operation. Data from the breath samples is stored on the device’s hard drive and uploaded into a database.

In addition to ignition interlock devices, some states use yellow license plates, or another form of restricted notation on a driver’s license plate, to indicate that they have received penalties associated with driving under the influence. In some jurisdictions, a judge may order a defendant to apply for these “party plates” after an initial DUI offense. The plate is designed to make the offender’s violations public and to disincentivize people from driving while intoxicated due to the social stigma associated with yellow license plates.

Some states also maintain a Habitual DUI/DWI Offender list that includes information about the identity of DUI offenders and the number of convictions against them for a prior period of time, such as 20 years. The registry is made available to the public on the internet through a searchable database and provides the offender’s name, address, date of birth, and convictions.