It’s common knowledge that a drinking and driving conviction can limit your freedom – whether it be jail, prison or probation. But the penalties seldom end there; the decision to get behind the wheel while you’re intoxicated (or just buzzed) is one that can have massive ripple effects, impacting so many more lives than just your own.
Worst case scenario, you wreck and kill someone while driving drunk. But even if you manage to avoid causing a tragic car accident, you’re still not home free. Let’s say you’re pulled over by law enforcement and arrested for DUI, this single charge will impact virtually every area of your day-to-day life for years to come.
The Proof’s in the Punishment
Still think a drunk driving charge is no big deal? Well, let’s take a good look at the very real consequences of a DUI arrest and see if they might change your tune.
- Public Humiliation: After getting arrested, you’ll have your mugshot taken while getting booked and processed in the county jail. This information is easily accessible to anyone online and it stays there for years to come – which can permanently damage your reputation both socially and professionally.
- Interlock Installation: Many states now require DUI offenders to install pricey ignition interlock devices, which connect to your car’s ignition. These in-car breathalyzers measure your alcohol content (BAC) levels and prevent you from cranking the vehicle if alcohol is detected. Users typically have to pay an installment fee, plus a monthly fee to have it recalibrated (anywhere from $50-100/per month).
- Car Insurance: Your driving record plays a major role in determining how much you pay for car insurance – and a DUI suggests you’re a risky driver. Depending on the severity of your driving offense (and the potential danger you pose as a driver), insurers may raise your rates, require you to purchase “high risk” insurance or just cancel your coverage altogether.
- Child custody: If you’re getting divorced and battling for custody of your children, a recent DUI could easily impact the judge’s decisions. Getting behind the wheel while drunk highlights your drinking problem and serves as a red flag that you aren’t a responsible, fit parent.
- Employment: A DUI can get you fired, especially if you’re in a profession where your reputation is on the line, such as a teacher or a doctor. In addition, a criminal conviction can also jeopardize your ability to obtain a professional license in fields like law, medicine or finance.
- Travel: While on probation, most states require that you get permission from your probation officer prior to traveling outside the county. But travel restrictions remain once off supervision, as well. Some foreign countries (i.e. Canada) prohibit admittance even for a first-offense misdemeanor. So, even if you can obtain a visa, you may find yourself detained and deported.
- A Hefty Price Tag: Expect to pay through the nose if you get convicted of a DUI. Expenses typically include bail, car towing or impound costs, court costs, legal fees, DUI education programs, higher insurance premiums, probation fees, drug and alcohol assessment and counseling, license reinstatement fees, and loss of work income, just to name a few. According to a 2006 Texas Department of Transportation survey, the total costs of a first-time drunk driving offense with no accident involved ranges from $9,000 to $24,000.
It’s Never Okay to Drink and Drive
In short, driving while intoxicated is never a laughing matter. The penalties are steep and a DUI, in all likelihood, will follow you around for a long, long time. So the next time you consider getting behind the wheel after having one too many, stop! Take a minute before cranking the car to think about everything you have to lose…then call a cab.
Additional Reading: .08: Why is this the “Magic” Number?
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