DWI First Offense
What Happens Now and  What You Can Do About It



DWI First Offense

A first DWI arrest is a serious event that requires you to get a good grasp of your options and act quickly.

If you have been arrested for driving while under the influence of an intoxicating substance (alcohol and/or drugs) for the first time, your arrest may be considered a DWI first offense. DWI stands for "driving while intoxicated" and depending on the state of your jurisdiction, it may be called "driving under the the influence" (DUI), "operating while impaired" (OWI) or "operating a vehicle under the influence" (OVI)--all the same thing. It is commonly referred to as "drunk driving" which is the act of operating a vehicle while intoxicated to the point that motor and mental abilities are impaired.

There can be serious penalties even for first time offenders, specially if yours was an aggravated DWI, meaning that among other things, your blood-alcohol content (BAC) was above a certain threshold, a child was present in the vehicle or that there was damage to property, bodily injury or death involved. The rules are getting tougher each year because of the the number of tragic fatalities and injuries that continue to result because of drunk driving and the social response from organizations like MADD. The consequences of a DWI arrest may include jail time, a suspended license, fines, a criminal record and auto insurance rates that may shoot through the roof.

Do I need a DWI attorney?

If you feel that your drunk driving arrest was unjustified or if you simply want to try and get away with a slap on your wrist, you may want to talk to a DWI lawyer without delay. Lawyers who specialize in DWI or DUI convictions are defense attorneys who know the ins and outs of the drunk driving laws in your state and can help their clients better understand the consequences of the charges along with the various options that may be available.

If you have a first DWI offense in which no one was hurt, no property was damaged and that also involved a blood-alcohol level that was on the legal borderline, you may have a good chance of getting away with a lesser charge. In some states, this is called a DWAI or Driving While Ability Impaired. Depending on the state laws, the judge, your lawyer and even which city and county you live in, you may get off with a misdemeanor for this first offense, which is far less serious than a felony. You may also be charged with several misdemeanors, each of which can carry fines and/or jail time. And in some cases, your offense may end up as a "gross misdemeanor" which could result from circumstances like refusing a sobriety test, excessive speeds and blood-alcohol content above the borderline.

With a DWI first offense, and specially one in which there were no aggravating circumstances, you might feel that you can get by without professional legal help but considering the seriousness of the penalties and the many, seemingly small things that can affect the outcome one way or another, it is usually not worth taking the risk. If you still think you can't afford a good lawyer, you should try to find one that will work out a payment plan you can afford. Naturally, if there were aggravating conditions or if this is a repeat offense there is no question but that you do need a lawyer.

What happens to my auto insurance?

It is very likely that your automobile insurance premiums will go up, perhaps drastically. However, depending on the cicumstances of your offense, you may be able to make the most of a bad thing. Make sure you understand the rules of your state regarding DWI auto insurance and the SR22 form as early in the process as you can.

How long will the DWI stay on my records?

Besides the mental hurt and the humiliation, the two most harmful effects of a DWI are on your auto insurance and the ability to get a job. In most states unfortunately, the record never actually disappears after a set period of time but stays on indefinitely. This may or may not be a satisfactory outcome for you but it may be of some comfort to know that most employers only look back for a period of three or four years to check for a DWI or DUI and insurance companies take anywhere from 5 to 7 years depending on your state, maybe more if your offense was severe. Regardless, you may want to explore the possibility of getting your DWI first offense record legally expunged which may be possible under certain circumstances and would remove your offense from the public records. You should discuss this with a qualified lawyer if it is something you want to look into.

Please note that the information on this site is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. You should talk to a qualified legal professional for your particular situation and needs.

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