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
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
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.