How Likely Is Jail Time for First DUI?

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In the United States, about 32 people lose their lives every day due to drunk-driving crashes. In 2020 alone, 11,654 people died in traffic deaths due to alcohol-impaired driving. The figures showed a 14% increase in deaths from 2019. The deaths were all preventable.

Driving under the influence (DUI) can result in consequences affecting both the driver and other people, like passengers, passersby, and pedestrians.

But what is DUI, and how is it different from DWI? Can first-time DUI offenders go to jail? How can they avoid jail time? What rights do they have in this situation?

This article provides information about DUI (driving under the Influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated or impaired). It describes the difference between both charges and the category that they belong under U.S. Law.

This write-up also explains what happens to DUI and DWI first-time offenders and whether these charges can lead to jail time. Read on and learn about an individual’s rights when confronted with a DUI or DWI charge for the first time.

A person with a DUI or DWI charge may face imprisonment even if it’s a first-time offense. The court gives sentences based on the severity of the DUI or DWI offense, which can lead to incarceration. can help families and friends get in touch with an inmate doing time because of a DUI or DWI. Families can use a database of more than 7,000 prisons in the United States to get the necessary information to remain in contact with an incarcerated individual. This website also encourages civilians to volunteer or apply for jobs in correctional facilities, aiming to inspire inmates to make positive changes in their lives especially the ones who are being mistreated inside the prison.

Can You Get Jail Time for a Misdemeanor DUI Conviction?

Jail time is possible for a DUI offense, even if it’s the first time. Many circumstantial factors can aggravate the case into a misdemeanor.

Every state in the United States has its definition of driving under the influence. The definitions outline what’s illegal for drivers and what prosecutors must prove if they want to get a DUI conviction in court.

Still, the DUI laws of all states follow the basic structure. There must be proof that the person charged was under the influence and operating a vehicle.

What Happens After a First DUI?

Many things can happen when you’re facing a DUI charge. You can get your license suspended, pay fines and damages, undergo alcohol and drug education programs, or go to jail. However, for first-time DUIs, the law may be lenient.

Is There Mandatory Jail Time for DUI?

In most states, including Pennsylvania, jail time for DUIs is not mandatory if the incident resulted in no damaged properties, injuries, or deaths.

Even in states with mandatory jail time for DUI cases, first-time DUI offenders are given alternatives to incarceration. These alternatives include serving house arrest or community service.

Do First-Time DUI Offenders Go to Jail?

Incidents resulting from drunk driving can quickly turn for the worse. DUI statistics show that an estimated 10,000 Americans are killed by drunk drivers yearly.

A simple DUI offense may not always result in jail time. However, it is another case if you get into an accident resulting in property damage, injuries, and death.

First-Offense DUIs and Jail

Each state has its laws regarding DUIs. Some impose fines for first-time offenders, while others, like California, impose jail time for first-offense DUIs.

All DUI sentences in The Golden State include jail or prison time, even for first-time offenders, and even if no one got hurt.

Jail Time for a DUI Conviction

A DUI conviction differs from a charge. A conviction means that you’ve been found guilty of drinking under the influence of alcohol or drugs or have a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% or more.

There are two possible types of penalties for a DUI conviction. The first type is administrative penalties that entail license suspension or revocation from four months to more than three years.

The second type is criminal penalties that involve paying fines, installing IID (ignition interlock devices), alcohol classes, probation, and jail time.

Ignition interlock devices are handheld breathalyzers that monitor your alcohol level, preventing you from driving your car after drinking alcohol.

Local First Offense DUI Jail Time to Expect

Your first-offense DUI experience may vary from state to state. A first-offense DUI in California can result in a minimum of 48 hours of jail time and a maximum of 6 months. In addition, a convict may choose to appeal for a suspended sentence through a lawyer. The same sentence applies if it’s been more than 10 years after your previous DUI. 

Meanwhile, a first-time DUI in Wisconsin will mean a $150 to $300 fine and a license revocation of six to nine months.

Knowing the Difference: DUI vs. DWI

DUIs and DWIs are almost the same but with nuanced differences. DUI (driving under the influence) is when a person operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs, that impair the senses.

On the other hand, DWI (driving while intoxicated) describes a driver operating a vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol.

What You Need to Know About a DWI

A DWI run-in with the law may result in you paying a fine or getting jail time. However, this misdemeanor will have a more lasting effect as this will go into your record.

States regularly update criminal records, uploading DWI charges in a public document accessible to everyone.

The consequences linked to a DWI charge in your public record are the following:

  • Difficulty in getting a driver’s license
  • College admissions being affected by the DWI charge
  • Lower chance of winning a custody battle with your child
  • Renting and leasing are becoming challenging, especially with landlords that do background checks on their tenants

When Is a DWI Considered a First Offense?

A first-offense DWI is when you don’t have any previous road violations or DUI charges on your record.

First Offense DWI Statutes

States treat DUI and DWI cases differently. In Missouri, DWI statutes declare that the laws governing DWI first offense are all under RSMO 557.010.

The Law Governing DWI First Offense Is RSMO 577.010

Here is a summarized version of the laws under the RSMO 577.010 governing DWI first offenses:

  1. Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or drugged commits the crime of “driving while intoxicated.”
  2. DWI’s first offense is a class B misdemeanor.
  3. Driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.15 to 0.2% will result in a 48-hour jail time.
  4. Driving with a BAC of greater than 0.2% will result in a five-day jail sentence.

Standard Conditions of Probation

Here are the conditions for a DUI and DWI first-time offender probation. The offender must complete these requirements to avoid going to jail.


  1. A DWI offender must complete a two-year supervised or bench probation.
  2. A DWI offender must complete a SATOP (Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders Program).

Sometimes Required by the Court

The court might require the following from offenders seeking probation for a DWI charge in certain situations.

  • Comply with VIP (Victim’s Impact Panel) awareness program
  • Do community service
  • Install an ignition interlock device
  • Attend SCRAM (Secured Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring)
  • Be in jail for a short period (shock jail time)
  • Recoup costs to the arresting agency
  • Undergo drug evaluation and alcohol treatment
  • Refrain from drinking and driving
  • Submit to future breath tests
  • Refrain from entering establishments that serve alcohol as a primary business commodity
  • Refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol

Do You Have to Serve Jail Time for DUI or DWI?

First-time offenses may not get jail time. Still, for multiple DUI and DWI offenders, imprisonment may be inevitable.

What Are Common Penalties and Chances of Going to Jail for a First DUI Offense Charge Conviction?

Here are the common penalties imposed by many states regarding a DUI offense charge conviction.

  1. Jail or probation
  2. License suspension
  3. Installation of an Ignition interlock device
  4. Participate in a DUI education

Potential Penalties for First Offense DWI

Here are some potential penalties imposed on DWI first offenders. The penalties are similar to DUIs because some states use the two terms interchangeably.

Jail Time

The time spent in jail depends on the BAC levels in the body. Offenders with a BAC level of 0.15% to 0.2% will have to spend a minimum of 48 hours inside a jail cell, unless the person has a hold order from the authorities..

If you’re caught with a BAC level exceeding 0.2%, you’ll have to spend a minimum of five days inside a jail cell. The judge may require random drug and alcohol testing afterward. Failing this test can put you in jail for six months.

Driver’s License Suspension

In Missouri, a driver’s license can be suspended for 90 days due to DUI. A driver may request a restricted license after 30 days if they install an Ignition Interlock device in their vehicles.

People with restricted licenses can drive to school and work.

Suspended Imposition of Sentence

A first-time DWI offender can take advantage of the suspended imposition of sentence to avoid going to jail. You need to strike a plea bargain with the court, which will give you stipulations to which you’ll adhere in the next couple of years.

How Misdemeanor DUIs Differ From Felony DUIs

Most DUI convictions are misdemeanors that can have a maximum jail time of one year. However, a felony DUI is a severe offense and may carry a minimum of one year in prison.

Jail Time for Repeat DUI Offenders

Repeat DUI offenders will most likely lead to jail time. Some states, like New Hampshire, require at least 17 days in jail as a penalty for a second offense (second DUI conviction). Other states have adopted this policy, and judges often give jail time sentences to subsequent DUI offenders.

Sentencing on Misdemeanor DUI (Without Aggravating Factors)

A misdemeanor DUI may have less stringent penalties than felonies or repeat DUI offenders. Also, cases involving first-time drunk driving and reckless driving without any aggravating factors have a higher chance of receiving lenient or alternative sentences.

Factors Making Jail Time More Likely for a Misdemeanor DUI

Some factors can aggravate a DUI case into a charge involving imprisonment. The following are things that can worsen a misdemeanor DUI.

Prior DUI Convictions

In some states, DUI charges stay on record forever. However, some states have a certain number of years where a prior conviction stays on the record. Repeat misdemeanors make jail time more likely compared to first-time offenders.

DUIs Involving High Blood Alcohol Concentration

You are legally intoxicated when your BAC level is 0.08%. Any level above the legal limit is high BAC, which can increase the likelihood of going to jail after a DUI arrest.

DUIs Involving Accidents, Injuries, or Deaths

DUIs resulting in serious injury and death of another person evoke no leniency from prosecutors and judges. A drunk driver that caused the death of another individual can be charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter.

Avoiding Jail Time for a Misdemeanor DUI Conviction

There are programs that first-time offenders can attend to avoid jail time for a misdemeanor DUI conviction.

First-Offender Programs

These programs, tailored for first-offense DUIs, aim to identify problems caused by substance abuse.

Participants of these programs undergo an evaluation to determine alcohol and drug dependency. These evaluations will help the judge determine the kind of treatment program a DUI offender should take.

DUI Court or Drug Court Programs

The courts realize the need for drug court programs to focus on drug dependents who are likely to re-offend. Convicted inmates with severe substance use disorders require a working rehabilitation program to address their needs.

There are two ways that people enter drug court programs.

The first is to enter the DUI offenders into these programs before court proceedings.

The second way is to continue with the court proceedings. Those eligible for the program can plead guilty, and their sentence is deferred to these drug court programs.

House Arrest

Another way to avoid jail time for a DUI charge is house arrest. A judge can order the defendant to house arrest with added regulations like wearing an electronic bracelet to monitor location.

Learning Your Rights in a No-Refusal Zone

A No-Refusal Zone is a way for police to ensure that people apprehended for possible DUI are subject to sobriety tests, blood tests, and chemical tests. Police use these zones to expedite obtaining warrants to obligate people to undergo alcohol and drug measuring tests.

No Refusal Zones Explained

A person suspected of DUI can legally refuse to be subject to any field sobriety tests requested by law enforcement without a warrant.

However, through a No-Refusal Zone, police officers can instantly get warrants and subject suspected DUI offenders to sobriety tests.

Where Are There No Refusal Zones?

More and more states are slowly authorizing No-Refusal Zones set up in their jurisdictions to curb DUI and DWI. Examples of states that have allowed these zones are Texas, Missouri, and California, to name a few.

What Is the Toughest State on First-Time DUI Offenders?

Arizona is the strictest state for first-time DUI offenders. The state requires first-time offenders to install IIDs in their vehicles for one year and pay fines. License suspension goes up to 360 days with possible jail time of 10 days for offenders.

DUI Anxiety and Fear

A DUI stop can be scary, but you can always have the help of a criminal defense attorney during these kinds of scenarios. It’s essential to have a defense lawyer ready to help you out.

The Importance of Hiring a DUI Attorney

A DUI defense attorney can help you through criminal charges that may result from a DUI. They can provide legal advice regarding DUI penalties and navigate you through DUI laws in your area.

In some cases, lawyers from charity law firms offer free consultations to aid people in need.

What Can a DUI Lawyer Do for You?

Lawyers can guide you through the legal process, help you maintain your rights, and assist you in court proceedings.

Talk to a DUI Attorney

You should talk to a DUI attorney who knows your area’s district prosecutor, judge, and law enforcement. You need a solid attorney-client relationship to go through a DUI case smoothly.

DUI Questions

Many individuals arrested for DUI (or fear that they may one day be) often don’t have a clue about the DUI process.

Here are some questions and answer about DUI and DWI.

Important Questions to Ask With a First DUI

When you face a DUI charge, here are some questions you might want to ask. Knowing the answers to these questions may help you avoid future complications.

Can You Be Fined for a First DUI?

Yes, you may get fined even at your first DUI. It’s best to consult with your lawyer when dealing with fines.

Will You Lose Your License for a First DUI?

You can lose your license for a first DUI, but you can opt to install an IID to avoid suspension.

How Can You Avoid a Conviction?

By submitting the requirements, you can avoid conviction if you’re a first-time DUI offender.

What Other Costs Will You Have With a First DUI?

A DUI case can include attorney fees, court fines, bail, IIDs, program expenses, and other miscellaneous expenses during the proceedings.

Will Your DUI Charge Be Always on Your Record?

In some states, a DUI charge can remain on public records for up to 10 years.


  1. Drunk Driving
  2. Can I Get Jail Time for a Misdemeanor DUI Conviction?
  4. First Offense DWI Laws in Missouri
  5. Public Intoxication Legal Definition and Penalties
  6. What are drug courts?


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