What is a DUI Sentence?

A DUI sentence is both the act of imposing the punishment on a person convicted of drunk driving or drugged driving, and the actual verbalization of what punishment is handed down. A sentence is ordered by the judge at the conclusion of a DUI jury trial, based on the verdict of the jury (or the judge’s decision if there is no jury, like in a bench trial) within the possible range of minimum and maximum punishments set by state law (or federal law, in convictions for a federal crime). In everyday jargon, “sentence” refers to the jail or prison time ordered after conviction, as in, “His sentence was 30 days in the county jail.”

Technically, a DUI sentence includes:

    • All court fines
    • DUI classes (Risk Reduction Program)
    • Driver’s license suspension
    • Ignition interlock device installation
    • Alcohol and drug assessment and treatment
    • Community service
    • Restitution or other punishment
    • DUI Probation

Defendants who are first DUI offenders without a prior record may be entitled to have a pre-sentence report by a probation officer based on an investigation of background information and circumstances of the crime, often resulting in a recommendation by the probation officer of an amount of punishment.

More commonly, in garden-variety misdemeanor DUI-DWI prosecutions, the sentencing judge will merely ask the prosecutor and the defense attorney for any “aggravation” or “mitigation” evidence before imposing the sentence.

For misdemeanor DUIs the maximum sentence is usually up to 12 months in county jail, but for felonies (major crimes) the jail sentence can range from a year in prison to life imprisonment for DUI-DWI-based murder charges (in some states).

Almost every jurisdiction has escalating punishment schemes for repeat offender DUI-DWI convictions.

Types of DUI Sentences

Under some circumstances the defendant may receive a “suspended sentence,” which means the jail portion of the punishment is not imposed if the defendant does not get into other trouble for the period he/she otherwise would have spent in jail or prison. This is often for a period of 12 months.

A “concurrent sentence” is a sentence for one count in the verdict that is served at the same time as the sentence for another count and only lasts as long as the longest term. A “consecutive sentence” is one where the judge “stacks” the jail terms, for each to be served one after another.

An “indeterminate sentence” is one in which the actual release date is not set and will be based on a later review of your prison conduct. In DUI-DWI practice, such sentences are extremely rare.